Week 19, Meal 3: Ja-makin’ me hungry for tacos

I have this habit of trying to feed my co-workers little bites of whatever is on the menu that day just to see how other people like Chef Brian’s food.

They’re usually stoked on whatever is cooking that day, but in the case of Week 19, Meal 3: Jerk chicken meatball taco with cabbage and pineapple salsa, my buddy Josh said he’d never had flavors like these before.

Indeed, it’s not easy to find a place making legit jerk chicken in Orange County — and this was my first encounter with Jerk spice as well — but now that I’ve had a taste, I’m curious enough to seek out the real deal.

For those of you in the Jamaican-less boat Josh and I are in, here’s Fat Dude’s take on Jerk chicken, turned into a meatball and thrown in a taco … mostly cause we can, but also cause tacos are good anytime, with most anything shoved in ’em.

Week 19, Meal 3: Jerk chicken meatball taco with cabbage and pineapple salsa

8 oz. lean ground chicken or turkey
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 scotch bonnet (spicy) or fresno chile pepper (not as spicy), with seeds, remove stem, rough chopped. Chef’s note: “USE GLOVES. If you don’t you might have a story as good as the one I have about not wearing gloves and working with hot chiles and then touching a place where oil from chiles shouldn’t be.”
1 t ground allspice
1 1/2 t dry thyme
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/8 t ground clove
1/8 t ground nutmeg
1/2 c (panko) breadcrumbs (If you’re working with chicken ands possibly with turkey if really moist)
salt and pepper, to taste

Pineapple salsa
1/2 pineapple, cored and diced
1 bunch scallions, sliced
2 fresno chiles, seeded and chopped
2 limes, juiced
salt, to taste

4 corn tortillas, warmed
1 c shredded savoy cabbage
1/4 c light sour cream

In a food processor, combine 8 oz. lean ground chicken or turkey, 1/2 yellow onion (diced), 1 clove of garlic (minced), 1 scotch bonnet or fresno chile pepper (rough chopped), 1 t of ground allspice, 1 1/2 t of dry thyme, 1/4 t of ground cinnamon, 1/8 t of ground clove, 1/8 t of ground nutmeg, 1/2 c of breadcrumbs and salt and pepper.

Pulse until well combined.

Form into 16 meatballs, about the size of a large marble. You’ll use four meatballs per taco. When rolled, reserve meatballs in the fridge while you prep the rest of the meal.

Prep the salsa next. Core and drop the small dice on 1/2 pineapple. Slice 1 bunch of scallions and seed and dice 2 fresno chiles.

Shred 1 c of savoy cabbage.

Heat a large saute pan over high heat. Spray with cooking spray and cook pineapple for 3-5 minutes, until it starts to turn golden brown.

In a medium bowl, mix the rest of the salsa ingredients and add the pineapple. Before you are ready to serve, add the juice from 2 limes.

Back on the chicken, heat a large saute pan over high heat. Spray with cooking spray and add meatballs. Saute for 10-15 seconds, then gently swirl them around the pan to sear on all sides. Continue doing this until the meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes depending on size. You’ll find it’s best not to overcrowd the pan when you do it. Also, don’t burn them, like I did with my first batch.

Using a small saute pan or comal, heat 4 corn tortillas until warm.

To plate (I did this in the wrong order, so never mind the picture, here’s Chef’s instructions): In each warm tortilla spread a light amount of the cabbage over the whole tortilla, which will help to keep the meatballs in place. Add four meatballs, then top with pineapple salsa and 1 T of light sour cream. Serve two tacos per person.

I’d like to tell you how they tasted, but I’m still having sinus issues. Wifey Nadia reports that the peppers were the prevalent flavor, with the heavy spices doing wonders in the background. I could taste the sweet fruit and the spice of the peppers, and that citrus kick from the lime cut through it all, providing a refreshing finish to each bite.

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