Chef Ariel Coplan’s breakthrough dish was jerk chicken
By Karen Aagaard
Some recipes are universal; most memories are not. The process of shaping raw ingredients into something palatable — and the events that surround this endeavour — can lead to all kinds of unforgettable moments: kitchen disasters, severed digits, epic struggles with newfangled culinary gadgets and, sometimes, personal triumphs. So why not ask some of the city’s top chefs for their most memorable recipes? Why not, indeed? No, really — that’s what we did, and will continue to do weekly.
This week, we asked Ariel Coplan, Nyood’s brand new chef, to tell us about his breakthrough dish. Coplan, born and raised here in Toronto, learned his craft under the tutelage of Lorenzo Loseto at George Restaurant. After working at Café Grey in New York City, and Number One — a Michelin-starred restaurant at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh — Coplan returned to his hometown with his eyebrows intact (more on this below). Herewith, Coplan shares his favourite jerk chicken recipe with us.
“For most people, food is an afterthought. They are hungry, so they eat. I've always been on a journey to find and create something better. Like most teenagers, I was less impressed with the classroom than the world that was shaping around me. On a regular basis, I'd have friends over and cook lunch for them. I was never afraid to try something new, or expand and develop on a recipe I had. This led to another obsession that I developed at an early age: the barbecue.
When I was 10 years old, I tried to light the barbecue to make myself a snack. Not exactly knowing the proper way of lighting it, I wound up singeing off my eyebrows. Yes, it was an easy way to get the baby sitter fired at the time, but more importantly, the experience taught me how to properly light the barbecue. Once it was lit, my obsession for barbecue didn't go out for years.
When I first started thinking about cooking on a professional level, my goal was to make homemade sauces and ketchups. When I met a neighbour who was equally as passionate about good food as I was, and willing to cook meals several times a day — sometimes in the dead of winter — a friendship began. Among all the food we ate, jerk chicken was heavily in the rotation; it was a perfect chance for me to try and experiment with sauces and cooking techniques. Over the years I've developed this recipe quite a bit, and shared it with many good friends.”
4 white cooking onions
2 scotch bonnet peppers
½ bulb garlic
1 bunch scallions
½ bunch thyme
1 cup orange juice
½ cup sweet soy sauce
2 tbsp. allspice
2 tbsp. salt
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Put all ingredients (minus the chicken, of course) into a blender and blend into a liquid state.
Over low heat cook down mixture slowly, stirring regularly.
Once the sauce has reduced significantly, check for seasoning, and adjust the spice, salt and sweetness of the jerk sauce to taste.
Marinate the chicken thighs overnight in fridge with the homemade jerk sauce. Refrigerate some sauce separately for “saucing” during the grilling process.
Remove chicken from fridge and grill on charcoal grill until chicken is cooked — saucing liberally as you grill.
Serve with coleslaw, rice and peas.