I’m convinced that one of the secrets to imaginative cooking is learning how to resist going to the store when you realize you are out of an essential ingredient for a dish. If necessity is the mother of invention, adversity might be the father.
Lasagna just isn’t lasagna without the lasagna pasta. That’s a fact. So, if your heart is truly set on having lasagna and you don’t have the pasta, go to the store and get some. But, if you’ve just come home from a long day at work, you might dread the thought of getting back into the car to face the teeming masses at the grocery store just to pick up a box of pasta. That is the conundrum I faced today.
I reluctantly switched gears and started to think of alternatives for dinner. I wanted to use the ricotta, because it had been in the refrigerator for a few weeks. I rummaged through the refrigerator and found some chicken thighs that I had grilled, the previous weekend. The needle of my culinary compass quickly swung from Italian to Tex-Mex, (who would have guessed?!)
I imagined how I could use cheese and mushrooms and chicken to make flautas (taquitos). It’s during these kinds of moments of brilliance when I become convinced that I’m on the verge of making a brand new, never-seen-before creation. I use the flash of inspiration and get to work.
This sort of inspiration is actually a façade, as any honest cook knows, but it is an excellent motivator! Here is what the all-knowing internet has to say about the matter: From hispanickitchen.com, “Requesón is a soft Mexican cheese similar in texture to ricotta cheese. It has a mild flavor that can be used for both sweet and savory dishes. Because this cheese doesn’t melt completely when in contact with heat, it is the perfect cheese for golden fried taquitos.”
Chicken Flautas with Ricotta Cheese and Mushrooms
4 grilled chicken thighs (skin on)
1 cup of uncooked rice
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs butter
3 Tbs cup diced onion
4 large white, button mushrooms, chopped
15 oz ricotta cheese (or queso requesón, if you’re lucky enough)
1 tsp Mexican oregano
¼ cup cooking oil
12 corn tortillas
For the garnish:
1 small white onion, sliced
1 large ripe tomato, sliced
1 orange, sliced
2 cups mixed greens (spinach, lettuce, etc.)
½ cup sour cream
½ cup salsa
Cilantro leaves (as much as you like)
Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and reserve one of the skins to flavor the rice.
Set the rice on the stove to boil. Add one of the chicken skins and cook the rice according to the directions on the package. Remove the skin before serving.
Shred and chop the chicken. Set aside.
Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet.
Add the onions and sauté until the onions begin to brown.
Add the mushrooms and stir for one minute.
Remove the onions and mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.
Add the ricotta cheese to the onions and mushrooms. Mix to combine.
Add the oregano and mix thoroughly.
Add the shredded chicken and mix. Set aside.
Soften the tortillas by frying in hot cooking oil. Set aside.
Prepare the flautas. Lay a tortilla on a work surface and add about 3 tablespoons of the chicken mixture. Form the chicken into a thick bead and roll the tortilla.
Skewer the tortilla with a toothpick. *Yay for toothpicks*
Assemble the rest of the tortillas and skewer them in sets of three.
Fry the rolled flautas in hot oil, turning a few times, until they are crispy and golden. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
Assemble the flautas on a large platter and adorn with the garnishes.
Enjoy with a delicious red wine, which was intended to pair with the lasagna!