Impress your guests with chicken flautas, pico de gallo

Mario Batali
Tribune Content Agency

I’ve got your back with a party-pleasing dipper.

I learned from my Mario by Mary catering pal, Mary Giuliani, that I want to serve a passed appetizer that doesn’t actually look like I hired a caterer. I want hors d’oeuvres that taste and look beautiful on their own merit. So let me introduce you to chicken flautas with pickled jalapeno pico de gallo.

We usually make these delicious winners the day after roasted chicken night, using leftovers. But chicken thighs are still one of the most inexpensive cuts of meat if you are starting from scratch. The success of this dish is dependent on the amount of love you put in with the chicken filling. Be bold, add more. Make. A. Lot.

Mario Batali is the award-winning chef behind 25 restaurants.

Chicken Flautas with Pickled Jalapeno Pico de Gallo

For the flautas

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons

2 Spanish onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 pound tomatillos, husks removed, washed well and halved

1 cup water

3 jalapenos, chopped, seeds and all

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Zest and juice of 2 limes

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

12 (8-inch) flour tortillas

For the pico de gallo

4 ripe plum tomatoes, cut into 1/8-inch dice

4 pickled jalapenos, cut into 1/8-inch dice

2 serrano chiles, cut into 1/8-inch dice

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped

To assemble

Vegetable oil, for frying

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the flautas Season the chicken thighs all over with salt and pepper.

In a large saute pan, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil until smoking. Add the chicken and brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, the onions, cumin, garlic, tomatillos and water to the pan and bring to a boil. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, return to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes, until cooked through.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Remove the chicken, shred it, and set aside.

Puree the tomatillo mixture in a blender and pour it into a bowl. Add the shredded chicken to the sauce mixture and add the jalapenos, cilantro, lime zest, lime juice and scallions, and stir to mix well. Season with salt and allow the filling cool.

Warm the tortillas in the microwave for 1 minute. Working with one warm tortilla at a time, spread about 2 full tablespoons of the filling across the center of each tortilla. Roll up the tortilla and close each at the seam with a wooden toothpick. Keep the rolled tortillas covered with a moist towel. The flautas may be prepared to this point up to 4 hours in advance.

Make the pico de gallo: Place the tomatoes in a bowl with the pickled jalapenos and the serranos, then add the lemon zest, lemon juice and cilantro and stir. Set aside.

Assemble the dish: In a large skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil over moderately high heat until it registers 360 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer. Fry the flautas in batches, seam side down, turning them, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they are crisp. As they are finished, use tongs to transfer them to paper towels to drain. Season with salt while still very hot.

Season the pico de gallo with salt and pepper. Serve the flautas with the pico de gallo. Makes 12 flautas.

Per serving: 326 calories; 19 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 52 percent calories from fat); 24 g carbohydrates; 5 g sugar; 72 mg cholesterol; 446 mg sodium; 16 g protein; 3 g fiber.