Fire up jerk chicken with hot and spicy sides this Fourth of July

Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Entertaining

July 4 is the No. 1 day for cooking out in the United States, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association. So someone near and dear has probably already been tasked with buying charcoal or making sure the propane tank is full, and tracking down red, white and blue party favors. The only big question this year is what to cook.

Burgers, hot dogs and potato salad are familiar favorites, but this year, I feel like I need to jazz it up a bit. That means one thing in my spice-loving family — adding the fiery heat of chili peppers to every dish so the fireworks aren't just in the sky, but also on our lips. Here are the options:

— Why not start the party with a spicy jalapeno margarita? The sweet and tangy flavors of lime and orange in the Mexican cocktail pair perfectly with sliced jalapeno, especially if you rim the glass with sugar instead of salt. It announces, after a year off, I'm ready to rock 'n roll.

— Blistered shishitos can't be beat when it comes to peppery finger food. The thin-skinned peppers take just a few minutes to cook on the grill or on the stovetop in a searing hot pan, and once charred and dusted with salt, are as irresistible as potato chips. Also, eating them is a fun game of chance — while most are only mildly spicy, every once in a while you'll bite into one that will make your nose run and eyes water.

— Swap the traditional mayonnaise-based dressing in coleslaw for a spicy-sweet mix of pepper jam, olive oil and lime juice. The extra kick of flavor won't go unnoticed.

— Really fire up the grill with a fiery jerk chicken. It takes a little longer to prepare than traditional barbecued chicken — the meat has to marinate for 24 hours before cooking — but it also packs a much bigger punch. In addition to allspice, garlic and onion, an authentic wet rub includes Scotch bonnet peppers, which are 12 to 140 times hotter than jalapeno. There's a good chance you or your guests will break out in a sweat. But boy, is it good!


It's a little early for the local weather forecast. But with these recipes, it's bound to be hot and happy.



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