Sunday, March 4, 2012


Warm weather, hot sun, what better to eat than... Panuchos? I have never even heard of these until recently when I happened to chance upon them while passing by the magazine aisle at CVS pharmacy (I was getting my stomach flu meds) and instantly I was like "What the heck are those? They look awesome!" Apparently they're a Yucatán favorite and I can definitely see why. Panuchos are pretty much like Mexican pita pockets and in this case filled with beans and can be topped with a wide variety of goodies. I used chicken in this recipe but these taste great without meat as well so this would also make a pretty tasty vegetarian option.   Preparing these takes a lot of effort (took me half a day) but I think they are worth it. Pressing and puffing the tortillas take a bit of practice to get the hang of, but rest assured it is not difficult at all and quite fun. In short, I enjoyed the crispy outer shell, gooey hot bean filling, and the freshness of the toppings you can put on. The original recipe from Sunset magazine calls for achiote paste but I was unable to find any so I made my own to marinate the chicken. What I have down now is still tasty but I think I can make it awesome. It's still a work in progress, but I shall post the final recipe when I've perfected it--I think I'm on to something!

Note: Cotija cheese is not pictured here because I was hungry and I just wanted to plate and take the picture before I chowed down. 

1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons ground annatto seeds
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch nutmeg
1 bone-in skinned chicken breast

1 can (15 oz) black beans 
1/4 cup minced brown onion
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 lbs prepared masa for tortillas (a bag costs less then 2 bucks, just buy it pre-made)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Toppings: (pretty much whatever you want but this is what I used)
spanish rice
red onion
lettuce (I think a spring mix works well)
cotija cheese
red radishes

1. Chicken: Preheat oven to 375°. Combine spices and vinegar into a paste and slather onto the chicken. Roast for about 20 to 40 minutes until cooked through. When cooked, let the meat rest for 5 to10 minutes, shred, and set aside. 
2. Beans: Purée entire can of beans until smooth and creamy. In a frying pan, cook onion in oil under medium heat until golden. Stir in beans and cook until bubbling. Cover and set aside. 
3. Shell: Combine masa and salt in a bowl. Mix by hand until well combined. (Add a bit of water or flour if needed so masa is pliable but not sticky.) Divide dough into 20 equal balls, set aside on baking sheet and cover with plastic so it does not dry out. Heat griddle over medium heat until hot. Working with 1 masa ball at a time, (I don't have a tortilla press but if you do, by all means use it!) line work surface with plastic (gallon sized ziplock bag works especially well). Place masa ball in center and cover with another sheet of plastic and press with a frying pan until dough is 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Peel masa from plastic and place the tortilla on a hot griddle. When the underside is slightly speckled, flip the tortilla. Flip again when the opposite side is speckled and using a clean kitchen towel, firmly press the tortilla all over (this helps it puff). Cook until puffed then transfer over to a work surface. Slit tortilla at the edge and make a 2 inch long opening. Without tearing the tortilla, slide a spoon or butter knife inside to create the pocket. Set aside to cool and repeat with the rest of the dough. 
4. Open up the pocket of the cooled tortilla and spoon some beans inside. Pat top of tortilla to spread beans. Fill each panucho the same way. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add some oil. Place a single layer of panuchos on the pan. Cook until golden crispy. Pop panuchos into a 250° oven on a baking sheet to keep warm while you fry the rest. Add more oil as needed. 
5. Top with goodies and serve. 

You can actually make steps 1 to 3 ahead of time. I recommend making the shells and beans first and storing the tortillas in a ziplock in the fridge. Alternatively, barbecue the chicken in indirect heat for smoky goodness. 

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