Panuchos

Susan Feniger, Mary Sue Milliken, Border Grill in Santa Monica, Las Vegas, Los Angeles - September 2011

For 6 servings (requires advance preparation)

Pickled red onions:

  • 1 lb. red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 beet, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 8 wedges
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 Tbsps. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsps. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper, freshly cracked
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  1. Place onions in a saucepan; add enough water just to cover; bring to a boil; remove from heat; strain in a colander; reserve onions.

  2. Place remaining ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-high; simmer 10 minutes; add reserved onions; simmer 10 minutes; remove from heat; place mixture in airtight container; cover; refrigerate 24 hours.

Achiote/citrus marinade:

  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup achiote paste (see note below)
  • 7 garlic cloves
  • 2 to 3 jalapeños, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 bunch cilantro

Mix 1/3 cup juice, paste, garlic, jalapeños, peppercorns, and salt in a blender; blend until peppercorns are completely crushed; add cilantro and remaining 1/3 cup juice; blend until smooth; reserve.

Roasted chicken:

  • 1  3-lb. roasting chicken, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 1 orange, halved
  • 1 head garlic, halved
  1. Rub marinade all over inside and outside of chicken; place chicken in a bowl; cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 1 hour to overnight.

  2. Heat oven to 400°F.

  3. Remove chicken from marinade; place on clean work surface; place onion, orange, and garlic in cavity; tie legs together with kitchen twine; place breast side down on wire rack in roasting pan; roast 20 minutes; reduce heat to 350°F; roast 20 minutes; remove from oven; flip chicken breast side up; roast, basting occasionally with pan juices, until a drumstick feels loose when jiggled and skin is brown (40 to 50 minutes).

  4. Remove chicken from oven; let stand until cool enough to handle; shred meat from bones; discard bones; reserve shredded meat in airtight container in refrigerator.

Chile de árbol salsa:

  • 3/4 lb. tomatillos, husked and washed
  • 1/2 lb. Roma tomatoes
  • 1 bunch cilantro, leaves only, roughly chopped
  • 1 white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chile de árbol, stemmed, seeded, and lightly toasted
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
  1. Heat a broiler.

  2. Place tomatillos and tomatoes on baking sheet; broil, turning occasionally, until charred all over (10 to 12 minutes); remove from broiler; place in a saucepan; add 2 cups water and remaining ingredients; bring to a boil; cook until onion is softened (12 to 15 minutes); remove from heat.

  3. Place in a processor; blend until smooth; strain through fine chinois into airtight container; cover; reserve in refrigerator.

Refried black beans:

  • 2 cups dried black beans, rinsed and picked over
  • 3 Tbsps. lard
  • 1 lg. onion, cut into small dice
  • 1 1/2 tsps. salt
  1. Bring 7 1/2 cups water and beans to a boil in large pot; cover with a lid; reduce heat to medium; simmer until beans are tender and creamy in center (about 1 hour); remove from heat; crush beans in liquid with potato masher; reserve.

  2. Heat lard in large saucepan set over medium heat; add onion and salt; cook until softened and brown (about 20 minutes); add smashed beans with cooking liquid; cook, stirring often, until liquid evaporates and beans form a creamy mass that pulls away from the bottom and sides of the pot (about 15 minutes); reserve (keep warm).

Assembly:

  • 2 cups deep yellow masa harina, finely ground
  • 1 3/8 cups cold water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbsps. canola oil, plus more if needed
  • 1 avocado, sliced (for serving)
  1. Heat oven to 200°F.

  2. Mix masa, water, and salt in large bowl; stir until smooth (dough should be slightly sticky and form a ball when pressed together); flatten small ball of dough between palms; add more water to dough if edges crack, 1 Tbsp. at a time; test until pieces do not crack; divide dough into 12 pieces; roll into balls; place on serving platter; cover with clean damp towel. 3. Press a ball into 4” circle with tortilla press lined on each side with sheet of plastic cut from resealable plastic freezer bag; repeat with remaining balls, removing plastic from pressed dough as you go and reusing; reserve.

  3. Heat cast-iron skillet set over medium heat; place a tortilla in skillet; cook, pressing top with fingertips to make it puff, 30 to 45 seconds; remove from pan; place on serving platter; repeat with remaining masa.

  4. When cool enough to handle, make 1 1/2” slit 1/4” from edges to make a pocket in each tortilla (do not cut all the way through tortillas); stuff 2 tsps. refried beans in each pocket; flatten to seal, spreading beans evenly.

  5. Heat oil in large skillet set over high heat; fry tortillas in batches, adding more oil if necessary, until crisp around edges but still pliable; remove from heat; place on paper towels to drain; place on baking sheet; reserve in oven.

  6. To serve, place reserved chicken in small pan set over low heat; cook until warmed through; remove panuchos from oven; top each with 1 Tbsp. chile de árbol salsa; sprinkle some chicken over top; top with pickled onion; garnish with an avocado slice.

What to drink: kumquat Margarita—we make our kumquat Margarita by mixing 2 oz. house-made kumquat-infused Tequila, 1 oz. house-made kumquat puree, and 1 oz. Grand Marnier in a shaker filled with ice, pouring in a stemmed glass, and garnishing with sliced kumquat. You can make the infused Tequila by placing 1 lb. halved kumquats in a large jar with 750 ml Tequila; seal; store in dark place 5 days; strain; reserve in refrigerator. To make puree, place 6 sliced kumquats, 1/2 cup lemon juice, and 1/2 cup agave nectar in a blender; blend until smooth; strain through coarse sieve into airtight container, pushing all juice through; refrigerate.
Chefs’ Notes: Achiote paste is a bright orange seasoning from the Yucatan made of ground annatto seeds, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, pepper, and cloves. The paste is sold in bricks in Mexican food markets. It should be cooked before using to remove any chalkiness. • If tortillas don’t puff, spread refried beans on outside after frying and top with remaining ingredients.