"Chicken taquitos is a typical dish from Mexico. It is very simple, easy and very affordable, too" says Alex Pardo of Jalapenos Mexican Restaurant in Gloucester. Taquitos would be a great addition to your Cinco de Mayo celebrations, but you needn't just make them once annually, they make a great snack at any time of day, any day of the year.
Also known as flautas or tacos dorados, taquitos differ from other kinds of tacos in that they are filled and then fried. The filling is usually shredded meat, most commonly chicken or beef, but a breakfast version might be filled with potato and there are other options for vegetarians, such as frijoles. They are served with a variety of toppings, usually lettuce, tomato and grated cheese, but often salsa, guacamole and, or sour cream too.
Several sources, including David Moye of The Voice of San Diego, claim that the taquito was invented in the 1940s at El Indio restaurant in San Diego. Moye is passionate about Mexican food and in an amusing rant on the subject he likens people's personal preferences to their political inclination and general disposition: "To me, the decision to eat flour or corn tortillas can be just as fraught with political implications as voting Republican or Democrat. The flour kind is softer to the touch, but the corn type has a chewy texture that is quite appealing" he writes. "Same with the salsa. A person who prefers salsa verde (the green kind) is experimental in nature, but eating the hotter red stuff suggests a person who has no fear. I guess if you like both, you possess a dangerous mind (and a messy plate)."
Pardo chooses corn tortillas for his chicken taquitos. First he softens them by quickly and lightly frying them in oil to make them easier to roll. He fills them with shredded chicken, rolls them up and puts a toothpick through to hold them together; "don't put too much chicken because the tortilla will break" he cautions. Pardo fries the taquitos in corn oil, but he says that you can use soya bean or vegetable oil instead if you prefer. These oils have a high smoke point, which is why they are suited to shallow or deep frying, whereas "olive oil will burn so I don't recommend olive oil" says Pardo.
When he has two crispy, golden chicken taquitos, Pardo tops them with shredded lettuce, diced tomato and grated cheese. "My favorite cheese to put on taquitos is Monterey Jack, Chihuahua cheese, provolone cheese or mozzarella" he says.
"We take a bite and hope we did a good job with it" he says as he tests his taquitos. "Yes, it's very good!" he exclaims.
1/2 cup of corn oil (or other cooking oil suitable for frying)
10 corn tortillas
1 pound of cooked chicken, shredded
1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, julienned
1 roman tomato, diced
1 cup white Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
1/4 white onion, diced
1. Heat oil in frying pan and soften the tortillas by immersing them for about 30 seconds each.
2. Dry excess oil from tortillas and fill with a small amount of chicken. Roll up the tortillas until they completely wrap around and secure with a toothpick.
3. Fry stuffed tortillas in oil until crisp and golden, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
4. Pat off excess oil with a paper towel after they finish frying and place one or two on each plate.
5. Garnish by adding lettuce, onion, tomato and cheese on top of the taquitos according to your taste.
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Recipe courtesy of Alex Pardo, Jalapenos Restaurant, 2012.