Woody is not only a gifted baker, he is also a great cook. My favorite meal he has made for us is what we affectionately refer to as Chimis. A chimichanga is basically a deep-fried burrito. Homemade flour tortillas rolled paper-thin make the perfect wrap for the chimichangas' filling. We have found that most tortillas bought in stores are too thick and have a cardboard-like texture and taste. Upon deep-frying, these homemade tortilla casings become light, crispy, and flakey. Our favorite filling is braised, shredded pork shoulder with black beans, roasted pablano peppers, sautéed onions, Monterey Jack cheese, and cilantro. Chicken and refried beans with seasonings and cheese is another great filling. We also like to serve the chimis with Pablano Cream Sauce spooned on top. The tortillas are also excellent for deep-frying for nachos and flautas. You can also roll the tortilla dough slightly thicker for burritos, wraps, or quesadillas, all which are not deep-fried.
Special Equipment: A frying pan or griddle (preferably nonstick) 12 inches or more in diameter across its bottom; A 15 by 12 inch baking sheet; A large Dutch oven (10 inches in diameter); Eight 12 inch lengths of cord for four chimichangas Flour Tortillas Makes: Four 12 inch round tortillas : 106 grams each (Six 9 inch round tortillas : 70 grams each)
Gold Medal or King Arthur bread flour: 260 grams/2 cups (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off)
Baking powder: 3/4 teaspoon
Salt: 1/2 teaspoon
Shortening or solid clarified butter, room temperature (see Notes): 50 grams/5-1/2 tablespoons
Water, warm (see Notes) : 118 grams/1/2 cup (118 ml)
Make the Tortilla Dough In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Detach the flat beater and add the shortening. Use the beater to cut the shortening into the flour mixture. Reattach the beater and mix on low speed until the flour mixture is crumbly. With the mixer on low speed, gradually drizzle in the warm water, until the dough sticks together and clears the sides of the bowl. There usually will be some water left over (around 1 to 2 teaspoons).
Knead and Shape the Dough Discs On an unfloured countertop, briefly knead the dough to form a smooth ball (no more than 10 kneads and for less than 1 minute). Loosely wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for 2 hours at room temperature (or overnight in the refrigerator). The dough ball should weigh around 424 grams. Divide the dough into 4 pieces (106 grams each), or 6 pieces for 6 tortillas (70 grams each). Form each piece into a ball. Cup each ball with both of your hands and use your fingers to form a 'mushroom cap' shaped disc, about 4 inches in diameter. Cover each disc with plastic wrap. Let the discs rest for 30 minutes.
Roll the Dough Discs Have ready 5 sheets of plastic wrap at least 12 inches square. Lightly flour (preferably with Wondra) a countertop or doughmat and place a dough disc on it. (You want your surface to have just enough flour to let the dough roll out, without the disc sliding on the surface.) The dough needs to be rolled very thin (1/16 inch or less). Roll the dough into a roughly 12 inch or larger disc. At the beginning, roll the dough from the center to the edges and side to side to keep a roughly round shape. Lift the dough from time to time and flip it over, adding just enough flour as necessary to keep it from sticking. To roll the tortilla to its final size, lightly hold down the dough with one hand, while rolling away from your hand with the other. Leave the tortilla untrimmed around the edges. It will be almost translucent. If the dough softens and is difficult to roll, slip it onto a baking sheet, cover and refrigerate it for a few minutes until it firms. Place the tortilla on one of the sheets of plastic wrap and cover it with another sheet of plastic wrap. Repeat with the other dough discs.
Cook the Tortillas Have ready a cloth dish towel at least 12 by 12 inches in size set on the baking sheet placed near the cooktop. Heat the large frying pan on medium-high heat until drops of water dance on its surface. Lightly wipe the bottom with oil or shortening. Place one of the tortillas onto the frying pan. With a pancake turner, maneuver the tortilla to be centered on the pan. Cook the tortilla for about 20 seconds. It should begin to blister in several places. Flip the tortilla over and cook on its other side for 15 to 20 seconds. (If large air pockets occur, prick them and gently flatten the tortilla to expel the air.) Remove the tortilla and place it on the towel. The tortilla should look like it is under cooked, as it will become fully cooked when it is deep-fried. Cook the next tortilla. Just before it is finished cooking, place one of the plastic wrap sheets over the first tortilla. Place the second tortilla on top. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Cover the top tortilla with a sheet of plastic wrap. At this point, the tortillas can cool to room temperature, and then be placed in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours or frozen for 2 months. If storing them for more than a couple of hours, slip them into a large freezer weight bag before storing.
Make and have ready your heated chimichanga filling, side dishes, and sauces.
Filling and Deep-frying the Chimichangas Fill the Dutch oven with vegetable oil to a depth of 3 inches. Heat the oil to between 360° and 375°F/153° and 190°C. Place several folded paper towels alongside the cook top. Place two of the strings about 6 inches apart, parallel to each other, with their ends facing you on the countertop. If the tortillas were refrigerated, heat one of the tortillas for 20 to 30 seconds in a microwave until it is warm, soft, and can be rolled up easily. Center the tortilla over the strings. Mound 190 grams/1 cup or more of the chimichanga filling onto its center, leaving a 3 inch border of bare tortilla. If desired, top with a couple of tablespoons of the Optional: Monterey Jack cheese. Carefully fold the bottom side of the tortilla (facing you) over the filling, tucking its edge under the filling to form a cylinder. Fold both ends over the first side. Holding the three sides in place, fold the top side over the other sides to make a cylinder-shaped chimichanga, 7 to 8 inches long by about 2 inches round. Wrap the strings around the folded flaps of the tortilla and tie them to secure the chimichanga from unraveling. If the tortilla tears to expose the filling, use more string to tie and close the area. If the tear is large, it is best to start with a new tortilla. (Alternatively, you can try patching the tear with a piece of tortilla and then securing it with more string.) Any tears will allow the frying oil to leak into the chimichanga filling, causing the oil to froth and the chimichanga filling to leak out and taint the oil. Repeat softening, filling, and shaping the remaining chimichangas. Place one chimichanga on the metal skimmer and submerge it into the hot oil. Use the tongs to hold the chimichanga in place, and to keep it from possibly unraveling. Fry for 30 seconds. Turn the chimichanga over and fry for another 30 seconds, or until the tortilla is lightly brown and crispy on all sides. Using the tongs and skimmer to lift the chimichanga above the oil, allowing the oil to drain back into the Dutch oven. Then place the fried chimichanga onto the paper towels. After several seconds, use the tongs to roll the chimichanga to remove more of the oil from the tortilla. (If the tortilla should happen to open up while frying, rotate the chimichanga for the exposed area to be facing upwards to help minimize the oil from frothing.) Repeat with the remaining chimichangas.
To Serve Snip the strings with a kitchen scissors and discard. Place the chimichangas on plates. Spoon a few tablespoons of your favorite sauce over them or along side of each chimichanga. Garnish with the Optional: fresh cilantro.
Notes Clarified butter will add a distinctive butter note to the chimichanga, which we like with chimis filled with chicken, or refried beans and cheese. If you use room temperature water, the dough will become too crumbly and not uniform in consistency, necessitating a substantial amount of kneading.