No. 313 & 314: Blue Apron Meal Series - Mexican Style Chicken Tortas & Cucumber-Avocado Salad

We have been so blessed this summer by incredible friends, family and even mere acquaintances who have worked diligently to keep us happily fed amidst the turmoil of infant twins. From Sunday night dinner drop offs (thanks, Schukart family!) to a dedicated meal train, we have had so much to be thankful for.

These days we have figured out how to feed ourselves again. Hallelujah for the three-month mark! A warm, cooked meal doesn't happen every night, but it's now enough of a staple that we feel a bit more in control of our own lives.

Blue Apron

Luckily for us, the generosity continues. Recently, it came in the form of a week's worth of Blue Apron meals from our buddy Pete who had a free week to give away (great promo!).

I've been hearing more and more about these meal kit delivery services that are popping up (Plated, HelloFresh, Forage, etc.). The Blue Apron CEO was even on Marketplace earlier this week talking about revolutionizing how we eat dinner (he could use some coaching from my company, just saying).

So I signed up, which first meant choosing whether we wanted portions for two or four people (I went with two, which meant three meals). Then I could set preferences based on my family (we like meat, we like Mexican and American, but please no fish, etc.). I chose a Thursday delivery date since I knew I'd have a bit more time over the weekend to make meals and use those tasty ingredients.

My box arrived early last Thursday morning via FedEx and I was immediately impressed. The produce was very high quality - like something out of a photo shoot for a culinary magazine. Everything was well labeled, securely packaged and there were enough cooler packs to ensure the chicken and steak stayed safe and chilled.

With a plethora of ingredients and handy recipe cards to match, we were ready to begin!

Mexican-Style Chicken Tortas with Tomato, Avocado & Cucumber Salad

I first discovered a vast love of tortas (flat, pressed sandwiches) thanks to Rick Bayless and Frontera Grill. I couldn't wait to try a home version.

Ingredients

Makes two sandwiches
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 torta rolls*
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado (1/2 sliced, 1/2 diced)
1 tomato (1/2 thinly sliced, 1/2 diced)
1 lime, quartered
2 medium cucumbers, diced
1 ounce queso fresco, crumbled
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons chicken torta spice blend (ancho chile powder, smoked sweet paprika, oregano, garlic powder and cumin)
Cilantro
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

*Spring for authentic torta rolls if you can, the bread makes all the difference. At the very least, get some fantastic bakery bread.

To make

In a small bowl, pour red wine vinegar over the red onion. Set aside and allow to marinate. Prep remaining ingredients and top avocado slices and diced cubes with juice of one lime wedge to prevent brownng.

Once all ingredients are prepped, cook the chicken. Pat breasts dry and season with spice blend, salt and pepper. In a nonstick pan, heat 2 teaspoons of oil until medium-hot and cook chicken about 5 minutes on each side or until browned and cooked through. Transfer chicken to a cutting board. Wipe out the pan.

While the chicken cooks, assemble your salad. In a medium bowl combine the diced tomato, cucumber, diced avocado, half the marinated onion slices and season with salt and pepper. Add the juice of the remaining lime wedges and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss to combine. Adjust salt and pepper as needed.

After cooked chicken has rested a few minutes, thinly slice against the grain and get ready to assemble your sandwiches. Lay the trot rolls cut side up on a cutting board and divide the chicken, sliced avocado, sliced tomato, and onion between the two sandwiches. Add your preferred around of queso fresco and cilantro. Reserve some of the queso fresco and cilantro to garnish your salads at the end.

Complete your sandwiches with the tops of the rolls. In the same pan you used for the chicken, heat 1 teaspoon of oil and add the assembled tortas. Place a heavy pot on top to weigh them down and cook 3-5 minutes per side until toasted and lightly browned.

Slice warm sandwiches on the diagonal and serve with the cucumber, tomato and avocado salad.

The results

No pictures, sorry. It's a long story about iCloud storage and the rush of making this meal before the kiddos woke up. But even without pictures, I can describe how yummy these sandwiches are. A few highlights:

  • I loved the spice blend. I'm pretty sure I'm going to make some for my pantry to have on hand all the time. The chicken turned out perfectly cooked, juicy and wonderfully seasoned.
  • Spring for the real torta rolls. They reminded me of the same bread you find on a Cubano - chewy, soft and sweet.
  • Elevate the ingredients. Red onion is great on a sandwich, but marinated red onion is even better. Take five minutes to pickle it slightly with the vinegar and you'll be so happy you did.
  • Layer the flavor. Don't skip any of these ingredients if you can help it. They all add up to one terrific, textured finale.
  • Cucumber and avocado are excellent together. Who knew? I never saw this salad coming together as deliciously as it did. It's definitely worth recreating.

All in all, this was a relatively easy meal to prepare and pull together when all the ingredients were prepped. I'd say it took 45 minutes in total and was a nice departure for us.

And that's the point of Blue Apron. Take a bit of a detour and try something new. I'm definitely empowered to try more tortas and pressed sandwiches in the future.

Check out a full index of recipes here
Send me your thoughts, comments and ideas at theresolvedcook@gmail.com