I think I went to one of the only high schools in the country that still has an off-campus lunch period.
Every day, my friends and I had 35 glorious minutes of freedom. No cafeteria food for us. Sometimes we’d head to someone’s house, or to McDonald’s (hello, dollar menu), or to DQ.
Or sometimes, if we were feeling particularly gastronomically-courageous, we would walk to the little cinder block convenience store on Main Street. They served everything from chimichangas and burritos to pizza sticks and sausage pockets. Their smorgasbord of fried food was the type only teenagers can eat and live to tell about; remembering the way the smell would cling to my clothes still makes me cringe.
These oven-fried chimichangas are everything you wish you could get from your local hole-in-the-wall, but without the lingering smell and the quadruple-digit calorie count.
They’re baked instead of fried, so they’re much healthier than the version you might be used to. Before baking, the tops are brushed with butter and sprinkled with salt to achieve a delightfully crisp and crunchy outer shell while maintaining a melty inside.
(Notice anything different about these photos? Like maybe that they’re a million times better than any that I’ve ever taken? That’s because they were taken by my oh-so-talented sister-in-law, Ashley.)
oven-fried chicken chimichangas
adapted from Big Oven
2/3 cup salsa (green or red both taste great; sometimes I use a combination of both)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried Oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on the heat of your salsa, or your personal preference, you might want to omit this)
1/4 cup diced onion
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or diced
1 cup shredded cheese (I usually use cheddar because that’s what I have; use your favorite)
6 medium flour tortillas
1 tbs butter, melted
garnish(es) of choice: sour cream, guacamole, salsa, cheese, tomatoes, etc.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the salsa, cumin, Oregano, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and onion. Add chicken and cheese and stir until well-combined.
Place one-sixth of the mixture in the center of a tortilla. Fold two opposite sides over the mixture and then fold in the other sides. Place seam-side down on a greased cookie sheet. I cover my baking sheet with foil because these have a tendency to ooze just a little. While it might not be environmentally friendly, it’s certainly cleanup friendly.
Brush each chimichanga with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tortillas are golden brown. Garnish with your choice of toppings.
Note: I almost always make a double batch of these and freeze half. To freeze, just prepare as instructed and, before brushing with butter, put chimichangas in a freezer bag (I often use the tortilla bag) and freeze. When you’re ready to bake, just remove from freezer and follow instructions. It may be necessary to extend cooking time.
What food from your childhood would you love to remake now?