Meet the Jamaican Beef Pa-Taco: A Beef Patty-Inspired Taco

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When you combine tacos and Jamaican beef patties, something magical happens. Morgan Eisenberg

I know that on these kinds of days—when the temperature spikes and I'm fanning myself as I figure out dinner plans—I'm supposed to decide to throw chicken on the grill. Or toss together a pasta salad. Or make pretty much anything that won't require heating up the damn oven and transforming my kitchen into the scorching pits of hell.

The question, then, is what to do when all I want to eat are Jamaican beef patties, which would require baking. My answer: Turn them into tacos, with a spiced meat filling, curry-flavored tortillas, and a bright tropical slaw on top.

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I made the ground beef filling just as I would for traditional beef patties, with Scotch bonnet peppers, plenty of onions, and a slew of spices (including, but not limited to, Jamaican curry powder). I sautéed everything together before adding just enough water to cover the beef, which eventually reduced down to a saucy consistency. If you are anything like me, you will make thousands of excuses to repeatedly taste-test at this point.

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To make the flour tortillas stand in for a Jamaican patty's signature pastry crust, I needed three things: fat, flavor, and color. The dough of beef patties usually includes plenty of fat to make it crisp and flaky, much like what you'd see in pie crusts. However, since the tortillas were already cooked, incorporating fat into the dough wasn't possible. Instead, I decided to brush them with oil, which allowed them to crisp slightly when heated while also acting as a delivery mechanism for the flavor and color components.

By mixing turmeric and curry powder with the oil before brushing, I was able to get the bright yellow-gold color and the spicy, sweet, earthy taste I wanted. The only challenge is to avoid staining things (hands, clothes, countertops) with the turmeric oil, since that yellow color doesn't come out easily. I recommend doing the brushing on a baking sheet, which can be washed of any drips. Wear latex gloves, too, if you don't want to wind up with yellow fingers.

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Once the tortillas were brushed, I placed them, one at a time, into a warm pan on the stovetop until all of the oil was absorbed and they began to brown in spots. At this point, you should be able to touch them without staining your fingers.

For the slaw, I went with a topping that I've used countless times before in island-inspired recipes. It's so good, you might want to make a double batch so you can put the rest on a jerk chicken sandwich (you'll thank me later). I make it with fresh mango and pineapple chunks, balanced by red onion, radish, cilantro, and cabbage for crunch. Once it's dressed in a bit of lime juice, sugar, and salt, it's ready to go. However, I like to let mine sit a while to give the flavors more of a chance to marry, so it's best to make it before getting started on the tacos.

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Here's my guarantee: Make these, and your hot kitchen will melt away, replaced by the sounds of steel drums and aquamarine waves rolling onto a white sand beach. My work here is done.

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