It’s getting hot outside. We are seeing temperatures finally creep up into the 90s. It makes me sigh to think of the three solid months of summer ahead. Hot weather always makes me want really spicy food. Bright flavors. Tropical notes. Sweet fruit. Rum. Cold beer. I can pretend it’s a vacation, though I don’t know if I am actually capable of drinking enough rum to forget that I am in the city. I can char some marinated meat on the grill and slap it on a tortilla and smile. Tacos always make me smile. And as you will find out, I am not snobbish or purist enough to relinquish the opportunity to find fun new flavors to put on a tortilla (or any flat bread) for the sake of Taco Tuesday.
The first order of business is to get your meat into a marinade. This is a jerk pork taco, so you can make your own paste which is very simple - but I would make it a day or so ahead to give the flavors a little time to mingle. If you are pressed for time, I have found a really good product from Jamaica that I like to keep in the pantry - Walkerswood Traditional Jerk Seasoning, Hot & Spicy. I love this stuff. It has some serious heat to it and I will use it on pork chops on occasion as well as chicken.
• 4 - 6 Cloves of crushed garlic
• 1 Small bunch of scallions chopped
• Stripped leaves from thyme stems - a small handfull
• 2 - 3 Habenero chilis, stemmed - decide on your heat level. You can also seed them if you like.
• 2-3 Tablespoons of white vinegar
• 1/2 Teaspoon of ground allspice
• Salt and black pepper
• 1 Tablespoon of honey (this helps with getting a good char on the grill)
Pulse everything in a food processor, adding a little bit more vinegar until you get a smooth paste. Put it into a sealed jar in the fridge and let sit at least 24 hours. Use on your favorite protein.
For this recipe I used pork chops that I cut into strips, but you could use chicken or shrimp and it would be mighty damn tasty.
Skewer meat, rub generously with marinade and let it sit on a tray in your refrigerator.
The next step is to make the slaw. Savory and spicy needs a tart and crunchy foil.
Make your dressing first. I made this one with papaya because that is what I had, but it’s also REALLY good with very ripe mangos.
Papaya Cilantro Dressing
• 1/2 Ripe papaya cut into chunks
• 1 Handful of cilantro leaves and stems
• Juice from several limes
• 1-2 Teaspoons of lime zest (depends on your patience)
• Generous pinch of salt (be conservative at first. the salt will bloom as the dressing stands)
• Neutral oil (start with 1/2 cup)
Dump everything into the blender and blitz until smooth. Add a little more oil to thin out into a dressing consistency. Taste for balance - add more lime or salt if necessary. Jar and set aside.
Slice remaining papaya to go on tacos.
Light your grill and wait for lovely coal bed.
Make your slaw.
• 1/2 Head of purple cabbage shredded thinly
• 3-4 Carrots (depending on size) julienned
• 1 Bunch of scallions chopped
• 1-2 Red peppers (jalepeno or sweet) finely chopped
Toss everything with a generous amount of dressing. Sit in the fridge.
Grill and char your meat.
Toast tortillas. I found a brand that I really like - LaTortilla Factory Hand Made Style (The green chile ones I literally can eat straight by themselves). I think these are actually non GMO products.
Assemble tacos - meat, slaw, papaya, herbs like cilantro and basil or mint, additional squeeze of lime, hot sauce if you want more mouth fire than the jerk provides. Devour. Drink fruity cocktail or slushy cold beer. Repeat.