Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Puerto Rican Chicken Fajitas with Orange Onion Salsa and Homemade Tortillas

This past weekend, we had a good friend from the city come up to stay and I made a recipe from a cookbook, The Well-Filled Tortilla, by Victoria Wise and Susanna Hoffman, which I received as a gift from my stepmother for my wedding shower.  I have been meaning to use this book, well, since I got it.   It is filled with amazing Mexican recipes and, as I pledged in my vows to my husband, we would eat Mexican at least twice a month... (ooops! we haven't been).  So with this book, I plan to remedy the situation... after all, I do hold him to his vow of unpacking his suitcase after a trip so it is only fair.  I also thought this would be a great opportunity to use my tortilla press... but alas, the tortilla press is only used for CORN tortillas... which I love but I had already decided to use flour tortillas and did not want to go back to the store for masa harina... so next time.

This was a really yummy recipe.  I would make a few changes (most importantly to omit the step which says to coat your chicken with 2/3 a cup of pine nuts... yes those really expensive delicious nuts that I love... before grilling, and losing them ALL to the flames...  I have tried to forgive my husband for what was easy to blame him for but was really a huge error in the recipe and a lapse in judgement on my part because... DUH you don't coat meat that you grill with nuts... ).   Wow long parentheses... ANYWAYS.  Here's how you make these delicious fajitas.

Orange Onion Salsa


2 large navel oranges (or 3 to 4 blood or Valencia oranges)
1/2 cup diced onion
1 1/2 T. chopped fresh Anaheim chili pepper 
2 T. cilantro leaves (or more. when in doubt, be generous with cilantro!)
1/4 tsp. ground cumin.
NOTE: I would use more chili pepper next time, at least twice this amount.  The salsa was mild.  I also think jalepeno peppers would be fine if you can't find Anaheim.

NOTE 2:  Fresh peppers is emphasized above because I accidentally bought dried chili and realized while chopping away that this was an error... I ended up using $5 of gas to go get 1 fresh Anaheim for .35 cents... yes I live that far from a store... so please buy fresh peppers! P.S. that is why it is not a fresh pepper you see in the picture below. 

OK so peel and chop up the oranges in 1/4 inch pieces, removing the seeds, and combine with the diced onion, the cilantro leaves, and the chopped chili pepper.  

Add the cumin and stir it up!  Let it sit in the refrigerator for up to a day.

Next step, make the tortillas:

Homemade Flour Tortillas

I may never (unless lazy or busy... or OK when I am working full time again :)) buy flour tortillas again.  They are SO much better made at home.  And really really simple.

You need the following:

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour 
1/3 cup vegetable oil (or corn or safflower or olive oil)
1 tsp. salt
1 cup warm tap water.

Yep, that's it.  This makes twelve 8-inch tortillas and takes about 1 1/2 hours so you do need some time.

Here's what you do.  

1. Put the flour in a mixing bowl, along with the oil, and mix together with a fork or your fingers until evenly distributed and flour is crumbly in texture.

(my fingers look weird! hah!)

2.  Mix salt with warm water and add to the flour.  Mix together with your hands until dough can be gathered into a ball.

3.  Knead on an unfloured board until smooth and elastic. About 3-5 minutes. 

Well.... it looks the same but trust me... it is SMOOTH and ELASTIC.  Ok.

4.  Return ball to bowl, cover with a towel and place it in a warmish spot to rest for up to 2 hours, and at least 30 minutes.  It can be wrapped and stored in the fridge for up to a day.

Wait... and then make the tortillas!

5.  Divide the ball into 12 equal size pieces, roll between palms to make balls, flatten the balls, and then place on a lightly floured board.  Roll each ball out with a rolling pin into a 8- to 9-inch round.  They will be very thin.  

Layer the rolled out tortillas between sheets of plastic wrap. They can be stored in the fridge overnight.

6.  Let's cook them!  Heat a heavy cast-iron frying pan (or griddle, or comal) over medium-high heat.  Let it get hot before you start... be patient!  OK.  Place the tortillas one at a time in the pan and cook for 30 seconds.  If they puff up, gently press them down with a spatula.  Turn and cook on the other side until speckled with brown spots but still pliable and not crisp, about 30 seconds more.  Remove and stack them while they are still warm.  

Use them right away, or reheat before serving in an oven, or in a pan by heating about 15 seconds per side. 

Puerto Rican Chicken Fajitas
Serves 4 to 6. Takes less than 20 minutes.


2 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2/3 cup pine nuts, finely chopped (SEE NOTE BELOW!)
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
3 plaintains (about 2 pounds) or 4 large green bananas, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
18 corn or 12 flour tortillas, warmed or crisped before serving.


2 cups sour cream
Orange Onion Salsa
shredded lettuce (optional)

NOTE:  If you are grilling, I would NOT chop the pine nuts and coat the chicken with them... unless you want to spend the dinner mourning for lost pine nuts and the evening lamenting their fiery death and their absence from your tortilla.  If grilling the chicken, just toast the pine nuts and make them another topping.  I would also marinate and season the chicken next time.  Even just a spicy dry rub would make a huge difference.  You can also pan fry the chicken in a couple tablespoons of olive oil, in which case you could still use the pine nuts, but I would dip the chicken in a light mixture of egg and milk first to make the pine nuts stick to the chicken.

OK so this is what you do.

1.  Pound the chicken breasts with a mallet (or whatever is good for pounding) between wax paper or plastic wrap until they are 1/8 inch thick.   Look at Brandon go!


2.  Here are those finely chopped pine nuts... lost forever... do this step if you are pan frying the chicken.  Otherwise, just toast the pine nuts and serve them as a side.

Such a shame.  

3.  OK, at this point, as I said above, I would put some dry rub on the chicken, or you could do this well in advance and marinate the chicken in whatever you think would be good.  I will play around with it next time.  Coat with the pine nuts if you are pan frying... and I would suggest using lightly beaten egg and milk to dip the chicken in before coating it.

4.  If you are grilling, prepare a charcoal fire and allow the coals to burn until they are mostly covered with white ash and a few red spots show through... about 40 minutes.  OR if you have a chimney to heat the charcoal, like we do, you can do it that way and save some time.  Just get it really hot.   It will only take a couple minutes per side.  

If frying, pour 1 T. oil in each of 2 large frying pans and set over medium-hight heat until the oil begins to smoke.  Add as many chicken breasts as will fit in an uncrowded layer.  Cook until no longer pink but still moist int he center, about 1 1/2 minutes per side.  Drain liquid from the pan.

5.  When the chicken is done, slice up the plantains or bananas.

6.  Heat 2 T. olive oil in a frying pan and stir over medium high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. 

 YUM.  I. LOVE. PLANTAINS.  Next time I will use more.

7.  Slice up the chicken.

Here is the spread! 

Assemble the fajitas and enjoy!

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