Chicken Flautas with Cotija and Salsa Roja

Flautas, flavorful miniature tacos that are a perfect finger food, are usually deep-fried until fully cooked. In this recipe the corn tortillas get just a brief flash-fry, just to soften them for filling and rolling, and are finished in the oven, which both saves hands-on time and keeps them a bit healthier than their retail counterparts.

If you don’t want to sacrifice authenticity, then by all means fry away: just increase the amount of oil you’ll need to one cup and fry the flautas in batches of six for 2-3 minutes per side (10-12 minutes total), until deep golden and crispy. Place finished flautas on a paper towel-lined tray and keep them in a 200° oven until ready to serve. Whether you fry or bake, to maximize margarita time, you can make the chicken filling and salsa roja up to a day in advance.

2 tsp. ancho chili powder Chicken Flautas with Cotija and Salsa Roja

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. dried oregano flakes

1/4 tsp. cayenne

2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approximately 1 lb.)

6 Tbs. canola oil, separated

1 large white onion, half thinly sliced and half chopped

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

8 oz. cotija cheese or queso blanco, crumbled

4 plum tomatoes, stemmed and chopped

1 jalapeño, stemmed and chopped

4 sprigs cilantro, torn

24 six-inch corn tortillas

 

1. Combine spices and 2 tsp. of salt and sprinkle evenly over chicken breasts. Heat 2 Tbs. oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, and add chicken, sliced onion, and 1 clove garlic. Cook until the chicken is browned and no longer pink in the center, about 8 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken, onion and garlic to a medium bowl and allow to cool until able to handle.

2. While the chicken rests, make the salsa roja: Puree the chopped onion, remaining garlic, tomatoes, jalapeño, and cilantro in a blender until smooth, about one minute. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the sauté pan and heat tomato mixture until slightly thickened and reduced to two cups, about 18-20 minutes. Season the mixture to taste and transfer salsa to a serving bowl, reserving 1/3 cup.

3. Using your fingers, shred the cooled chicken, and toss with the reserved salsa and the crumbled cotija, mixing well. Season with salt to taste and set aside.

4. Preheat oven to 425°, with racks in upper and lower thirds, and line two 11″x17″ rimmed baking trays with foil. Wipe out pan and add remaining oil. Fry tortillas one at a time for 2-3 seconds per side until just soft; remove from oil and place on one of the prepared trays in sets of four. Place 2 Tbs. filling in a vertical line down the center of each softened tortilla, and roll up tightly. Place seam-down on the second tray, leaving 2 inches of space between each flauta. Repeat with remaining tortillas, arranging half on each tray. Bake 30-35 minutes, alternating racks and rotating trays halfway through cooking time until flautas are crisp and deep golden. Serve warm with salsa roja on the side.

Note: If spicy isn’t your thing, remove the seeds and ribs from the jalapeño prior to pureeing.

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