Recipe: Chicken Flautas with Avocado Side Salad

A few weeks ago, I bought the smallest pack of corn tortillas I could find to make some sort of shrimp tostada dish or something like that (whatever it was, it obviously wasn’t very successful, because I didn’t post it here). Well, “smallest pack” meant “use four for dinner and have upwards of twenty left over,” so I’ve been trying to get creative and use them up. I tried making baked tortilla chips (my boyfriend and I are trying to be smart about what we eat) without much success, then I made some sort of kinda awful tacos (you really can’t eat those tortillas right out of the pack; they are not at all like soft taco shells), but finally, I came across this recipe for flautas while browsing Pinterest food boards and it looked like a winner. I did my usual “look at the recipe, then ignore 85% of it and do it my own way” thing that I like to do and made my own version of these tasty little crispy rolls. Obviously, frying them up in oil makes them not quite as healthy as they could be, but I tried to keep the oil levels to a minimum and balanced the dish out with a fresh side salad of avocado, baby bell peppers, and red onion.
Chicken Flautas with Avocado Side Salad

Serves: 2 (makes 2-3 flautas per person)

Prep. time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

 

Ingredients

  • 1 large chicken breast
  • Chicken stock
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Paprika
  • Ground ancho chile or other ground, dried pepper
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • 1 lime, juiced and zested
  • Sour cream
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cojita cheese, crumbled or shredded
  • 4-6 corn tortillas
  • Vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 avocado, flesh cut into chunks
  • Approx. 6 baby bell peppers, sliced*
  • Approx. 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

*Cut from end to end to get circular slices

 

Directions

Bring a small-to-medium pot of chicken stock to a boil, then add the chicken (liquid should just cover the chicken breast) and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until tender and cooked all the way through. Remove the chicken breast (the leftover broth can be used as stock for another meal or it can be tossed) and set in a bowl. Using a fork, shred the chicken breast by running the fork through the flesh and pulling it apart; shred the chicken into the bowl. In a small bowl, blend together a few tablespoons each of sour cream and mayo, then add approx. 1-2 tsp. each of all of the dry seasonings in the ingredient list, along with a splash of lime juice and some lime zest, then whisk to blend. Toss the mixture with the chicken until fully coated (chicken should not be soaked in this creamy blend but, rather, lightly coated); add more dry seasoning as desired. Add a heaping handful of cojita cheese and toss to combine. Cover and set aside in the fridge.

In a large, deep skillet, heat vegetable oil—about 1.5 to 2 inches deep—over medium high heat. While it’s heating up, lay 4-6 corn tortillas out on a flat surface. Remove the chicken mixture from the the fridge and spoon some of the mixture onto each of the tortillas. Roll each tortilla tightly and pierce each one with a toothpick to keep them shut and form your flautas. When the oil is hot (about 375*F; if you throw a little piece of tortilla in the oil, it should immediately start bubbling), start adding in the flautas. Let them cook for about a minute, then turn, making sure to turn so that each side has a chance to fry; do not overcook them or let them sit in one spot for too long—they brown easily. As they finish, remove them from the pan and set on a paper towel-lined paper plate to drain excess oil.

In the meantime, heat a little oil in a small pan. Add the red onion and peppers, season with a little salt and pepper (and other seasonings, as desired), and cook until crisp-tender. Remove from pan and toss with the avocado, a little more salt and pepper, and fresh lime juice. Serve the flautas on top of the salad, with a dollop of sour cream added, if desired.

 

Cook’s Commentary

This is the best of both worlds: healthy, fresh food and crunchy, fried food combined to make the perfect dinner. The “salad” is fresh and flavorful, with the creamy texture of the avocado blending deliciously with the sweet and spicy flavors of the red onion and peppers. The chicken flautas are crispy on the outside and the chicken mixture within is tender, a little spicy, a little tangy, and oh-so-tasty. I had a little of the “sauce” mixture that I tossed the chicken with left over, so I served that as a dipping sauce, but a spoonful of sour cream or, if you want to splurge, a drizzle of queso, would work as well.

Recipe: Cheesy Polenta with Sausage and Chicken in a Creamy Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • Butter and olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2-3 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed, pulled into small pieces
  • 1 chicken breast, cut into small cubes or small slices
  • 1 yellow or white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Approx. 14.5 oz. canned tomato sauce or diced tomatoes*
  • Red wine (cooking wine)
  • Heavy cream
  • Dried basil
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 package instant polenta (serving size at least 4)**
  • Italian cheese (Parmesan, Asiago, Pecorino-Romano, or a mixture)
  • Garlic powder

*I prefer Hunts brand and I used sauce that I had leftover from another dish.

