The cast-iron is a must for this recipe. The blackened goodness that builds up on the skillet, called the “fond”, gives the chicken just a little bit of a crust. This texture really sets it apart from most Mexican chicken dishes, and in our house has earned these the somewhat inappropriate-sounding nickname fondled chicken tacos. I intentionally hold off on the oil until late in the cooking process to help promote it.
I have only a handful of recipes that I’ve made countless times and have tweaked enough to call them “mine”, and this is at the top of that list. I got the idea for boiling then shredding the chicken from an enchiladas verdes recipe. That recipe called for some onion and garlic in the boiling water, but I’ve found the spices added later here are strong enough that seasoning the water doesn’t really make a difference. Beyond that, I devised this recipe all on my own.
The cooking times and spice measurements below really are just estimates from my memory; I erred on the side of too little in both cases, so don’t be afraid to add more spices or cook for longer than the recipe calls for.
I also experiment with different toppings from time to time. You can see in the photo I also opted for some chopped iceberg lettuce, sprinkled with a little vinegar and salt. Try whatever you like. Just know that it doesn’t really take much. I encourage you to try it at least once before you resort to the usual American taco-bar taco loaded with lettuce, tomato, beans, cheese, and sour cream. This really doesn’t need it, I promise.
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 jalapeño pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
6-8 small tortillas
gloves (for slicing jalapeño; a plastic baggie works in a pinch)
Fill saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the whole chicken breasts. Boil until chicken is cooked, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, put the jalepeño (whole) in. Rotate it every couple minutes until the skin has some blackened spots on all sides. De-seed the pepper and dice. Set aside.
Using two forks, shred the chicken. Bring the skillet back to medium heat, if it has cooled, and add the onion and garlic. Cook just long enough to evaporate any water released from the onion (usually 30-60 seconds), then stir in the chicken and spices. Cook for about 10 minutes, periodically scraping up the bits that stick to the pan.
Add 3–4 tablespoons of vegetable oil. This will help loosen the stuff stuck to the pan, as well as boost the flavor. Adjust seasoning as needed and add the jalapeño. Cook for another 5–10 minutes. Some pieces of chicken should develop a little bit of a crust; don’t be afraid to turn the heat up if you need to.
Serve in warm tortillas and top with avocado and cilantro. (serves 2–3)