BY EMMA HABERMAN
A mid-summer spent cooking and traveling left me with a jar of pickled onions and a bottle of Jamaican jerk sauce. As much as I want to cling to these last remnants of summer, it’s time to put them to good use. But how to bring these two tangy treats together?
Jerk is both a seasoning and a style of cooking native to Jamaica. Traditionally meat, chicken, or pork is either marinated or rubbed in a seasoning made of various spices and the key ingredient: Scotch bonnet peppers. Scotch bonnets are some of the hottest peppers out there – this spicy sauce is not for the faint of heart. Jerk pork or chicken was traditionally smoked over a wood charcoal pit fire, but now is usually grilled over charcoal in a steel drum jerk pan. Since I don’t have a steel drum smoker in my apartment, I used my jerk sauce to marinate shredded chicken as a filling for pickled onion-topped tacos.
The beauty of tacos, besides their taste, is their versatility. Though Mexican in origin, tacos have evolved to encompass Korean, barbecue, and even Caribbean flavors. A dark chili white bean mash serves as a hearty first layer for your taco – black beans would also be delicious. A dollop of sour cream and a homemade fruity cilantro salsa helps cool the chicken’s intense heat. Instead of my original mango salsa plan I went with in-season peaches, and I may never go back. Top with briny pickled onions and you’ve got a delicious Caribbean taco stuffed with spicy, sweet, and tart layers.
For Jerk Sauce:
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1/2 Scotch bonnet chile, chopped without seeds (if you cannot find a Scotch bonnet, 4 jalapeños chopped with seeds will do)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp ground allspice
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
6 soft taco-sized flour tortillas
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, washed
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 peach, skinned and diced
1 plum tomato, diced
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 cup white beans, cooked
1/2 tsp dark chile powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
5 tbsp jerk sauce
1/4 cup pickled onions
1/2 cup sour cream
To Make Jerk Sauce:
In a food processor, puree ingredients until they form a thick liquid.
To Make Tacos:
1. In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the water and broth to a boil. Add garlic powder, chile powder, salt and pepper to taste. Add the chicken thighs and cook in boiling liquid for 10 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.
2. Remove from heat and shred the chicken with a knife and fork. The chicken should fall apart easily. Cover with jerk sauce and stir to coat. Let marinate for at least an hour.
3. Meanwhile, mix the peaches, tomatoes and cilantro together in a bowl to make salsa. Stir in chopped cilantro and lime juice.
4. Mash the beans, chile powder and garlic powder together.
5. Heat the tortillas in the microwave for 10 seconds, or in an oven for a few minutes until warm and soft. Heat the chicken in a saucepan, adding more sauce if desired.
6. On each tortilla, layer bean mash, sour cream, chicken, salsa and several pickled onions. Makes 6 tacos.