Crispy Chicken Skin Tacos with Habanero Salsa
Yes, we are evil.
These tacos are evil. And the fact that we are telling you about them, and that you might get the crazy idea to make them too, means that we are definitely up to no good. Except that these tacos, made with crispy fried chicken skin as the star ingredient, are really really good. And if they weren’t, we certainly wouldn’t risk ridicule and disdain by sharing them. But they are worth it, my friends. Truly they are. We even made them twice. First with leftover chicken skins from a recipe, then again with chicken we bought just for the skins because not surprisingly our grocer doesn’t sell straight chicken skins.
How did these tacos come about? Leftovers and odds and ends. Hank and I were refining a recipe for Colombian chicken soup (great recipe by the way), and we had leftover chicken skins, and leftover habanero sauce. Hank can not resist frying leftover fat (pork fat, turkey skins, chicken skins, even pie dough) to snack on. (He’s more evil than I.) Lunch time was beckoning and the soup needed at least another hour to cook. So into some tortillas the fixings went, and an epiphany was born.
Some of you reading this will think, “oh, mmm, chicken skin, my favorite part of fried chicken” and will have no trouble imagining how incredibly good crispy fried chicken skin could be in a taco. Some of you reading this may have the opposite reaction and may want to leave this site, vowing never to return. For those of you in the second camp, before we lose you forever, I ask you, do you like bacon? Because if you do, think of fried chicken skin as “chicken bacon”. They’re just tasty fried, fatty, salty bits.
Warning. Something this good can’t possibly be good for you to eat every day. So don’t. It’s a treat. Enjoy!
- Skin from a whole chicken or 5 chicken breasts or leg/thighs*
- 1-2 habanero chiles, seeds removed and chopped
- 4 green onions, white and light green parts only
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 Roma or other plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- 3 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/4 small head of iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced, sprinkled with cider vinegar and salt
- 1 avocado, seeded, peeled, and chopped
- More chopped cilantro and green onion for garnish
- 4 or more corn or flour tortillas (use corn tortillas if cooking gluten-free)
*Pulling the skin off of chicken can be a little slippery, especially off of chicken legs. Get it started with your fingers, then grip the skin with a paper towel and pull.
1 Lay the chicken skin, fat side down, in a non-stick pan set over medium-low heat. Slowly crisp the skins, letting the fat render. Press them down with a wooden spoon if air pockets develop. Cook them for 5-8 minutes before flipping them over. Once you have turned the chicken skins over, salt them.
2 While the skins are cooking, put the habaneros, green onions, cilantro, tomatoes, and lemon juice into a food processor. Add a pinch of salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Set aside in a small bowl.
3 When the chicken skins are browned and crispy, remove them to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb the excess fat. Then place them on a cutting board and cut them into strips.
4 Pour off all but a thin sheen of chicken fat from the pan (do not discard down a drain or you may clog your drain). Heat the tortillas in the pan over medium-high heat, turning now and then, until they air pockets develop and the tortillas soften.
5 Assemble the tacos. Place lettuce, chopped avocado, crispy chicken skin, habanero salsa, and more cilantro or green onion on the heated tortillas. Fold and eat.