I am a sucker for travel non-fiction. In the past, I always fancied myself a strict fiction lover, but I’m beginning to realize this isn’t just a phase anymore. My name is Finn and I love travel non-fiction.
I suppose it all started with Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence (and all his books that followed)… the food descriptions alone are enough that by the time I got to Encore Provence I pretty much needed to read accompanied some nibblies and wine.
After exhausting Mayle, I moved on to J. Maarten Troost and his hilarious account of being a house-husband in Kiribati, Fiji and Vanuatu (love, love, love these books), Jamie Zeppa and her move to Bhutan (another unbelievably great read) and then, most recently, Ann Vanderhoof’s An Embarrassment of Mangoes (that’s a lotta links… they’re all wonderful, I promise. Summer reading list, anyone?).
Vanderhoof writes about taking 2 years off from her very busy professional life to sail the Caribbean with her husband (must be nice!). While I’m not much of a sailor, I think it goes without saying that I love to cook, and Vanderhoof included a recipe with each chapter! (If I ever write an autobiography, I will undoubtedly do the same.)
Sadly, as it was a tale of sailing through the Caribbean, many of the ingredients Vanderhoof wrote about- fresh conch, red plantains, etc.- were unavailable to me. At least when I read about Provence I could scrounge up some French wine, cheese and olives in Vancouver and call it a day 😉
So, I was craving Caribbean food in a big way. A mean way. For a week all I could think about was curried lobster and cracked conch ceviche. So many spices grow in the Caribbean, and so many colonizers set up shop on the various islands, that it’s a hotbed of wonderful and interesting fusion flavours.
Well, I may not have fresh conch, straight from the bottom of crystal clear waters (note: I wonder if I still have any family St. Maarten I can visit?), but I do have chicken. Chicken and mangoes, and an embarrassment of spices- jerk chicken!
‘Jerk’ is a style of cooking originating from Jamaica. Meat is wet or dry rubbed with a kicky spice mixture of cloves, cinnamon, thyme, nutmeg, garlic- a whole heap of aromatics– topped off with some fiery Scotch bonnet peppers.
I added two Scotch bonnet peppers to my jerk marinade- some recipes will call for four or even six!- if you’re not big on heat, start with one and work your way up or substitute the much milder jalapeño.
To offset that immensely flavourful spicy sauce I topped each taco with some sour pickled red onions (you may have seen me use them in this recipe as well… I love them a lot), some sweet peach-mango salsa (okay, peaches aren’t Caribbean, but I had to take advantage of our lovely seasonal fruit!), and a drizzle of cooling spiced (but not spicy) yogurt. What a combination!
I like to make these with shredded chicken, using the same quick boiling method I used in this recipe, but you can marinate some chicken breasts and grill them up just as easily. For that matter, you can probably also substitute pork, seafood, beef, or tofu in place of chicken! Ahhh, the wonders of a good marinade 🙂
The jerk marinade recipe below will make a couple cups. Stored in the fridge however, it will keep for ages, so keep the rest around and use it to marinate any type of meat your heart desires for the rest of your summer barbecues (or make more of these spectacularly delicious tacos). Too easy!
|Jerk Chicken Tacos with Peach-Mango Salsa, Pickled Red Onions & Spiced Yogurt|| |
- Jerk Marinade:
- ⅓ cup ground allspice berries
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 7 cloves garlic
- 1 large navel orange, juiced (~ ½ cup)
- 2 Scotch bonnet peppers, seeded
- 2 Tbps dried thyme
- 2 bunches green onions, coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 Tbs cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- Peach-Mango Salsa:
- 2 peaches, peeled and chopped
- 1 mango, peeled, cored and chopped
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- ½ bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
- 1 lime, juiced
- ⅛ tsp salt
- Pickled Red Onions
- 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- ½ tsp whole black peppercorns
- Spiced yogurt:
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 lime, juiced
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Small flour or corn tortillas
- Using a food processor or blender, puree all jerk marinade ingredients together until smooth. If the mixture is a little dry, add a touch of water to loosen it up. Pour into a jar and refrigerate. This recipe will make more sauce than needed but the jerk marinade will keep in your fridge for up to a month.
- In a small bowl, mix together vinegar, salt and sugar until the dry ingredients are dissolved. Place onions in a sanitized glass jar and pour vinegar over top. Add peppercorns and top up with water until all the onions are submerged. Set aside at room temperature for an hour to steep. After this, they will be ready to eat. If you're not eating them right away, pop them in the refrigerator to store.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add your chicken thighs. Boil for 20 minutes, then lift out of water on to a cutting board. Using two forks, shred the chicken thighs until desired consistency. Place shredded meat in a bowl and mix in 4 tablespoons of the jerk marinade until meat is well coated then set aside. At this point you can take a quick taste, if you want more heat, add a bit more jerk sauce.
- Mix all salsa ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
- Mix spiced yogurt ingredients together in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
- Heat your tortillas then top with pulled jerk chicken, peach-mango salsa, a drizzle of spiced yogurt and several pickled red onions. Serve immediately.