Little bundles of meat, vegetables and seasoning wrapped up in a corn tortilla and fried to crunchy crispness -- now that's a taquito. The challenge is keeping the taquito from unrolling during the deep-frying process and keeping the filling from leaking out the ends of the taquito and spattering into the oil. Think of a taquito as a rolled, deep-fried taco.
Deep-frying doesn't have to produce a greasy oil-soaked taquito. Use an oil with a high smoke point such as peanut or corn oil. Don't use an oil that has a distinctive flavor like olive oil. Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit in a deep pan. Add the taquitos gently into the oil using tongs to avoid splashing. The taquitos will cook in two to three minutes. Remove when the taquitos are golden-brown. Drain the taquitos on paper towels.
Baked taquitos aren't quite as crisp as deep fried but still have a satisfying crunch. Spray the baking pan with nonstick cooking spray or brush the pan with a slick of cooking oil. Place the taquitos in a single layer in the pan, seam sides down. Leave some space between the taquitos. Lightly spray the taquitos with cooking spray or brush with cooking oil. Bake in a 400 F oven for 15 minutes.
Filling for the taquitos should be on the dry side so moisture doesn't leak out. A drier filling also keeps the corn tortilla crisper. That doesn't mean the filling has to be tasteless. Cook the chicken, pork and beef so it's tender. If you're using tough cuts of meat, such as pork butt, braise the meat until it falls apart. Dry the shredded meat with paper towels to remove moisture. If you're using beans, drain them well and mash them with a fork.
Taquitos are a Southwest dish so use Southwestern seasonings such as cilantro, cumin, garlic or onion powder. Mix well with the meat or beans. Cook raw vegetables such as onions, shallots, sweet peppers, hot peppers or scallions before seasoning the filling. The taquitos don't fry long enough -- only two to three minutes -- to cook the vegetables.
Seal the Deal
The trick is to not over-stuff the taquito with too much filling because it has tendency to spill out and into the oil in the deep fryer. Spread about 1 tablespoon of filling about 1 inch from the edge of the taco on no more than one-third of the taco. Brush beaten egg white on the two-thirds of the taco that isn't filled. Roll tightly. Place them seam side down in a zip-top food storage bag. Let the taquitos sit for 30 minutes to an hour in the fridge to give the egg white a chance to bind with the tortilla. If you haven't got egg whites, you could use water, but it doesn't do as good a job.
Splendid Sauces and Salsas
Because the filling is on the drier side, serve taquitos with a sauce or salsa for dipping. Canned enchilada sauce works, as does commercially prepared salsa. Make your own from chopped tomatoes, jalapenos, onions and fresh cilantro. Another option is chipolte sour cream or plain sour cream. Creamy, mild-flavored guacamole soothes the heat from the spices.