Make your own tortilla baskets. They’re
tastier than the commercial variety
served at many Tex-Mex restaurants.
Photo courtesy Chef Ingrid Hoffmann.
For many years of our youth, one of our favorite restaurant lunches was Mexican-style chicken salad in a tortilla bowl. As our palate evolved, we realized that a lot of those tortilla bowls (a.k.a. tostada bowls) didn’t taste that great. The best restaurants made their own, but others used pre-made commercial bowls, greasy and bland. So we moved on to Cobb Salad.
Later, we discovered that you can make tortilla bowls at home, and that baking rather than frying cut out the grease. Mexican Chicken Salad was reborn!
Here’s Mexican chef Ingrid Hoffmann’s recipe. You can customize it as you like: with corn kernels or Inca corn, with raw onion, with spicy salad (arugula, watercress, radishes), with pickled jalapeños or pepperoncini, with your favorite cheese, olives, whatever!
First: Save four empty 15-ounce cans. You’ll use them to shape the tortilla bowls. This recipe will give you one empty can, from the pinto beans.
RECIPE: CHICKEN SALAD IN TORTILLA BASKET
Ingredients For 4 Servings
4 deboned chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat, rinsed and patted dry
1 tablespoon of delicious marinade
Canola oil spray
For The Adobo Seasoning
If you already have a commercial adobo seasoning, use it. If not, Chef Ingrid’s recipe is so much fresher; and you can use up the remainder on other meats and poultry, eggs, rice, soups, etc.
1 tablespoon lemon pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder or flakes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 tablespoon achiote powder or substitute*
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon salt
*If you don’t want to purchase achiote powder, substitute equal amounts of turmeric and sweet paprika. It won’t have the same tartness of achiote powder, but it’s a decent hack.
For The Salad
4 10-inch tortillas
2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
½ medium yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
3 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
½ cup of water
2 chiles in adobo† (canned), chopped
2 tablespoons of the adobo sauce
1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
5 cups of mesclun, baby spinach or other salad greens
½ cup (2 ounces) of queso blanco, cotija or feta, crumbled
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Garnish: lime wedges
†Remove the seeds to cut down on the heat, if desired.
Tortilla chips were originally made as a way to use broken or misshapen tortillas. Here’s the history of tortilla chips. Photo of artisan tortillas courtesy Hot Bread Kitchen.
1. MAKE the adobo seasoning. Combine the ingredients in a small glass jar with an airtight lid and shake to blend. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks.
2. SEASON the chicken breasts with adobo seasoning. Coat a ribbed grill pan with the oil spray (or vegetable oil) and heat over medium heat. Cook the chicken breasts for 3-6 minutes on each side, until slightly golden (test for doneness—170° on a meat thermometer). Set aside to cool, then slice into strips ½ inch wide.
3. MAKE the tortilla baskets. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place a small dish of water on your work surface. Place 4 empty (15-ounce) cans, open side down, on a baking pan. Using a pastry brush, soften the tortillas by brushing both sides with a little water, and then brush with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Drape the tortillas over the cans and bake until firm, about 5 to 7 minutes. Using tongs, turn the tortilla bowls right side up, discard the cans, and continue to bake until golden and crisp, another 4 minutes.
4. PREPARE the beans. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, chipotles with adobo sauce, and 1/2 cup water, cooking until slightly thick, (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally. Mix in the beans and cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
5. PLACE the tortilla bowls right side up on plates and fill each with a handful of greens. Divide the bean mixture among the tortilla bowls and top with a sprinkle of queso blanco or cotija. Fan the sliced chicken on top and garnish with chopped cilantro. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve with lime wedges.