Jalapeño Chicken and Watermelon Tacos
My deepest, darkest secret — as an eater, as a food professional, and as a human being on this here earth — is that I don't really like tacos all that much. Now! Before you flip a sh, let me explain myself. What I don't like about tacos (as opposed to burritos, enchiladas, or even quesadillas, all of which I love to eat) is that only with a taco will you have bare, raw tortilla in certain cross sections of your bite. And nothing enervates me more than raw tortilla. Even when you heat it up, corn or flour (though certainly more with the former), the tortilla somehow gets ice-cold hard 10 seconds later, and I absolutely hate that texture; it's like cardboard to me, like a piece of unadulterated white plastic bread. I can forgive a tostada and even order it at restaurants often, but I can't always get down with the taco. (Am I making my case here at all? Do you see where I'm headed?)
Anyway, Shane once called me a monster for not liking tacos, and he made it a point to take me to a $1 taco joint in California to show me how wrong I was about this "perfect food," how hating tacos is like hating sandwiches (I hate sandwiches too), and how you have to sop it up with all the different salsas, it's a food group on its own, it's like air — see, like this? And watching him with such passion, licking his fingers and teaching me how to taco, redistributing some of the onion and cilantro with his bare hands from one chorizo taco that was hogging it from the pulled pork taco, then handing it to me, I decided that maybe he had a point, that maybe tacos truly are the perfect food.
So here's what I did: I went home and blitzed up a shit ton of cilantro stems, four garlic cloves, one jalapeño, a teaspoon of salt, a half teaspoon of sugar, and a generous glug of olive oil, and marinated a couple pounds of cut-up chicken thighs in this green, queen liqueur. About four hours later, I roasted the chicken in a hot, hot oven; warmed up a tortilla in the green chicken fat; topped it off with a handful of red onion half-moons (soaked in water to extinguish the bite), watermelon, avocado, lime, jalapeño, and cilantro — all doused in hot sauce — and applied to face.
It was good.
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup cilantro stems
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Freshly cracked black pepper
2 pounds chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced and soaked in cold water
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
2 cups watermelon, diced
Large bunch cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into eights
Hot sauce, to serve
In a food processor or blender, blitz the jalapeño, garlic, cilantro stems, olive oil, salt, sugar, and pepper and toss with the chicken thighs. Leave to marinate in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
When ready to taco up, roast the chicken thighs in a 400 degree F oven for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Heat up the tortillas in a dry pan (I like to do this each time I'm ready for a new taco, turns the whole assembly process into a sort of ritual). Anyway, obviously top the warmed-through tortilla with the red onion, a couple jalapeño slices, watermelon, cilantro, a generous spritz of lime, and some hot sauce and eat ravenously with the juices running down your arm.
Makes about 10 tacos.