Chicken Burritos

042513-StirItUp

Over the last few articles, I’ve talked about herbs and spices and some of the thoughts behind their usage. Now, let’s put some of those ideas to use. Just out of curiosity, did anyone try adding some fresh nutmeg to your veggies? It’s great on all the squashes; winter or summer, as well as zucchini, but also try it on asparagus, which are in abundance right now.

Anyway, this chicken burrito recipe will yield about 4 to 6 burritos. There is nothing really unusual about the ingredients. I do add corn, which I guess is not a regular burrito ingredient, but you will often find salsas that contain corn, and since I’m not including a salsa recipe, I added some into the filling. I also used whole black beans instead of rice or refried beans in the filling. These are all interchangeable according to what ingredients you have on hand and what your mood or taste buds are telling you at the time. Maybe the next batch you make you will use rice instead of beans.

Before you start to season your chicken, try a little taste test with the spices you are thinking of using. Simply pour a tiny bit of each into their respective jar caps with the bottle just behind them so you’re sure which one is which. It is easy to confuse some of them and this isn’t a blind test, but rather a way to tell which spices add more flavor and which add more heat. I used Spanish paprika, cumin, chili powder and chipotle powder as my dry spices and that is the order they are heat-wise, as well.

I would have used some cayenne, which would have ranked highest in the heat category, but I was out, so instead I used chili paste which adds both, a lot of heat, but also some flavor. Spanish paprika is not hot and just adds a little sweet peppery flavoring. Cumin adds a lot of flavor and is relatively strong, but again adds no heat. Chili powder will add a little heat, especially if it is a fresh jar, but is still more for the flavor. The chipotle is the first of these peppers that really has a much higher heat content. It also adds a great smoky flavor, which I personally like but if you don’t like smoky leave it out. The chili paste is where you can add a lot of heat and since it is a paste and not dry, it doesn’t need to dissolve while cooking and can be added throughout the cooking process and at the end to achieve your desired heat level. Notice again, the spices are added at the beginning of the process while the herb, cilantro in this case, is added at the end.

 

Chicken Burritos

3 chicken breasts, cut into chunks or strips

3 roma tomatoes, diced

1 small to medium onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

1-15 oz. can black beans

6 oz. frozen corn

1 T paprika

1½ T cumin

1½ T chili powder

1 T chipotle powder

1 T chili paste

1 lime

1 T oil

½ bunch cilantro chopped

2 C grated cheese

4-6 tortilla shells

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Mix the dry spices and toss three-fourths of this and half the chili paste with the chicken and let marinate for a half hour. Heat a heavy pot or pan and sear the chicken on all sides in some oil. Remove chicken and set aside (this will keep chicken from over-cooling). Add the rest of the oil, onions, garlic and the rest of the spice mix, and cook until the onions start to soften. Add the beans and once they are hot add the chicken and sauté until chicken is cooked through. Add tomatoes and squeeze in the lime juice. Add cilantro and the rest of the chili paste if desired. Heat tortilla shells, spoon on filling, add some cheese and roll. Bake for 10 minutes to melt the cheese or a little longer for a crispier shell.

 

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Chef Smitty
Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. Smitty has been teaching skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for more than 26 years each winter, and spends his summers working for High Sierra Waterski School since 2000. Smitty has been writing his chef column for Tahoe Weekly since 2005.