I’ve had Mexican flavors on my mind lately, and with Cinco de Mayo approaching, it only seemed appropriate to make a distinctly Mexican-inspired burrito. These burritos include shredded chicken, freshly made salsa verde, a mild, Spanish goat cheese, and roasted poblano peppers, which all together, amounted to a new must-make-this-again-soon recipe.
I’d heard of tomatillos before, but had never actually tasted or seen one hands on. When I ran into them, I couldn’t help but just grab a ton of them without a clue as to what I would do with them. If you’ve also never worked with a tomatillo, they look kind of like small, green tomatoes with a papery wrapping (like a head of garlic). After a little thought, the most obvious thing struck me (another new thing for my tastebuds): salsa verde!
Now tomatillos are not tomatoes and salsa verde is a salsa that has no tomatoes (tomatillos are the star of the show), and in case the name doesn’t make it obvious, has a nice, green color. It is remarkably simple to prepare, uses just a few ingredients, and has a delightfully taste: mildly tart, kind of like green apples, lime, sweet, citric, slightly spicy, light and just really great, fresh flavor.
Now there’s more to the burritos beyond the salsa. For cheese, I used a queso de murcia al vino–if you’ve never heard of it, this is a Spanish goat’s milk cheese soaked in red wine, so it has some acidic, mildly tangy, sweet, and spicy flavors about it which pairs quite beautifully with the salsa. I also included some roasted poblanos since I love the flavor of poblano peppers and the amazingly different taste peppers take on once slow roasted. I filled the burritos with a roasted and then shredded chicken, following pretty much the same approach as when I made Mojo Chicken Burritos as this gives a juicy, perfectly spiced chicken on the cheap.
All together, these made for amazingly good burritos–they were light, just the right level of spice, peppery, citric, creamy, tangy, and surprisingly complex tasting. I would most definitely make these again. This is also my entry to this week’s edition of Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Anh of Food Lover’s Journey.
- ~1-1.25 lb tomatillos
- 4 jalapeños (use serranos if you have them for added heat)
- 2 shallots
- 4-6 garlic cloves
- 1/4-1/2 cup cilantro
- juice of 1 lime
- pinch of salt
- ~4-5 lb whole chicken
- 1 lime
- Chicken butter rub
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp adobo sauce
- juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- ground black pepper
- dash of ground cinammon
- dash of smoked paprika
- 4 poblano peppers
- 8 soft tortillas
- 4-8 oz of a semi-soft white cheese (I used about 4-6 oz of a queso de murcia al vino)
The first thing to do is to make the salsa. Heck, you could even do this a day in advance since the extra time for the flavors to all intermingle will only make it better.
So whenever you do it, husk and wash the sticky, goopiness off of the tomatillos. Then, cut them in half and lay them cut side down in a pan which you should then put under the broiler for about 7 minutes or so. They should go from firm and perky green to slightly charred, more yellow in color, submissive, soft, and juicy.
Many other salsa verde recipes will call for the rest of the salsa ingredients to simply be raw, and that’s fine, but I’m a sucker for some of those strangely different roasted flavors. Plus, if I gave my wife a salsa with raw shallots in it, that would be too close to onions and I’d find shallots on the “banned food items” list for being too much like onions which would be very not good! So behead the garlic cloves as well as the shallot (don’t bother peeling them yet), rubbing each with olive oil and wrapping tightly in tin foil. Also oil the peppers, wrapping the poblanos up in one tin foil packet and the jalapeños in another. Transfer all of these foiled veggies to the oven at 400°F for about 35-40 minutes (I took the garlic out after 20 so that it still had some bite to it).
Once all of the veggies have had their time in the heat and are adequately cooked, let them all cool off for about 10 minutes or so (or until they are cool enough to handle).
First, deal with the poblanos–they are a topping, and not a part of the salsa, so we can just finish them up and set aside. The skin should peel off easily now, so remove that, the stem, and ribs/seeds. Julienne into thin strips and set this aside for later.
Now clean up the rest of the roasted veggies (peel the garlic cloves, peel the shallot, peel/behead/and optionally derib/deseed the jalapeño), and throw it all into the food processor.
Also add the lime juice, cilantro, and a bit of salt to taste, and pulse this until nicely mixed but not 100% pureed.
That’s it! The salsa is done–sample it. I was really amazed by what those tomatillos bring to the party. Anyways, set this aside for later.
On to the rest of the burrito, namely, the chicken! I roasted a whole chicken like I have for other burritos–its flavorful, economical (you get so much more for your money than a pack of bland chicken breasts), and easy. So begin by preheating the oven to 375°F and by removing the gizzards and any other undesirables from the bird. Then, work your fingers under the skin, doing your best not to puncture any additional holes while separating the skin from the flesh around the breast, thighs, etc–really, anywhere you can reach.
Now, mix all of the rub ingredients in a small bowl and zap it for about 30 seconds in the microwave to melt the butter down a bit. Give this a good mix and start rubbing that all over the bird underneath the skin–the skin will help keep this flavor right on the flesh, the skin will crisp up, and it will be a good thing. Rub a little bit on the outside of the bird as well, using up every last bit. Finish the chicken with some salt and pepper on the outside, stuff with a halved lime, and throw it on a rack in a roasting pan breast-side up and transfer to the oven for about 40 minutes.
After 40 minutes have passed, flip the bird over and consider basting every so often now that enough has dripped off into the roasting pan. The chicken will probably be done roasting somewhere around 1 hour and 15-30 minutes total, but stick a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh to know for sure.
Once done, remove from the oven and let it cool off a bit for 10-15 minutes, at which point, cut every last bit of meat off of the chicken and start shredding it into small, burrito-friendly pieces (e.g. you could use your fingers, two forks, dice finely with your knife–whatever floats your boat. Just make it nice, small, and bite-sized).
Now once the chicken is shredded up, things move faster since now you have to pack the burritos quickly enough such that you still have a hot meal, and if you have a lot of burritos to pack, you don’t want to have any other distractions. So before you get to this stage, I would advise you have everything you’ll need all prepped and ready. For me, that meant the following, so plan accordingly:
- shred the block of cheese using the food processor with the grater “blade.” Set this aside in a bowl
- set out a non-stick pan for the purpose of warming up the tortillas
- bring out the salsa verde and julienned, roasted poblano peppers
- prepare your side dish(es). I made some black rice (cooked rice and black beans with the “black bean juice” so that the rice would take on the color) along with some fried plantains (2 plantains, peeled, diced, salted, sautéed in butter).
So now is burrito making time. Briefly warm a tortilla in a very hot, dry pan for about 30 seconds per side. Take out the tortilla and throw another one in the pan (so you have about a minute to make each burrito 😉 ). Spread some chicken in a line on the tortilla, top with some julienned poblanos, salsa verde, and a bit of shredded cheese (I was light on the cheese as I didn’t want the flavor of this particular cheese to come off too strongly. Sample a bit of everything together to decide how much you think is a good amount). Roll this up tightly, set aside, and on to the next one! Depending on the size of the chicken you roasted, you might have more (or fuller) burritos–I got about 8 burritos out of this.
If you have leftovers, I like to roll them up tightly in tinfoil and then reheat in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. You can also freeze these nicely, so feel free to make way too much. 😉
Plate however you think it looks good, maybe adding some sour cream, mexican crema, avocado, or some other appropriate side/garnish to the dish, pour yourself some sort of tequila-based drink, and enjoy!