It’s Burrito Time: Hungry Hayley makes the best substitute for (Mexican) Grandma food
Mexican Shredded Chicken Burritos
1 free range chicken
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 spoonful each, chilli powder, cumin seeds, oregano, cinnamon and salt
1 avocado, sliced
1 head romaine lettuce, sliced into ribbons
salsa or hot sauce (or both)
In California, going out for Mexican food is the same kind of ritual as going for a curry. It may not be what your grandma makes every Sunday but is still, somehow, comforting in that same way grandma food is. Unfortunately, neither my grandparent’s house nor a decent Mexican restaurant can be found in St Andrews, so I have to make do at home. These chicken burritos temporarily fill the void until I touchdown at SFO and head straight to the closest dirty tacqueria for carnitas tacos and a giant horchata. The first non-vegetarian recipe in this series, here, finally, is something to chew on. Really though, this method yields the opposite of the chokingly dry roasts of forgetful Sundays. The meat here is shredded straight off the bone into piles of spicy, salty, tender chunks ready to be rolled in tortillas or piled on top of nachos. First you’ll need a decent, free range chicken, because it will really taste better, and not perpetuate outdated battery farming practices. You rub it all over with chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and oregano, and make inappropriate jokes. You roast it in a hot oven until the juices run clear when you stab the thigh with a knife. Then the fun part- with two forks, you shred the whole thing into hunks, which should only take about 5 minutes and is weirdly satisfying to do. This method can be adapted to take on Indian flavours as well – swap in garam masala, turmeric, and coriander, and wrap in warmed naan bread alongside plain yogurt, cucumber, and tomato. However in the recipe below I recommend lots of avocado, shredded lettuce or cabbage, sour cream, and hot sauce. If you want to go the extra mile, sauté two cloves of garlic, add a tin of drained black beans, and smash with a potato masher. Season with salt, pepper, and stir through a big handful of fresh coriander, and spoon into your tortillas.
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Get out a roasting tin and line it with tin foil so you don’t have to scrub it later. Put your chicken inside, and rub all over with oil and spices until every inch is coated. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes per pound, plus 10 to 20 minutes give or take. A 4lb chicken should take about 1 hour and 25 minutes. Don’t bother basting, but do check on it about a quarter of the way through – if it looks like its getting a bit too brown, cover it in a loose tent of aluminium foil. You’ll know it’s cooked by stabbing into the deep part of the thigh and checking that the juices are clear, and they should be if you’ve calculated your cook time properly. If not, no stress, just put it back in for a few more minutes. Now taking two forks (or four, if you get a friend), shred away at the meat, it should come away easily into bite-sized chunks. Now taste for seasoning – if its not where you’d like it, adapt away, I usually add more chili. Warm your tortillas in a microwave in between two dampened paper towels, which will allow them to steam instead of dry out. Assemble adding whatever you like; I go for lots of avocado. Also, always remember to tuck the bottom end in when folding up your burrito. It’s pretty embarrassing to have everything explode out into your lap but can be prevented. Please refer to mexicanfood.about.com/od/techniques/ht/burritofolding.htm for an unnecessarily long 6-part explanation of how to best do this.