Flautas are fine, filling finger food

November 29, 1998|By Annette Gooch | Annette Gooch,Universal Press Syndicate

With a shape that invites eating with the fingers, flautas are fun for a casual Mexican menu. Flautas are crisp tortilla "flutes" filled with succulent shreds of beef. To prepare the filling, the meat is first braised, then shredded and sauteed, then simmered with tomatoes and seasonings, then wrapped in warm tortillas. Why flautas are always one of the most popular items at Mexican restaurants becomes clear with the first bite.

Note: Queso fresco, a soft, unripened Mexican cheese, is ZTC available in some supermarkets and specialty-food markets. Ricotta cheese or a mixture of ricotta and feta cheese is a good substitute.

Cole Publishing Group

Flautas

Makes 12 flautas

3 pounds chuck roast or flank steak, cut into 2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 can (16 ounces) whole tomatoes, pureed in blender

1 dozen day-old corn tortillas

vegetable oil, for frying

salt

shredded lettuce

avocado or guacamole

crumbled queso fresco or sour cream

salsa

Cover meat with cold water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 1 1/2 hours. Allow meat to cool in the broth until cool enough to handle. Remove from broth; shred coarsely with two forks or in a food processor fitted with a plastic blade.

Heat oil in a large skillet; add meat and lightly brown. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is soft. Stir in oregano, cumin and salt. Add tomatoes and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If needed, add broth or water to keep mixture moist. Set aside.

Place heavy skillet over high heat (skillet is hot enough if a drop of water dances when dropped onto the heated surface). To fill flautas, dampen fingers with water and rub tortilla. Place on hot skillet and heat briefly, turning once, just long enough to soften.

Fill warm tortilla with about 2 tablespoons of beef filling. Roll tightly and secure with a toothpick. Set aside. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Add vegetable oil to skillet to a depth of about 1/2 inch. Heat to 400 to 425 degrees (at this temperature a tiny piece of tortilla dropped into the oil should pop immediately to the surface). Lightly salt flautas and fry, several at a time but without crowding, until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels and remove toothpicks. Place in a baking pan and keep warm in a 300-degree oven while remaining flautas are fried.

Mound lettuce on a platter or on individual plates. Arrange flautas (allowing 2 or 3 per serving) over lettuce. Top with avocado or guacamole; garnish with crumbled queso fresco or sour cream. Pass salsa at the table.

Pub Date: 11/29/98

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