Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Oven Fried" Chicken Chimichangas

Whether it is Tacos, Fajitas, Burritos or Carnitas, my family does not care as long as it is Mexican Food. So far the Chimichanga has always been reserved for eating out. Making them at home would have required me to deep fry them. I'm not crazy about a big pot of oil on my stove and then there is always the question of what to do with the oil afterward.

The only logical choice was to make Chimichangas in the oven that would still have the crisp like the fried version, but without the mess of oil and additional calories. The debate continued if the filling should be beef or chicken but ultimately the latter won out in this battle.

Chicken Chimichangas can be extremely bland and we sure had our share of those at restaurants. With this in mind I tried to come up with the perfect combination of ingredients that would complement the chicken, add flavor but without overpowering the dish. 

A few diced peppers along with cilantro, onions and your typical Mexican cuisine spices cumin and oregano made the chicken filling delicious. Adding this to a mix of cream cheese (for firmness), sour cream, bacon bits and  lots of cheese and you have the perfect "oven fried" Chimichanga that no one could get enough off.

"Oven Fried" Chicken Chimichangas

3 whole roasted or poached* chicken breasts, shredded
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 scallions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 whole jalapeno, finely minced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, small diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt or to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
6 ounces Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
8 whole flour tortillas (8")
Oil for brushing

*To poach the chicken: place chicken in a single layer in a pot or pan.  Fill with canned chicken broth or water until chicken is completely covered.  Season with salt, pepper, onion, carrot and any other herbs you like.  Bring to a boil, then turn the broth/water down to a simmer.  Cook for 8-12 minutes, depending on the size of your meat, or until it is firm to the touch. Cool slightly before handling.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Add the oil to a skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the scallions, garlic, jalapeno, red bell pepper, cumin and oregano. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl cream together cream cheese and sour cream and salt. Add the cooled down vegetable mixture, shredded chicken, cilantro and cheese. Mix to combine well and taste again for seasonings adjusting as needed.

Microwave the tortillas (wrapped between 2 damp paper towels) for about 25 seconds to make them more pliable. Using one tortilla add a time add about 1/2 cup filling in the center of the tortilla. Wrap the Chimichanga like you would a burrito (without wrapping too tight or it will burst later) making sure the sides are tucked in well to enclose the filling. Place the rolled up tortilla with filling seam-side down on the parchment lined baking sheet. Proceed with the additional tortillas in the same fashion.

Brush the top and sides of each Chimichanga with some oil or spray with cooking spray. Bake for 21 to 23 minutes or the filling is heated through and the chimis are golden brown and crispy.

Serve with your favorite Mexican rice, refried beans and salsa.

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