Spicy Chicken Flautas – ¡Olé!

Spicy Chicken Flautas

I’m kind of a fanatic when it comes to Mexican food. And lucky for me, I live in San Diego where I can get lots of it!

There’s something wonderful about the cuisine that really strikes the perfect balance in each dish. Bright, rich….acidic, salty….spicy, sweet. And the condiments—oh, the condiments! So many options to accompany each bite.

Just perfecto!

Spicy Chicken Flautas

When I’m not ordering fish or al pastor tacos, I’m reaching for a plate of flautas–crispy rolled tacos.

Now here’s the million dollar question. Are they “flautas” or “taquitos”?

I’ve done some research on the matter (okay, I’ve just Googled it and have asked every restaurant I order them from) and there seems to be some mixed thoughts. One school of thought believes that when corn tortillas are involved they become taquitos and are called flautas when flour tortillas are used. Some say it depends on the size and others say it’s regional.

Spicy Chicken Flautas

So since I use flour tortillas, I’ll call mine flautas :)

And in my humble opinion, what makes a great flauta is not just a crispy exterior but also one that has a really flavorful filling. I start by roasting bone-in chicken breasts that have been seasoned with tons of spices. After shredding it, I combine it with sauteed aromatics, herbs, more spices and lots of cheese.

I’m a big fan of using Sargento’s Mexican Cheese as it contains a blend of Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Queso Quesadilla and Asadero cheeses. More types of cheese = more flavor.

Spicy Chicken Flautas

Of course, one shouldn’t enjoy flautas without fantastic sides. I serve mine with fresh pico de gallo, luscious guacamole and a dollop of sour cream to cool down the spices.

And with that Friends, you’ve got a meal with the perfect symphony of flavors! ¡Olé!

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Spicy Chicken Flautas
Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin on
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
¾ tablespoon garlic salt, divided
¾ teaspoon ground cumin, divided
¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided
1½ teaspoons onion powder
½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
1½teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 cup diced white onion
1 jalapeno pepper, minced*
1 serrano pepper, minced*
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
1½ cups Sargento® shredded 4-Mexican Cheese, or cheeses of your choice
vegetable oil
12 small flour tortillas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat the chicken breasts with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle the chicken with ¼ tablespoon garlic salt, ¼ teaspoon cumin, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon onion powder, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Use your hands to rub each chicken breast to thoroughly distribute the oil and seasonings. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 40-45 minutes or until the thickest part of the breast reaches 165 degrees F. Once cooled, remove and discard the skin and bones. Shred the chicken into small pieces and place in a large bowl.

Heat a skillet to medium heat and add the remaining olive oil. Sauté the onions, jalapeno and serrano until the onions are just translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the shredded chicken.

To the chicken, add the remaining garlic salt, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and kosher salt. Stir in the cilantro, scallions, lime juice and cheeses until combined.

Heat a heavy bottomed pot with 2 inches of vegetable oil to 375 degrees F.

Working in batches, place 2 heaping spoonfuls of the chicken mixture in the center of each tortilla. Tightly roll up each tortilla and use toothpicks to secure them closed. You may need to slightly heat the tortillas so that they become pliable to roll.

Fry the flautas for 2-3 minutes until they become golden brown. Transfer to a platter lined with paper towels to drain off the excess oil. Serve warm with pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream.

*The amount of peppers can be adjusted depending on heat preference.

Green Curry Chicken

Green Curry Chicken

I kind of have a thing for Green Curry.

Green Curry Chicken, Green Curry Tofu, Green Curry Prawns—you name it, I love it.

Green Curry Chicken

This is my go-to take on Green Curry Chicken.

You can use store-bought curry paste or try making your own. I use this recipe for green curry paste which is really quite easy-peasy. You simply throw the ingredients into a food processor and shjooge away.

Or is it juugge?

Shuaage?

Um…how about you just pulse away.

Green Curry Chicken

The recipe makes about a cup of paste and anything I don’t use, I divide into 1/4 cup portions and zip them up in little resealable baggies. I toss those baggies into the freezer and bada-bing-bada-boom —I have curry paste any time I need it.

And if you freeze things, don’t be like me and forget to label them because I’ve got a few containers/resealable baggies in my freezer that I can’t remember what the heck they are. But they could prove to be an adventurous meal by using all of the unidentifiable items from my freezer. :)

Back to the curry….

Green Curry Chicken

You can use any type of protein you prefer and feel free to swap whatever veggies you like— eggplants, snow peas, asparagus, etc. I also like my veggies to have a little more firmness to them and opt to add them in towards the end of the cooking process. However, if you like them a bit more tender, you may want to sauté them for a minute or 2 with the chicken.

Serve it up with a steaming bowl of jasmine rice and you’ll be curry-ific!!!

