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Chico’s Tacos Flautas

For the sauce
• 6 plum tomatoes
• 4 jalapeños
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the taco filling
• Olive oil
• 1 pound ground beef
• 1 jalapeño, halved
• 2 garlic cloves, diced
• Reserved tomato and jalapeño mixture from taco sauce
• 1 bay leaf
• Dash of chili powder
• Dash of smoked paprika
• 1 cup water
• Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
For the taquitos
• Bag of corn tortillas
• Reserved taco filling (see above)
• Vegetable oil
For the jalapeño salsa
• 2 jalapeños
• 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
• 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
• Kosher salt, to taste
• Cheddar or Mexican cheese mix, for topping
• Taco sauce (see above)

For the sauce
Notch out and slice off the stems on the tomatoes and jalapeños. Boil both ingredients and then liquify in a blender. Strain the contents into a bowl using a sieve. Reserve the mixture and use to flavor the filling for the taquitos.
Place the strained liquid in a pot, add the same amount of water, and bring to a simmer, adjusting the salt and pepper as needed. (Keep it on a simmer so that it remains warm while you prepare the rest of the recipe).

For the taco filling
In a pan, warm the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the ground beef, sautéeing and breaking it up. Add the sliced jalapeño, diced garlic, reserved tomato and jalapeño mixture, bay leaf, chili powder, and paprika and allow to cook for a few minutes. Then add the water and simmer. When the mixture has reduced, season with salt and pepper and reserve.

For the taquitos
Set up a drying station for frying the tortillas and taquitos — a tray or plate lined with paper towels, for instance. Using a home fryer (or, if you don’t have one, a vessel in which you can submerge the almost 1-inch-thick taquitos in oil) if you have one, individually submerge the corn tortillas in the heated oil (350 degrees). You’re just trying to make the tortillas pliable here so don’t cook them too long. Just about 30 seconds each, making sure to remove them before they get stiff.

When they’ve cooled enough to touch them, place about 2 tablespoons of the filling straight across the high side of the tortilla and wrap it gently but tightly into a cylinder and place the rolled taquito open lip face down. Repeat until you have no filling left.

Take a toothpick and, beginning with the first taquitos you made, pierce the taquito at the farthest edge of the tortilla. Return taquitos to the fryer in batches, frying for about 1 ½-2 minutes.

For the jalapeño salsa
Halve the jalapeños and boil 3 halves in water until soft. Finely chop both the boiled and uncooked jalapeños (to add texture) and mix with vinegar, lemon juice, and salt.
Place the taquitos in a bowl or, like Chico’s, a take-out boat, cover with finely shredded Cheddar or Mexican cheese mix. Top with the sauce so that the cheese melts and the taquitos are sitting in the sauce about 2/3 of the way up, cover with a tablespoon (or more) of the jalapeño salsa, and dig in.