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A Jamaican Thanksgiving with The Best Dressed Chicken

Thursday, November 19, 2020

After the year we've had, how do we go into the holidays? With gratitude, of course!

There is no doubt that 2020 will demand some shapeshifting of our expectations for the festive season. After all, there will be no large gatherings, no moving about from house to house in a never-ending cycle of celebration, no open doors welcoming strangers and casual acquaintances. This is the time of family pods, curfews and masks, but then perhaps rather than a single blow-out Christmas Day dinner as is the Jamaican tradition, we should embrace intimate celebrations, and more of them. So then, let it all begin next week with Thanksgiving.

The quintessential North American feast takes on new relevance this year as the act of cooking and spreading a table serves to add some normalcy to the chaotic march the world has been in for the past eight months. Yes, it may be difficult to fill each seat, what with social distancing and all, but indeed, we can all embrace the ritual of manifesting gratitude through food.

The fourth Thursday of November is typically Thanksgiving Day in the US, and so Chef Noel Cunningham has created a Jamaican remix that is inspiration for you to incorporate this tradition into your holiday calendar next week.

“The first recorded Thanksgiving was not in what would become the United States, but in Canada, in 1578, when English explorer Martin Frobisher and his crew marked their safe arrival on land with prayer and a feast,” says Chef Cunningham. “Since moving to Canada, I have embraced the tradition of Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on the second Monday of October. It's gratitude for my own landing, my own story as an explorer, as it were. But of course, I have to make it Jamaican.”

Whatever the theme, be it American, Canadian or Jamaican, Thanksgiving starts with the bird, a dramatically presented platter of magnificently roasted poultry. For us here on The Rock, that bird is The Best Dressed Chicken Roaster, which at five to eight pounds is farm-raised and hormone-free and makes its annual debut in your grocer's freezer each November, just in time for holiday feasts. “We like to think that the arrival of our roasters is the first official sign of the festive season,” says Avadaugn Sinclair, regional marketing manager, The Best Dressed Chicken. “Jamaicans enjoy the taste and quality of our Grade A chickens all year round, but during the holiday celebration they want a larger bird, and that's the beauty of our roasters.”

For his Jamaican Thanksgiving, Chef Cunningham created a citrus brine which adds flavour and keeps the meat tender and juicy. “I grew up watching my Aunt Miriam [Reid] seasoning and marinating her meats a day before cooking. At culinary school, I learnt that magic of brining, which takes the same principles my aunt employed, using time to add layers of flavour before cooking.

Chef Cunningham continues the poultry story with Hamilton's Smoked Fried Chicken which is a medley of texture and complex flavours. “Consider this my ode to the Jamaican love of fried chicken,” he says. Another reinterpretation is the Creamed Callaloo which replaces the classic Thanksgiving side dish of Creamed Spinach. “This is much heartier, I think, and love the idea of flipping the traditional North American approach with the callaloo. It's like the rebel at the table.”

Completing the menu is rice and peas; a fresh salad of greens with a bright citrus dressing; and two desserts: A classic Jamaican fruitcake and a sweet potato pie.

“I hope we all can find some joy in the season. It's been a rough year, but in everything, we must give thanks,” says Chef Cunningham.

We second that motion. 

The Best Dressed Chicken Roaster with Hamilton's Smoked Sausage Stuffing

Brined for 24 hours this bird is the star of the Thanksgiving table. 


1 whole The Best Dressed Chicken Roaster

1/2 yellow onion, cut into wedges

4 whole cloves garlic, crushed

1 sprig chopped fresh thyme

2 sprig rosemary

2 tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoon chopped parsley

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon paprika 

Citrus Brine

1 gallon water

¾ cup kosher salt

2/3 cup of sugar

3 tbsp pimento, crushed

1 small onion, chopped

3 sprigs thyme

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 lemon, sliced 


For the Brine: Bring water to a boil in a large stockpot. Stir salt and sugar into the water until dissolved. Add pimento, onion, thyme, garlic and lemon to the water, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook mixture at a simmer for about 10 minutes. Let cool. Remove the giblets from the cavity of the roaster and place in a large bowl. Pour the cooled brine over the bird and refrigerate up to 24 hours before cooking. Once ready to cook, allow the roaster to come to room temperature, so that it will cook more evenly and less juices will run out.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the roaster from the brine, rinse and pat dry with paper towels, Place onto rack atop roasting pan, breast side up and drizzle with oil.

Place onion, garlic, and herbs into the cavity. Combine salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika in a small bowl and season chicken all over with mixture, patting on with your hands. If desired, tie legs with kitchen twine.

Roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on size. If the roaster is browning too quickly, cover it with aluminum foil. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing. 

Hamilton's Smokehouse Smoked Sausage Stuffing

Transform your usual stuffing with Hamilton's Smokehouse sausage that will have all your guests asking for more. It's savoury with just a touch of sweetness from the caramelised onion and raisins; the perfect companion for your roaster. 


2 tablespoon butter

6 Hamilton's Smokehouse Smoked Sausages

3 stalks celery, diced

1/2 large onion, diced

¼ cup raisins

1 bread, diced

2 cups chicken broth

2 large eggs, beaten

Non-stick cooking spray 


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat and sauté the sausage, onion, celery, and salt. Cook until the vegetables get soft, about 5 minutes then add raisins and stir to combine.

Turn off the heat and stir in the bread. In a large bowl, combine the broth and eggs, and pour it over the bread cube mixture in the skillet. Top with 2 tablespoons of melted butter.

Place in a skillet or baking dish for 20-30 minutes until the top is crisp and golden.

Serve immediately or keep warm until ready to serve. 

Hamilton's Smokehouse Smoked Fried Chicken

Add some crunch to your dinner spread with this delicious and tender smoked fried chicken. 


1 whole Hamilton's Smoked Chicken cut into 9 pieces 


2 cups of milk

2 tablespoon vinegar

1/4 cup hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

1/2 coarse ground pepper 


2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon paprika 

Egg Wash

3 eggs

1/4 cup whole milk 

4-6 cups of vegetable oil for frying 


Combine the brine ingredients together and place the chicken inside. Refrigerate overnight. When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the liquid and discard the brine.

Combine the breading ingredients and set aside. Mix together the eggs and whole milk until fully combined. In a large frying pan preheat the oil to 350°. Dip chicken in egg mixture then dredge into the flour/breading mixture and place in a single layer on a clean pan or racks.

When the oil is heated, fry 2-3 pieces of chicken at a time for about 12-15 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown on both sides. Temp the chicken to ensure that it is at least 165° at the thickest point, and near the bone. Any pieces that are not fully cooked can be finished in the oven at 350° on racks. 

Creamed callaloo

This creamy callaloo dish takes just a few minutes to prepare and is the perfect side for your Thanksgiving table. 


1 bunch/1 pack callaloo, cleaned and finely chopped

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 small onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 stalk scallion, chopped

2 sprig thyme

1 Scotch bonnet pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup heavy cream

2 ounces cream cheese

3 tablespoon flour

1 cup milk

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 


Heat coconut oil in a large frying pan. Sauté onion, garlic, scallion, thyme and Scotch bonnet pepper until translucent for 2 minutes. Add callaloo and season with salt and pepper to taste then put aside.

Add heavy cream and cream cheese to the skillet. Simmer until cream cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth. Season with salt and pepper then In a small bowl whisk together milk and flour. Pour into the mixture and stir to combine. Add cooked callaloo and Parmesan and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened (about 1 to 2 minutes). Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan, if desired.