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Recipe by Jason Knibb, executive chef, Nine-Ten Restaurant

I got into cooking because I used to surf in the day and needed a night job. One day, a friend of mine asked me to fill in at the kitchen where he worked, and it just took off for me. So, I don’t know if it found me or I found it. But it made sense — my parents took me out to eat a lot when I was a kid, and I’ve always been into restaurants and food.

I had a lot of friends in the industry, too. One of my neighbors [in Los Angeles] worked for Wolfgang Puck. He told me that if I was serious about being a chef, I should get a job there, too. So, I went to Eureka [a former Wolfgang Puck restaurant] in L.A. There I really saw myself becoming a chef. It was hard work, but it was also super fun and really glamorous — the youth, the interest, the talent. I’d look around the kitchen and think, These are people I surf with and now we’re creating food together.

It’s hard to say if surfing influences my food. I use a lot of fish, so in a sense it does. If I were working in the mountains, I would probably make more rustic and hearty food. Our food represents our region and the produce we have here.

At Nine-Ten, one of our signature dishes is a pepper jelly, but my sous chef and I created it almost by accident. We were trying to make pepper water for a dish, but it was so hot we were burning our mouths. We were choking and laughing at the same time, so we kept tweaking it until we got pepper jelly. Now it’s a hit on our menu.

I tend to cook at home quite a bit, too. I have a six-year son so sometimes we don’t have the luxury to get out. I love ethnic foods — sushi and Thai are my favorites. Mexican, too. I go in phases, and how I’m feeling influences what I cook. On a typical night I’ll end up going to Chino Farms and seeing what produce they have. Then I’ll make steak a lot for my son and myself and then make something vegetarian for my wife. In the winter I’ll use our cast-iron skillet and do a lot of one-pan cooking. Often, I start out with chicken or steak and sear it. Then I work the vegetables in. Maybe I’ll do a shallow braise or stew. Then I’ll add in couscous or a grain. In the summer we do a lot more grilling, things like fish or jerk chicken. I personally like to serve my jerk chicken with a cold, Jamaican Red Stripe beer.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

Jerk Marinade:

  • 3 whole medium-sized yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups fine-chopped scallions
  • 6 tsp thyme, minced
  • 3 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 tsp brown sugar
  • 3 tsp allspice, ground
  • 1 1/2 tsp nutmeg, ground
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
  • 3 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 3 whole scotch bonnet peppers or habanero chilis
  • 9 T soy sauce
  • 3 T canola oil
  • 3 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces

Jerk Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup jerk marinade

HOW TO DO IT

Place all marinade ingredients (onions through apple-cider vinegar) into a food processor and puree. The mixture should be slightly chunky and smooth. Marinade makes 4 quarts.

Pour 1 quart of marinade into a medium-size mixing bowl. Rinse and pat dry chicken. Place chicken (two breasts, two thighs, two legs, and two wings) into marinade and mix well. Marinade chicken for 24 hours.

Preheat grill (for best result use a charcoal grill.) Remove chicken from marinade (discard used marinade).

In a small pot, blend brown sugar, soy sauce, and remaining jerk marinade. Bring to a boil on medium low heat, until sugar melts. Reserve for later.

Once the grill is ready, place chicken on the grill, skin side down. Make sure not to burn chicken. Once chicken begins to brown, about 3-4 minutes, turn over and start to baste with the jerk glaze. Do not add too much glaze or chicken will burn quickly. Keep basting and turn chicken every 1–2 minutes until done.

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