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Green Curry Chicken
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasted
kosher salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
½ cup diced white onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ tablespoon minced ginger
1 Thai red chili pepper, minced (2-3 if you prefer more heat)
3 heaping tablespoons green curry paste
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon fish sauce, more if needed
2 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 1-inch strips
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 1-inch strips
2 cups sliced white mushrooms
¼ cup chopped Thai Basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, more for garnish

Cut the chicken into 1 inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a heavy bottom pot with 2 tablespoons of oil to medium-high. Add the chicken and sear on both sides until golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover.

Lower the heat to medium and add in the remaining oil. Cook the onions until softened and then add the garlic, ginger, and red chili pepper. Sauté for an additional minute and then add in the curry paste. Stir and cook the items for one minute until they become fragrant.

Whisk in the coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce and allow the liquids to come to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 5-10 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken. Add the kaffir lime leaves, browned chicken, peppers, and mushrooms  into the pot. Stir the items together and simmer (partially covered) for 10-15 minutes. Taste and add in additional fish sauce if needed. Stir in the basil, cilantro and plate.

Garnish with additional cilantro and serve immediately with rice.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka MasalaIN A CROCK POT!!!!!! Yep, you heard me!

When I saw this on Pinterest, I just had to try it. I adore Chicken Tikka Masala and although I’m quite happy with the America’s Test Kitchen adaptation that I often use, I couldn’t resist trying out a slow cooker version.

True to the wonders of crock pot cookin’, I simply threw the ingredients into the pot, slapped on the lid  and let the goodness work its magic for 8 hours.

 

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

How did it taste? Really great! The chicken was quite flavorful and tender. As for the sauce—creamy and luscious. The only change I would make would be to reduce the amount of garam masala by half. The original recipe from Cooking Classy calls for 2 tablespoons which was pretty heavy handed for me but depending on your flavor preference (and the type of garam masala you use), you may like the full amount.

And although it may not be spot on to my beloved New Indian Cuisine, it’s still quite scrumptious and you just cannot beat how darn easy it is to make.

Want the recipe? Head on over to Cooking Classy.

Gỏi Bắp Chuối (Vietnamese Banana Blossom Salad) & Giveaway Winner!

Gỏi Bắp Chuối (Vietnamese Banana Blossom Salad)

Ever had Gỏi?

Gỏi is a general term for “salads” in Vietnamese and can come in all forms using a variety of ingredients. Lately, my favorite Gỏi utilizes thinly sliced Banana Blossoms. I combine it with grilled proteins, pink grapefruit, creamy avocados, a ton of herbs and a healthy douse of Nước chấm “vinaigrette”. It’s absolutely delicious and epitomizes the balance in Vietnamese cuisines.

If you’ve never used Banana Blossoms before, they can be somewhat tricky the first time around. It’s best to remove the outer few petals as they’re quite tough (though you can save them as garnish), use a really sharp knife so you can get thin slices, and be sure to soak the cut blossoms in cold water that has been mixed with some type of acid–citrus juice or vinegar does the trick. The later helps removes some of that chalky flavor that the Banana Blossoms can sometimes have.

And although it sounds a bit laborious—it’s totally worth it and delicious!

 

Gỏi Bắp Chuối (Vietnamese Banana Blossom Salad)

And now to announce the winner of a fabulous Nambe Pasta Cradle Bowl

Drum Roll please………….

CONGRATS Serena Kim who said she would serve Shrimp Pesto Pasta in the Nambé Bowl. Sounds yummy and will look gorgeous in your new bowl! Serena, we’ll be sending you an email shortly so we can get your new Nambé artwork shipped out.

THANK YOU to everyone who participated! And THANK YOU Nambé !

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Gỏi Bắp Chuối (Vietnamese Banana Blossom Salad)
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
Nước chấm (Sauce):
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, finely minced
chili paste, to taste

Gỏi (Salad):
cups chicken breast, grilled and shredded
cups prawns, shelled and grilled
2 medium sized avocadoes, cubed
1 cup Ruby Red Grapefruit segments
4 cups banana blossoms, julienned
¼ cup loosely packed fresh Vietnamese Mint (rau răm), chopped
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
1 cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup fried shallots
¼ cup roasted peanuts, crushed
cold water
black pepper to taste

Prepare the sauce. In a medium sized bowl, stir the sugar and water together until completely dissolved. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and stir until combined. Set aside.

Fill a large bowl with cold water and add the rice wine vinegar. Peel off the dark colored and tough outer leaves of the banana blossom. Use a sharp knife or mandolin to julienne the blossoms. You can either discard the “baby bananas” or chop them up finely. Submerge the banana blossoms into the bowl of water/vinegar after they have been julienne. Allow the banana blossoms to sit in the vinegar water for 15-20 minutes.

