Reclaiming The Home

make your home your own.

Have you been to the store lately? A supposed blip in the supply chain is making it hard to get a hold of meat these days, among other things. Theories abound as to why. I personally choose to believe that dragons are making a comeback and hijacking meat trucks on the way to suppliers. Seems legit, right?

Given the plague of dragons, I figured I’d share some of my adventures in stretching meat to go further. But let me be clear. These are not healthy-shmealthy recipes with all organic ingredients cooked in the joyful tears of virgin olives. This is down-and-dirty, fill-the-belly, stretch-the-meat kinda stuff. But I promise you one thing. It will taste goooooood.

Spoiler alert! We’re makin’ TAQUITOS!

One of the cheapest meats the dragons have left behind for us humans to scavenge in the wild of the grocery stores are chicken thighs. They are usually sold in bulk packages, and I try to buy as big of a pack as I can find. They are usually cheaper per pound that way. Gotta save those Benjamins! (or… Washingtons… whatever).

So anyway – I come home and I’ll cook up ALLLL the chicken thighs and then remove the skin and freeze it (I’ll share a recipe for this you’ll want later, so just trust me and pop those babies in the freezer for a later day). I de-bone the thighs, save the bones for chicken stock (you can freeze these too, until you have enough), and then separate the meat into smaller portions. Again – you can freeze dinner-sized portions so that it’s easy to find later and you’ll be saving time since it’s already cooked up. Basically… FREEZE ALL THE THINGS!! Except 4 thighs worth. You need that.

So. 4 thighs! Chop up the meat in small pieces and stick it in a bowl. I figured I had to do some magic to make this stretch to feed my family of 6 for TWO days, and still feel like a tasty and fulfilling meal. Time for some treasure hunting. Find what you have and what you like to add in. I dug through the fridge and pantry and found:

  • 4 Chicken thighs (mentioned that before, but SOMEONE will tell me I didn’t list it so here it is, JANET. Moving on.)
  • 1/2 cup refried beans
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 20 leftover corn tortillas
  • 1 can corn (drain)
  • 1 can black beans (drain)

I pureed the salsa, but you can leave it chunky if you like. I mostly wanted to create a saucy-binder-thing to stick everything together, and my 7 year old can at times have nothing short of a phobia of chunks of certain veggies. You can puree it or not… your salsa, your bi-niss. Pour it all together and observe the glory that is your taquito filling. Just try not to eat a heaping spoonful.

But, we can’t stop there, as tempting as it would be to hide under the table with this bowl of deliciousness and leave the family to fend for their PB&J selves. We’re better than that. Mostly.

Start heating up 1/2 inch of oil of your choice on medium-low in a shallow skillet. I used canola oil since that’s what I had on hand, but use whatever you have. Ever notice oil just looks the same if it’s room temp or fry-your-face-off-hot? It can be tricky trying to figure out when it’s ready to cook in. I always add a single drop of water to my oil. When it starts to bubble around the edges of the water droplet I know the oil temperature is just about where I need it to be, and I can move forward in the next step of my master devious plan… wait – different story. Taquitos!

The first time I tried to roll up a taquito that sucker cracked on me. THE BETRAYAL. Learn from my mistakes and microwave your corn tortillas for about 30 seconds to make them warm. That will help them be flexible so that you can roll them more easily, and look like you’ve possibly done this before. Add a heaping Tablespoon of the mixture just off-center in the tortilla. Start rolling your taquito on the end closest to your filling-heap. Tuck it tight. Don’t let any of that goodness escape. ‘Cause it’ll try. But you got this. Snug it in.

Once your taquito is rolled, gently place it seam side down in the oil. I have taken a pray and release technique with this, but do your own thing and just try not to get burned, while keeping that taquito tight. I usually have about 3 going at once in the pan. I’m a multi-tasker like that. *huffs on nails*

Don’t be checking your twitter right now, or you will RUE THE DAY. It doesn’t take long for them to brown enough for the tortilla to be firm. You don’t want it to get too dark, but you want it golden so keep an eye on it. I use tongs since it seems safer and I can keep from splashing the oil. Keep your eyes on it, and when you’re ready lift them out with the tongs and put it on paper towel to drain. It helps remove excess oil. FOR HEALTH Y’ALL. No, just kidding. It’s to keep it crispy. But you can tell yourself that anyway. I do.

You can see a few pieces of bean or corn or chicken made their way into the oil. DO NOT DESPAIR. Just scoop those puppies out and give them a few seconds to cool off, and EAT THEM. Right now. No, seriously. Those are gifts to you directly from the frying-pan-gods. No one has to know.

Aaaaaaand, you did it! ‘Ole!

I always try to include things that stretch the meal and fill the bellies more than the main dish can do alone. I make a super frugal and pantry-friendly version of Spanish rice that I’ll share soon. I include dipping sauces on the side like sour cream, salsa, taco sauce, or guacamole. These taquitos can also be eaten on their own with no sauce if you don’t have any! Pro-tip, this is a good way to “test” them before serving… you know – for science.

I wound up getting 25 hefty taquitos out of this batch, which was plenty to feed the six of us twice. For leftovers, warm them up in the oven, toaster oven, or air fryer to keep the edges crisp. Soggy taquitos are just failed burritos. Heed my warning and ye shall have taquitos as good as the day whenst thou fried them.

Try it and win all the favor of your family. Let me know how it goes!

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