A friend of mine has made this request (thank you, Jane!) Even though the Spanish word flauta means flute (transverse or recorder), her request was not for a song, but for a recipe to make the crispy tacos named after this musical instrument, due to their shape. They consist of a corn tortilla filled with meat, cheese or veggies, rolled very tightly, and fried until golden brown. I could not find a reliable source of information about the origin of the dish, but it seems to depend on size. There are some oval shaped tortillas made specifically to achieve a thin tube measuring up to ten inches in length, which probably originated in the Southern state of Guerrero. The ones made with regular tortillas, about six inches long, are sometimes called tacos dorados (golden tacos), and come from the North Western state of Sinaloa. The shortest version is made by slicing a regular length taco in half before frying (or using mini tortillas, three inches in diameter), and are known as taquitos, so popular around all of Mexico and the rest of North America, that it is possible to buy some versions of them frozen.
One of the big dilemmas when ordering flautas at a restaurant, is to decide which filling to choose. I used to go to a small restaurant in Mexico City (still exists!) part of a chain called “Las Flautas”; there, it was possible to order them individually: one with shredded chicken, two with shredded beef soaked in its own broth, or mashed potatoes, or stringy cheese or refried beans … one of each … hmmm … sigh … I had to include all those flavours! I set up an assembly station with bowls of (from left): strips of Friulano cheese (Mozarella works, too); mashed potatoes; refried beans (these were canned, maybe I will talk about homemade refried beans in a post soon); shredded cooked chicken breast; and stewing beef, cooked in water, shredded and soaked in a little bit of the broth:
Once I had all the ingredients in place, I proceeded to warm up tortillas as directed in the package (I used the microwave oven); I rolled the tortillas with the different fillings. In the picture above, I had overlapped two tortillas and topped with mashed potatoes; when rolled, it became a long flauta. I also rolled single tortillas for regular size tacos dorados, and in the photo below, halved tortillas were rolled into taquitos and secured with toothpicks:
Flautas are sometimes deep fried, but I chose to crisp them with just a hint of oil in a cast iron skillet, turning them frequently to get an even golden colour. Making the three different lengths helped me optimize skillet surface area (LOL).
To spice up the tacos, I had some of my cooked green salsa, and a bottle of Tapatío™; some other good bottled options are Herdez™ green and Mexicana sauces (photo below, left). Guacamole is another option, especially to serve as an appetizer with the taquitos, but in the photo below, right, they are presented with a guacamole look-alike sauce for dipping (must try “secret” bonus recipe at the end):
The classic toppings for flautas and tacos dorados are: shredded cabbage, chopped onions, Mexican cream, and crumbled cheese. Other versions may use lettuce instead of cabbage. I chose shredded cabbage, and chopped onions for veggies; sour cream is a good substitute for Mexican cream, and in this case I diluted it just a little with milk, so it would flow nicely along the taco; the crumbled cheese is usually Cotija style, but either Canadian Feta or Indian Paneer would be a good (and cheaper) substitution:
I used the edge of the tortillas as a flap to tuck the toppings in: onion, cabbage, cream, and cheese:
BONUS RECIPE: Restaurant Style Creamy Green Sauce – It is not really a secret, many people know how to make it, but it is surprising to learn what the ingredients are (no avocado); this is my version, with less oil and an extra hint of tanginess from the vinegar:
1 large zucchini
2 large jalapeño peppers, or 3 serrano peppers
1/4 large onion
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil with mild taste, such as safflower
Roast first four ingredients in an ungreased cast iron skillet, until lightly charred and fragrant. Remove ends from zucchini, and stem and seeds from peppers. Blend all ingredients, except oil, for one minute, then gradually add oil, and continue blending, until a smooth paste is formed. Serve as a dip or salsa.
Jane (and everyone): Please let me know what options you chose, and how they turned out. Now, if you would excuse me, I have to go make some nice crunching music with my flautas …