In a large bowl, add the shredded chicken, prawns, avocados, herbs, and freshly cracked black pepper. Add a few spoonfuls of the sauce until the items are lightly coated. Drain the banana blossoms from the vinegar water and squeeze out any excess liquids. Add banana blossoms to the other ingredients and spoon in some additional sauce. Gently toss the salad with the fried shallots and plate. Sprinkle the top with crushed peanuts and serve.

Bánh Mì Gà Nướng (Vietnamese Roasted Chicken Sandwich)

Bánh Mì Gà Nướng (Vietnamese Roasted Chicken Sandwich)

The other week I did a quick poll via Twitter and Facebook asking folks what Vietnamese dishes they’d like to see on the blog—well, other than Phở :)

I got a range of requests from Bún (Vermicelli Noodles) to Gỏi Cuốn (Spring/Summer Rolls) and even Bánh Mì (sandwiches).

Bánh Mì Gà Nướng (Vietnamese Roasted Chicken Sandwich)

But truth be told, outside of the occasional Bánh Mì Chả Lụa (Vietnamese “Ham”/”Sausage” Sandwich), I rarely ever make Bánh Mì.

Bánh Mì Gà Nướng (Vietnamese Roasted Chicken Sandwich)

By no means is Bánh Mì difficult to assemble but I’ve always been lucky enough to have local Bánh Mì shops nearby and at under 3 bucks a pop (and that’s on the high end), I have been just darn lazy. Yup, I admit it.

Bánh Mì Gà Nướng (Vietnamese Roasted Chicken Sandwich)

At it’s base, Bánh Mì is made up of a toasted french baguette, pickled veggies, tons of cilantro, mayonnaise, and some type of protein. But don’t let it fool you. Just because it sounds simple, doesn’t mean the flavors aren’t genius!

Bánh Mì is all about balance. The great crunch from the baguette, savory flavors from the protein, bright notes from the herbs and the sweet/tangy aspects of the pickled veggies. Just Perfect.

Bánh Mì Gà Nướng (Vietnamese Roasted Chicken Sandwich)

But I realize not everyone has access to yummy Bánh Mì shops so I thought it would be fun to share a delish and easy method. For this particular Bánh Mì Gà Nướng, I used chicken thighs marinated with Chinese Five-Spice and Maggi Seasoning Sauce. In fact, this is how our mom would often marinade our poultry—including our Thanksgiving turkeys every year! The Five-Spice gives a deep, earthy flavor from the combination of star anise, cloves, and other goodness. Trust me, it’s amazing.

And with that friends—Ăn ngon! Stay tuned next week for another Vietnamese dish!

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Bánh Mì Gà Nướng (Vietnamese Roasted Chicken Sandwich)
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 6-inch Baguette Rolls, lightly toasted and sliced lengthwise
Five Spiced Chicken*
Đồ Chua (Pickled Vegetables)*
Mayonaisse*
1 Bunch Fresh Cilantro Leaves, washed and dried
1 Jalapeno Pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 Small Cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise


Five-Spice Chicken
:
6 Chicken Thighs, bone in and skin on
1 Tablespoon Five-Spice Powder
¼ Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Teaspoons Black Pepper
3 Tablespoons Minced Garlic
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
½ Cup Maggi Seasoning Sauce

Đồ Chua (Pickled Vegetables):
1 Cup Carrots, julienned
1 Cup Daikon Radish, julienned
2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
½ Cup Boiling Water

Mayonnaise:
2 Large Egg Yolks, at room temperature
1 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Garlic Clove, minced
¼ Cup Fresh Cilantro Leaves, chopped (optional)
2-3 Dashes Nước Mắm (fish sauce)

Prepare the marinade for the chicken. In a large bowl, whisk together the Five-Spice, sugar, and pepper. Stir in garlic, Maggi and oil until the dry ingredients have dissolved. Submerge the chicken into the marinade, being sure to coat both sides. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the Đồ Chua (Pickled Vegetables). In a medium sized bowl, dissolve the sugar and salt with the boiling water. Add the vinegar and allow the liquid to cool to room temperature. Add the vegetables and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare the mayonnaise. In a blender, add all the ingredients except the oil. Pulse several times and then slowly drizzle in the oil until the mayonnaise has properly emulsified. Refrigerate until ready for use. *You can also use jarred mayonnaise to substitute*

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with oil and place the marinated chicken thighs on the sheet, skin side up. Roast for approximately 30 minutes until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Remove the chicken and transfer to a plate. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and shred the meat into pieces.

Assemble the Bánh Mì. Spread a heaping spoonful of mayonnaise inside one side of each toasted baguette roll. Fill each roll with the chicken and drizzle a bit of the pan drippings over the meat. If desired, sprinkle with more black pepper. Fill the sandwiches with pickled vegetables, jalapeno and cucumber slices, and the cilantro. Enjoy!

