May 8, 2013
This week’s taco fiesta rocks on with my Caribbean inpspired Jerk Chicken Tacos with Mango Salsa. You know what I love most about these? That their big flavor comes together with five ingredients. Take that weeknight rush that kicks my ass every Monday through Friday (and some Saturdays and Sundays, too)!
I’m always happy when I develop a post-worthy recipe that also happens to be quick and super easy, but I’ve got to admit that I never set out to make quick and easy the point. This recipe came about differently, though.
I first learned that some of the best magic happens when you’re forced to work within parameters that you might not otherwise set for yourself while working in television. It used to happen all the time—the team and I would come up with killer new ideas only to be told that we’d need to adapt them for this production reason or that budget constraint—but most of my work these days is wide open. I can usually do whatever I want. But when I connected with McCormick and The Motherhood about a sponsored taco night, they challenged me to develop a taco recipe with 5 ingredients or fewer.
Now, I can be a bit of a rabblerouser (who, me?!). When I first heard the challenge, my instinct was to push back. That’s not really my style. But then I remembered the lesson that I’d learned while working in television. If there are parameters within which you think you can’t work, you’re not being creative enough. Five ingredients it would be.
Oh, one more thing. I learned something else while honing my skills in television: sometimes a creative interpretation of the parameters is necessary for the best work. While I was willing to take on the five ingredient challenge, I also knew that I’d need to do define five ingredients in a way that would ensure a quick and easy recipe that was also totally delicious. So one of my ingredients is a spice blend—a combination of 7 McCormick spices—and another is mango salsa.
Since you can make both ahead of time (you might even buy the salsa in a pinch), I say that they count as one ingredient each. If you’re more of a rule follower than I, you can use McCormick’s Perfect Pinch Carribean Jerk seasoning instead of my blend, just keep in mind that making a blend allows you more control over the flavor and heat.
These tacos ended up being so much more than just another go-to weeknight recipe. They are a shining example of how a little creativity, some discipline and a willingness to thoughtfully bend the rules can set you up for success in your busy, family kitchen. Give my approach—and these tacos!—a try sometimes.
This taco night recipe is sponsored by McCormick and The Motherhood. For more taco night ideas, visit www.McCormick.com. You can also visit McCormick on Facebook and also on Pinterest where they’ve started a yummy taco night board.
While on Pinterest, you can ENTER TO WIN one of 30 kits of assorted spices for your next taco night by pinning any taco recipe and adding the hashtag #McCormickTacoNight and tagging me (OneHungryMama!) anytime before 5/31. Winners will be randomly selected by our friends at The Motherhood.
Jerk Spice Blend
(Can be shared with kids 6+ mos)*
Makes 4 teaspoons
1 1/4 teaspoon McCormick dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon McCormick ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon McCormick ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon McCormick onion powder
1/4 teaspoon McCormick garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon McCormick sea salt
1/4 teaspoon McCormick ground black pepper
McCormick cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
1. Combine all the spices in a small bowl. Use a fork, a mini whisk or your fingers to combine well.
*Note: Dried herbs and spices are perfectly safe for beginner eaters. In fact, they are a great way to excite baby’s palate. Remember that just a hint of flavor on your grown-up taste buds will be plenty for your little one’s still developing buds. Read on for more on using herbs and spices in baby food.
Quick Mango Salsa
(can be shared with kids 6 + mos)
1 mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4″ chunks
1 small tomato, washed, seeded and finely diced
1/2 a red onion, peeled and finely diced
Juice of 1/2-1 lime, to taste
Salt, to taste
Cilantro, washed and chopped, to taste (optional)
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let sit for at least 5 minutes, allowing flavors to come together.
Jerk Chicken Tacos with Mango Salsa
(can be shared with kids 10+ mos)*
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons canola, grape seed or other neutral oil
4 teaspoons jerk spice blend
Corn tortillas, warmed (gluten-free, if desired)
Mango salsa, to taste (homemade or store bought)
1. In a medium pot, bring about 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the chicken thighs and cook in boiling liquid for 10 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until cooked through. Take the pot off of the heat and remove chicken from the water; reserve at least 5 tablespoons of the poaching water. Once cool to the touch, shred cooked chicken thighs.
2. In the meantime, heat olive oil in a medium frying pan set over medium heat. Once hot, but not smoking, add spice blend to the pan. Toast the spices for about a minute, stirring constantly to keep the spices from burning. Once fragrant and just starting to bubble, add the shredded chicken and reserved 5 tablespoons of poaching water. Keep stirring to make sure that the chicken is evenly tossed with the toasted spice mix. Cook for about one minute; add more poaching water, just a teaspoon at a time, if the chicken gets to dry. (Beware that the more water you add, the more you’ll water down the flavor.)
3. Pile seasoned, shredded chicken on top of warmed tortillas and top with mango salsa. Serve immediately.
*Note: While there is nothing in this that is unsafe for younger eaters—and it’s easy to make this without any heat—I recommend it starting at 10 months because of the texture. I prefer to serve this in little bite sizes safe for children already managing finger foods. If you’d like to share this without younger eaters, simply puree the chicken with some mango salsa to a desired consistency.