Gimme Some Skin
There’s a world of textures and flavors in this Mexican street snack
When chef Danny Espinoza was growing up in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, his mom would bring chicharrones de harina back from the paleteria across the street. The kids would douse the crunchy, deep-fried wheat flour pinwheels with lime juice and Valentina hot sauce and scarf them with abandon.
But Mom and Dad’s snack game was much more sophisticated. They ate chicharron preparado, essentially a salad built on a larger, rectangular duro de harina, piled with fresh, shredded green cabbage, avocado, pico de gallo and chewy curlicues of pickled pig skin, all showered with Cotija cheese and lashed with cool crema and vinegary hot sauce. “It’s a world of textures,” says Espinoza, who, with age, maintains that the adult version is more fun to eat. “If you think it’ll be a mess,” he says, “you’re right. Use your hands and go to town.”
It’s permissible to go crazy with toppings too, he says, endorsing crushed Flamin’ Hot Doritos, spicy Japanese peanuts or gummy bears. “If you’re not into the pickled pork skin, try replacing it with cured deli ham, thick sliced. Don’t get me started on pickled chicken feet.”
Espinoza, who opened Santa Masa Tamaleria not far from where he grew up, doses his home version with a citrusy Lemon Haze-Mexican oregano vinaigrette that “just ties everything together.” Any street vendor or neveria can customize chicharrones preparados to your specs, but if you’re making your own, you can find all the ingredients you need at any Latino supermercado or corner store—everything except the Lemon Haze, that is.
Chicharron Preparado with Lemon Haze-Oregano Vinaigrette
- 2 quarts high-temperature frying oil
- 1 large, rectangular Mexican duros de harina wheat pellet
- Salt to taste
- ¼ cup green cabbage, finely shredded
- 2 ounces pickled pig skin, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons pico de gallo
- ½ avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon Cotija cheese, crumbled
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 ounce Mexican crema
- Hot sauce to taste, preferably spicy Valentina Black Label
- Lemon Haze-Oregano Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Place oil in pot large enough to hold duros; heat to 350 F. Fry duros until puffy, 45 to
60 seconds, then turn over with tongs and fry another 45 seconds or until fully puffed and crisp. Drain on paper towels; season with salt. Let cool.
Toss cabbage and pickled pork skin with pico de gallo; add salt to taste. Spread over fried duros. Arrange avocado slices over top and sprinkle with cheese; season with salt and lime juice. Zigzag crema and hot sauce over the top. Finish with generous drizzle of Lemon Haze-Oregano Vinaigrette. Eat with your hands.
Lemon Haze-Oregano Vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon Lemon Haze-infused olive oil*
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon white onion, very finely diced
- Mexican oregano, generous pinch
- Salt to taste
Whisk together oil, lime juice, onion and oregano, then add salt to taste. Makes about
3 tablespoons vinaigrette, about 16.63 mg THC total, based on a 19% strain.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Danny Espinoza
Photography by Matt Armendariz
Food styling by Adam Pearson
Prop styling by Amy Paliwoda