I enjoyed a one-of-a-kind, sorta-strange experience as only Austin can host at the Taco Takedown that was held this past weekend near the be-hip-or-go-home scene at SXSW (South by Southwest). I’ve been in quite a few cook-offs including the iconic Pillsbury Bake Off in Vegas with $1 Million prize (obviously I didn’t win), the Crisco Cook Off in Nashville as part of the Country Music Festival, and even many times in my home-town Hatch Green Chile Cook Off where I hold bragging rights as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winner.
The right to battle it off as a finalist in most of these showdowns required each recipe to make it through some sort of qualifying round, being made and examined in a test kitchen by professional chefs and pre-judged on factors like presentation, fit within a certain category, creativity, convenience, taste and so on. Typically, pages of rules, do’s and don’ts, and lists of disqualifications were also involved. However, not at the Taco Takedown – basically all the info I was given was just show up with your best taco. So, of course I started over analyzing and guessing at the non-existent details. And, in the end I decided to fly by the seat of my pants. I wondered what kind of taco would win – surely in Austin, a freaky taco would beat a traditional taco any day.
That’s why I wrapped all my loves, as strange as the combo might sound, in one tortilla – viola, a Beef Brisket Taco with Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce (and Pickled Rind Relish) recipe was born. Well, I guessed wrong because a Crispy Chicken with Avocado Taco dished up by Evin at Food Good, Laundry Bad took top honors. As partial as I was to my wacky yet wonderful watermelon beef taco, I have to admit, the winner was really, super-ultra-deluxe good – and it was fried, how could I compete with that?! But, I got to go home with the beefy man-hunk taco model — so, really, I was the WINNER!
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of meaty beef, and summer-sweet watermelon and a surprise of spiciness, these are a few of my favorite things (is there a song here . . )? I knew these flavors would mingle together for a memorable taco –as they did. I didn’t want to smoke the brisket, so I had four massive slow-cookers breaking down the beef into the perfect tenderness for fork shredding. But, holy-moly, it took a long time to shred 27 pounds of brisket! The BBQ sauce was a not-too-vinegary, not-to-tomatoey sauce sweetened with watermelon just and spiced up with Sriracha. Probably the most unique thing going on was the pickled watermelon rind that was diced up in the salsa. A true southerner uses ALL parts of the watermelon. And, of course, I topped it all off with some salty, crumbly queso fresco cheese.
Use this Spicy Watermelon Barbecue Sauce on beef — but also on chicken, baked beans, fish, sausage, pork and more. I’ve also used it as a salad dressing!
Because you’re probably not cooking for a 250 person crowd, I’ve scaled down the recipe for you to feed about 8 and maybe some leftovers!
What’s the craziest thing you’ve wrapped in a tortilla and called a taco? Please share in the comments!