Thursday, July 23, 2009
My Venture into the Exciting World of Chimichangas:
I had my first chimichanga at Chi-Chi's Restaurant when I was in high school. My Spanish class went there for dinner at the end of the school year for a little "cultural enrichment." I have to tell you that going to Chi-Chi's for cultural enrichment is a lot like going to Saudi Arabia for Fashion Week. During the festivities, my teacher insisted that we all speak Spanish. She had even arranged for a Spanish-speaking waitress that night.
Before the waitress had taken our orders, I noticed that the guy seated next to our table, who looked visibly annoyed at having to sit next to 20 teenagers slaughter the Spanish language, had ordered a little pouch of heaven. Not knowing what it was, I asked the waitress (in Spanish, of course) what he was eating. She said, "Una chimichanga." I instantly knew I had to eat this chimichanga thing because, if anything, it had a really cool name. I ordered the chimi and, to sound really mature and adult-like, also requested a virgin raspberry daiquiri – which I unknowingly mispronounced "die-query."
Minutes later, the chimichanga arrived and it tasted as good as it looked. I even thought I might be getting a little tipsy until my teacher, who was seated next to me, informed me that my "virgin die-query" did not have any alcohol in it. Oh. Well, I wondered why she allowed a 14-year-old to order a mixed drink. Anyway, in the middle of dinner, a classmate who was seated on the other side of the table, said in Spanish, "How do you say 'fire' in Spanish?" Perplexed, my teacher asked why. The girl then pointed to the table behind us and some guy was using his hand to try and put out a raging fire on his tablecloth. Our teacher sprang into action and hurriedly escorted us out of the restaurant. The fire was quickly doused but we were not allowed to return inside to finish our meal.
As we were boarding the bus, my teacher asked me if I was feeling alright. Not knowing what she was talking about, she pulled a mirror out of her purse and allowed me to look at my face. During a span of about 15 minutes, my eyes had nearly swollen shut and I had developed Angelina-Jolie lips. I was obviously suffering an allergic reaction to something. Fifteen years and a hundred daiquiris later, I'm still trying to get those lips back -- and the only thing that has swollen during that time period has been my backside.
Whenever I fix these chimichangas, it takes me back to that eventful evening I had at Chi-Chi's oh so many years ago. Because my chimichangas are not fried, they are a lot healthier but just as tasty. So make some new memories and cook up some of these chimis today! Buena suerte – y disfruta la comida!
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Oven-baked Chicken Chimichangas
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp table salt)
1/4 tsp black pepper
5 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup drained and rinsed black beans
2 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro (or baby spinach)
3/4 cup salsa
8 oz freshly shredded monterrey jack cheese
7 flour tortillas (Taco-size, about 8 to 9")
Vegetable oil or olive oil for brushing
Preheat oven to 400F. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, cumin, oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, scallions, black beans, and cilantro. Add the salsa and cheese. Stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
Brush 4 tortillas on one side very lightly with water then place them in a stack on a clean kitchen towel. Wrap the towel around the tortillas. Microwave the tortillas for about 25 seconds. This heats the tortillas enough to make them pliable.
Remove one tortilla from the kitchen towel and rewrap the others to keep them warm. Add 1/3 cup of the filling to the center of the tortilla. Wrap the chimichanga like you would a burrito. Fold the left and right sides of the tortilla up over the filling then roll it starting from the bottom to completely enclose the filling. You should not roll the chimi too tightly or the tortilla will tear (or later burst during baking). Place the chimi seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other tortillas – heating additional tortillas in the microwave when needed.
Brush the tops and sides of each chimi with some oil. Bake for 23 to 26 minutes or until the chimis are golden and crispy. Serve with additional salsa, sour cream, or pico de gallo.
1) Use freshly grated 2% sharp cheddar. Regular cheddar is also tasty but releases a lot of oil when it melts. Pepper jack cheese works great for those who appreciate things on the spicy side. Feeling naughty? Use 12 oz of cheese. It's really tasty that way but increases the caloric content and level of saturated fat considerably.
2) Make it vegetarian! Instead of chicken, add some red bell peppers, corn, and additional black beans.
3) Use whole-wheat or low-carb tortillas.
4) Instead of regular salsa, use salsa verde. It's really tasty this way!
Posted by Cooking Ventures at 6:30 AM