**I used Delallo brand (they’re based in western PA, where I’m from, and have great products). I cooked the entire 9.2 oz. bag and, after John and I each got a serving, there was enough left over for 2-3 more servings.

Directions

Heat some butter and olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the chicken and sausage to the pan, season with a little salt and pepper (and garlic powder), and cook for a few minutes. Add the onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes and continue to cook until the onions are soft and the meats are cooked through, then add the tomato sauce/diced tomatoes and a splash of red wine. Reduce the heat to medium low, add a little dried basil, then add heavy cream to the mixture and stir it in—the mixture should be a creamy orange-red color (it actually looked almost like an Indian dish to me); 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cream should be enough. Bring water (and chicken stock) to a boil for the polenta (I sub in 1 to 2 cups of chicken stock in place of some of the water—it adds more flavor to the polenta). Towards the end of cooking, stir in some butter, a little heavy cream, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and Italian cheese. Remove from heat—the mixture should be creamy and the add-ins should be well-mixed in. Serve the polenta in bowls, topped with the meat and sauce mixture, topped with a little Italian cheese.

9-17-13

Cook’s Comments

I kind of have this thing for heavy cream—it makes just about everything better (heavy cream to me is a little bit like butter to Paula Deen). A splash in this dish’s tomato sauce adds a velvety texture and rich flavor. A drizzle in the polenta helps keep it smooth and creamy. This is definitely a comfort meal with rich, delicious flavors—the polenta is thick and cheesy and soaks up the creamy tomato sauce (which gets a bit of a kick from the crushed red pepper flakes). My boyfriend suggested adding both chicken and sausage, and, boy, was that a great idea—two great textures and flavors that mix together beautifully. This dish reheats well (I had a lovely lunch of leftovers today) and if you have any extra, plain polenta, you can always cut it into chunks and saute it in butter and serve with another meal.

Recipe: Lemony Chicken and Rainbow Chard

Ingredients

  • 1-2 bunches of rainbow (or Swiss) chard, stalks chopped and leaves chiffonade* cut
  • Fresh basil leaves, chiffonade cut
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Fresh lemon zest
  • Butter (salted)
  • Olive oil
  • Chicken stock
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • White wine**
  • Salt & Peppers
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Garlic powder
  • 2-4 chicken breasts, cut into slices or cubes
  • Heavy cream
  • Cornstach-and-water mixture***

*Chiffonade means “cut into ribbons.” Cut the leaves from the stalks, roll them into long tubes and slices the tubes into pieces from one end to the other, creating ribbons.

**Cooking wine is fine. No need to break out a nice bottle (unless you plan to drink some with dinner).

***This is used to thicken sauces

 

Directions

Heat butter and a little olive oil in a medium to large skillet over medium heat. Add the chard leaves and stems, basil, lemon juice, lemon zest, shallot, salt, pepper, and a pinch of crushed red paper flakes and let the mixture start to wilt and cook. Add a splash of white wine, a splash of chicken stock, a little more butter and lemon juice, and the garlic and continue to cook. Push the mixture off to the side and add the pieces of chicken; season lightly with salt, pepper, and garlic powder; and cook until cooked through and tender. In the meantime, add heavy cream (about 1/2 pint) and butter (about 2 tbsp.) to a small pot and heat over medium heat until simmering. Add a generous pinch of lemon zest, a splash of lemon juice, garlic powder, and a splash of chicken stock, and continue to cook. Season with salt and pepper and add a little cornstarch-and-water to help thicken the sauce, then reduce the heat to low. The completed chicken will be tender and the chard will have wilted and cooked down. Serve the dish topped with a drizzle of the cream sauce or serve the sauce on the side with a ladle/spoon. If you want a slightly more filling dish, roast some chunks of red potatoes in the oven with a little olive oil and seasoning, then toss with the chicken and chard mixture; toss the mixture with hot pasta; or consider spreading the mixture and a little sauce on toasted ciabatta bread and make a sandwich.

[Check back for a picture. My camera wasn’t cooperating for this one.]

Cook’s Comments

This dish is buttery, tart, bright, and savory all in one. Cooking the chard in butter, white wine, and lemon juice helps create a delicious sauce that coats everything and pools into a lovely little puddle at the bottom of your plate. The velvety, buttery lemon cream sauce is the perfect accomplishment and helps mellow out the tart citrus flavor. Lemon pairs really well with the chard—it’s a bit like eating wilted spinach, but with an earthy flavor that’s perked up by the pop of lemon.