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Baked chicken tostadas are a fun, healthful dinner

by Ellie Krieger The Washington Post | May 24, 2023 at 1:52 a.m.
Sweet and Spicy Chicken and Avocado Tostadas (For The Washington Post/Tom McCorkle)

I consider myself a guacamole minimalist, typically making mine with just ripe avocado, lime, salt, jalapeno and cilantro, so I was taken aback by how much I enjoyed it embellished with bits of fresh pineapple, pomegranate and chipotle chile at a favorite Mexican restaurant years ago. The contrast of the sweet fruit and spicy, smoky pepper, carried by the creamy avocado, lit me up. Since then, though I stick to my beloved basic recipe most of the time, I have turned to that fruity-chile combo again and again, not just for guacamole, but as a flavor inspiration for meals such as this one.

In this recipe, all of those guacamole ingredients, plus tender, shredded chicken breast are layered onto crisped corn tortillas — tostada-style. Rather than being fried, here they are brushed with oil and baked for a more healthful take. The crispy tortillas are then smeared with avocado, which has been mashed with lime and salt, then showered with finely diced fresh pineapple and pomegranate seeds, plus a crunch of jicama or radish. You could switch up the fruit if you'd like — diced mango or grapes would be nice.

The spicy element comes into play as the seasoning for the shredded chicken. To make it, you rub skinless, boneless chicken breast with a chile powder-based spice mixture — I prefer chipotle chile powder because it brings me back to my original guacamole inspiration, but a regular chili powder blend will work, too, with a pinch of cayenne to match the heat of the chipotle. (Use more or less cayenne to taste.) The seasoned chicken is "oven-poached" in a covered baking dish until it is cooked through, a favorite method of mine, which I find to be a foolproof way to achieve perfectly tender "poached" poultry.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle you shred it with forks and stir it with its chile-infused juices, then pile it onto the tostadas. Served topped with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream and sprinkled with cilantro, it's a fun and healthful meal you get eat with your hands. Be prepared to get messy, in a good way, as you enjoy the confetti of colors, and layers of flavor and textures — crispy, creamy, juicy, sweet and spicy — in this meal that's anything but basic.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken and Avocado Tostadas

  • ¾ teaspoon chipotle chile powder or chili powder blend and a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt, divided use
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness of about ½ inch
  • 2 tablespoons PLUS 2 teaspoons neutral oil, such as avocado or canola, divided use
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 2 ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
  • 1/3 cup matchstick-cut pieces of jicama or radish
  • 1/3 cup finely diced fresh pineapple
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt OR sour cream
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl whisk together the chile powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder and ¼ teaspoon of the salt.

Place the chicken in an 8-by-8-inch baking dish and brush it on both sides with 2 teaspoons of the oil. Sprinkle both sides with the spice mixture and rub it in a bit with your fingers so it adheres. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the oven, uncover and let cool slightly. Transfer to a cutting board and, using two forks, shred the meat, transfer to a bowl and toss with any juices that have accumulated in the pan. Use the same piece of foil to cover the chicken to keep warm.

photoRather than being fried, the corn tortillas are brushed with oil and baked for a more healthful take. (For The Washington Post/Tom McCorkle)

Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Brush the tortillas on both sides with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and arrange them across two large, rimmed baking sheets. Toast the tortillas for about 8 minutes, or until crisp. Reduce the oven temperature to 220 degrees to keep the tortillas warm until you are ready to serve.

While the tortillas are warming, in a medium bowl, mash the avocados, the lime juice and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt until smooth.

To serve, spread a warm tortilla with some of the mashed avocado mixture, then top with the jicama or radish, pineapple, and pomegranate seeds. Add a mound of the shredded chicken and a dollop of yogurt or sour cream. Garnish with the cilantro leaves and serve right away, with lime wedges on the side. (Keep the remaining tortillas in the oven as you eat the first batch, so they remain warm and crisp for when you're ready for seconds.)

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (2 tostadas) contains approximately 450 calories, 29 g protein, 24 g fat, 33 g carbohydrate (4 g sugar), 73 mg cholesterol, 457 mg sodium and 9 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2

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