Creamy Pesto Rigatoni

Creamy Pesto Rigatoni

This past weekend I caught up with some friends over dinner. And before we knew it, we launched into an extensive and detailed conversation on how we believe that Pesto goes with practically anything.

Sandwiches, appetizers, crackers, pastas……….

P had even threatened to top the panna cotta I made for dessert with it but his wife quickly intervened. Okay…that may have been a bit much but I see where he was going with it.

Creamy Pesto Rigatoni

 

 

I typically go on a major pesto binge when herbs are abundant at my local farmers market. It’s so easy to change things up with various herbs and whatever types of nuts you have on hand. And the awesome thing is— Pesto freezes beautifully! Just drizzle some olive oil on top before sealing the container and your fresh pesto can keep in the freezer for months! A quick and easy way to flavor dishes with yummy herbaceous notes.

 

 

Creamy Pesto Rigatoni

 

 

This little number is a delicious and satisfying quick meal. PERFECT for any weeknight as you can pull it together in under 30 minutes! Easy Peasy!

And for an added spin, toss the pesto pasta with a cup of shredded cheese (of your choice) and spread into a casserole dish. Top with panko bread crumbs, more parmesan cheese and drizzle olive oil on top. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees and you’ve got a hearty and tummy warming alternative dish!

Oh Pesto….I love you.

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Creamy Pesto Rigatoni
Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 Pound Chicken Breast, skinless and boneless
1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
1 Cup Pesto
1 Cup Grape Tomatoes, halved
1/4 Teaspoon Red Chili Flake
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
Olive Oil
1 Pound Rigatoni Pasta

Slice chicken breast into strips and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Fill a large pot of water and bring it to a boil. Heavily salt the water and cook pasta according to directions.

In a heavy bottom pan, add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and brown the chicken. Once cooked, remove the chicken from the pan. Add an additional tablespoon of oil and cook garlic over medium heat for 1-2 minutes before tossing in the tomatoes and red chili flakes. Cook for about 2 minutes and stir in pesto. Heat the pesto and then stir in the heavy cream. Once incorporated, toss in the pasta, chicken, parmesan cheese and coat well. Check for seasonings and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm.

Oven-Baked Parmesan Chicken Tenders

Oven-Baked Parmesan Chicken

Despite what you may have heard…..Chicken Tenders aren’t just for kiddie menus.

Though, in an effort for full disclosure, I have been known to order off the kiddie menus at certain dining establishments. Heck, depending on the spot, the portions sizes are perfect for me—-and at a fraction of the cost.

I, apparently, have no shame.

Oven-Baked Parmesan Chicken

But back to the Tenders…..

Now, I’m not sure if I’ve said this before but when it comes to poultry, I’m a dark meat kind of gal. I find that there’s more flavor to dark meat and it retains much more moisture when cooked. But of course, white meat is considered the “healthier” portions of the bird and often times, can be cooked in a shorter time frame.

For a fast meal, I often pick up packages of Chicken Tenders to throw in recipes. Though they technically are a part of the chicken breast, I find them easier to use and quick to cook with.

Oven-Baked Parmesan Chicken

So when I got a hankering for some crispy, fried chicken this past weekend (one of my vices), I opted for a “healthier” alternative by baking instead of frying up some chicken. Using the method from Americas Test Kitchen, I took a bunch of defrosted chicken tenders, rolled them in Parmesan cheese and pan-toasted panko crumbs and got deliciously crunchy Chicken Tenders. They were golden brown, wonderfully crispy, not the least bit dry, and kind of fun!

And before anyone busts my chops for throwing in cheese to a recipe when I was trying to go healthy—-allow me to say, MY KITCHEN, MY RULES! Though…..at least I had a salad to go along with it. :)

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Oven-Baked Parmesan Chicken Tenders

Ingredients:

2 Cups Panko Breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
½ Cup Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
½ Teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
3 Large Egg Whites
1 Tablespoon Water
1 Teaspoon Minced Fresh Thyme
Cooking spray
1½ lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Tenders (or skinless breasts cut into strips)
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper


Preheat the oven to 475˚ F. In a large skillet, toss the panko with the oil. Toast over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the toasted crumbs to a shallow dish or pie plate.

In a second shallow dish, whisk together the parmesan cheese, flour, garlic powder, salt, and cayenne pepper. In a bowl, whisk together the egg whites, water, and thyme. Heavily season the chicken with salt and pepper.

Spray a wire rack lightly with cooking spray and place over a rimmed baking sheet. Working in batches, dredge a few pieces of the chicken in the cheese/flour mixture, then the egg whites, and finally the breadcrumbs to coat, shaking off the excess between each step. Lay the coated pieces on the prepared wire rack and repeat with the remaining chicken.

Spray the tops of the chicken pieces lightly with the cooking spray. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, 15 minutes. Flip the chicken halfway through the cooking time and lightly spray the tops with cooking spray before returning to the oven. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon or dipping sauce of your choice.