I first had this dish in El Paso, Texas on a hot summer night. Arriving late at night at the home of an old El Pasoan after a day of dusty driving, I was welcomed with a huge Mexican ceramic bowl of salpicon and a stack of fresh, tender flour tortillas. Hungrily, gratefully, I spooned the mixture into a tortilla, rolled it up, and devoured it. Was it a meat? A salad? A salsa? Well, yes, yes, and yes! That version was made with slow-braised beef brisket, the cut of meat Texans hold near and dear. This one is made with hot-smoked chicken breast, which I’ve brined first. Tastes almost as good, and takes a lot less time to get to the table. Note that this keeps very well for several days in the fridge, buttoned up in a good piece of Tupperware. For all you culinary etymologists, the word salpicon is apparently a French one, meaning, according to Larousse Gastronomique, “a preparation made up of one or more ingredients cut in small dice and bound with a sauce, whether rich or plain, white or brown.” This dish definitely qualifies, but I have no idea how the word found its way to that charming town on the Mexican border. Escoffier’s spring break in Guadalajara, perhaps?
serves an army
2-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 avocados, peeled, pitted, & diced
1 small red pepper, seeded, pithed & diced (about 5 ounces)
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded, pithed, & minced
2 medium Roma tomatoes, diced (about 8 ounces)
1 bunch green onions, white & light green parts only, minced (about 2 ounces)
1 cup small pitted black olives, minced (about 4 ounces)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 ounce fresh cilantro, chopped
Stir 1/4 cup salt & 1/4 cup sugar into 1 quart water until dissolved, then add chicken breasts & soak 2 hours. [Or stir 1 tablespoon salt & 1 tablespoon into 1 cup water & vacuum brine in this for 20 minutes. Miracle device alert!!!!]
Grill chicken over a hot, hickory-smoky fire until well done, then cool and shred with a pair of forks. Combine with remaining ingredients and let sit at room temperature for half an hour, then serve wrapped in fresh, soft flour tortillas.