The time has come when you need a vacation from vacation. Summer is almost over, and though it's sad to see days shortening and warmth fading, there's something energizing about the turn of the seasons -- a chance to try new flavors, daydream about new recipes, and get inspired by new places.
No need to book a flight (though that's always fun). Dinner tonight brings you to the southern hemisphere without even having to flash a passport. These messy, hearty sandwiches could easily be eaten in a narrow alleyway in Mexico or at the edge of a white sand beach overlooking the Pacific, and the classic margarita will shake you right out of your summer rut.
1/4 cup shelled pistachios
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise and pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 ripe avocado
2 tablespoons sour cream
5 limes, divided
One 15-ounce can black beans
2 cups lettuce
2 Roma tomatoes
Coarse sea salt
8 ounces Tequila
4 ounces Cointreau
1 ounce agave syrup
4 hoagie or torta buns
1/3 cup pickled jalapeños
We're assuming you have cumin, kosher salt, paprika, cayenne, cinnamon, eggs, and non-stick cooking spray or cooking oil. If not, be sure to add those to your list, too.
1. Preheat the oven to 425º F.
2. Prep your chicken. Pulse your pistachios until they're finely chopped. Stir together 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne, and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken pieces with the spice mixture. Get out three shallow dishes. In the first, place the whole-wheat flour; in a second shallow dish, lightly whisk together two eggs; and in a third shallow dish, combine the breadcrumbs and chopped pistachios. Spray a rimmed baking pan with cooking spray (or coat it lightly in cooking oil). Dip each piece of the chicken into the flour, shaking off any excess, and then into the egg and breadcrumb mixtures. Place the chicken pieces on a prepared baking pan and bake them for 15 minutes, turning once, or until the pieces are lightly browned and their internal temperature reaches 165º F.
3. Make your avocado sauce. Peel, pit, and mash your avocado. Combine it with the juice of one lime and the sour cream in a small bowl.
4. Get your other sandwich ingredients ready. Mash the beans with the liquid from the can, shred the lettuce, and thinly slice the two tomatoes.
5. Mix some ice-cold drinks. Juice the four remaining limes so that you have about 4 ounces of juice. Rub the rims of four glasses with the spent limes, then coat each with your coarse sea salt. Pour the tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, and agave syrup into a shaker or large measuring cup, then shake or stir until thoroughly chilled. Fill the glasses with ice and pour in the margarita mixture.
6. Assemble your tortas. Spread one side of each bun with mashed black beans. Over the beans, place the chicken, jalapeños, tomatoes, lettuce, and avocado sauce.
Photos by James Ransom