Chings, Junior Style #ProgressiveEats: Florida-Mex Memories from the Space Coast

Chings Junior Style are deep-fried bites of tortilla-wrapped juicy chicken tinga served with guacamole and your choice of side. A layer of melted cheese is what makes them Junior Style. This is an homage to the Chings, Junior Style from Taco City in Cocoa Beach, FL. Great Tex-Mex (Florida-Mex) comfort food for #ProgressiveEats! | pastrychefonline.comMemory Lane

I have a love-hate relationship with Florida. On one hand, it’s hot and bad there. On the other hand, it’s where The Beloved grew up. On one hand, I lived in Florida during the hanging chads debacle. So there’s that. On the other, Florida is where my Beloved used to ride his bicycle in front of Patrick Air Force Base and past the I Dream of Jeannie steps, where he had his first job as a stock man at Publix, going to high school full time and working nearly full-time bagging groceries during store hours and stocking shelves after closing, where he lived when we found each other again.

Because we fell in love again while he was living in Cocoa Beach (again), certain of my memories of the area are bathed in a golden mist. Certain place names evoke an almost adolescent yearning, not necessarily because I love those places, but because, while we were living apart, I always yearned for him.

Ron Jon Surf Shop.

A1A.

Merritt Island.

The Pineda Causeway.

Taco City.

Taco City, Cocoa Beach, FL

Chings Junior Style are deep-fried bites of tortilla-wrapped juicy chicken tinga served with guacamole and your choice of side. A layer of melted cheese is what makes them Junior Style. This is an homage to the Chings, Junior Style from Taco City in Cocoa Beach, FL. Great Tex-Mex (Florida-Mex) comfort food for #ProgressiveEats! | pastrychefonline.comThe Beloved took me to Taco City for the first time the summer between our junior and senior years at college. We went with a group of his friends, and all of them spoke of Taco City “TC” in reverent tones. By the time we got there, I had high hopes. Hopes that were somewhat dashed by the unassuming look of the place. It’s a bit dive-ish, but in a great way. A joint where it wouldn’t seem gauche to walk up from the beach with your surfboard, prop it up against the wall and head inside for tacos and a beer. Inside TC, the impression is dark wood with photos from the heyday of the space program adorning the tables under thick layers of clear epoxy.

Taco City is the embodiment of Cocoa Beach of the 70s and 80s. Open since 1980, it’s a bit sleepy. A bit eclectic. And unashamedly Florida-Beach. The food TC serves is Mexican in name only–tacos, burritos, enchiladas. Taco City doesn’t try to be Mexican, though. The website describes their cuisine as “southwestern,” but I prefer to think of it as Florida-Mex. The food is plentiful and inexpensive. The salsa is not half bad, and the bean dip still makes me swoon. But the one menu item that I used to dream about, and the one I’m sharing with you today, is Chings Junior Style.

See what I mean about not being Mexican food? Chings? Seriously?! Yes. Seriously. It may sound funny, but once you try them, you’ll understand and be able to order them with a straight face.

Chings are basically fat flautas stuffed to the gills with moist shredded chicken, deep fried, cut into segments, and stood on end in a circle on the plate. Inside the circle lies guacamole salad. Chings (the beef version is called Chongs) come in two “styles:” Nirvana Style means the chings are topped with pickled jalapeños and onions, and the Junior Style Chings come buried under a thick layer of melted cheese.

I am all about the Chings Junior Style.

Once I heard our theme for this month’s Progressive Eats Dinner was Memory Lane (thank you, Lana from Never Enough Thyme for choosing such a wonderful theme!), I knew right away I wanted to make Chings Junior Style for you guys. And for The Beloved, too.

I was down in Satellite Beach in early December visiting my dear friends Jamie and Cheryl, and for lunch one day, I asked if they’d be cool to go to Taco City, a short fifteen minute drive from the house. I told them as long as they weren’t expecting authentic Mexican food that they’d really like it, and I think they did. Once seated at the same tables I remembered from almost 30 years ago, I texted The Beloved a photo with a “guess where we are?” He couldn’t quite place it but said it looked familiar, but when I shot him a picture of the Chings Junior Style that I of course ordered, he was excited for me that I had taken my friends to one of his favorite old haunts, but I know he was sad that he couldn’t partake. Until now.

chings collageI emailed Joel, the owner of Taco City, to ask if he would share how he makes Chings Junior Style. He graciously sent me a detailed how-to, minus their proprietary chicken recipe. Thank you, Joel! If you make the Chings (or Chongs, for that matter), don’t forget to tag Taco City on Instagram and tell him hi from me!

What I’m sharing with you is a bit spicier than the Taco City version, but it’s every bit as delicious. As a bonus, each individual Ching makes a great little two-bite appetizer, should you have some sort of football-watching party coming up in the near future.

Stay tuned after the recipe for all the delicious “Memory Lane” foods shared by the talented members of the Progressive Eats group, too!

Chings Junior Style

Chings Junior Style are deep-fried bites of tortilla-wrapped juicy chicken tinga served with guacamole and your choice of side. A layer of melted cheese is what makes them Junior Style. This is an homage to the Chings, Junior Style from Taco City in Cocoa Beach, FL. Great Tex-Mex (Florida-Mex) comfort food for #ProgressiveEats! | pastrychefonline.comThe chicken filling in the TC original Chings is moist and flavorful but not particularly spicy. I decided the best way to come close was to make an easy “chicken tinga.” That’s basically shredded chicken simmered in a flavorful mixture that’s often but not always tomato based. I chose to use a can of Ro-Tel as my base–easy and full of flavor–to which I added onions caramelized with chipotle powder and one chipotle chile in adobo sauce. A quick puree in the blender was all it took and then in went the chicken I poached. Once thoroughly shredded with two forks, I let the chicken simmer in the sauce until it had soaked up all that flavor and was moist but no longer soupy.

The trick to making the chings–or any stuffed burrito, I guess–is to start with cold filling. Joel specified 40F, so pretty much straight from the fridge. Five minutes in 350F oil take the chill right off!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chings Junior Style
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Florida-Mex
Serves: serves 4-6
 
Flour tortillas packed with moist and spicy shredded white meat chicken get a trip through the deep fryer then are sliced in segments, stood on end, arranged in a circle, smothered with melted cheese and served with guacamole salad and your favorite accompaniments. Great as a meal, but also great for sharing and popping as appetizers.
What You Need
For the Chicken
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • enough low-sodium chicken broth to barely cover them in a pan
  • heavy pinch of salt
  • ¼ of a sweet onion, roughly chopped
For the Chicken Tinga
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ of a sweet onion, diced
  • pinch of salt and several grindings of black pepper
  • ½-1 teaspoon ground chipotle
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 small can Ro-Tel
  • 1 chipotle in adobo plus any sauce that clings to it
  • all the poached chicken
To Make the Chings
  • 10" or 12" flour tortillas
  • enough vegetable oil to fill a deep 12" skillet to a depth of abut 1"
To Garnish and Serve (all optional except for the cheese)
  • Sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • your favorite guacamole
  • your favorite salsa
  • sour cream
  • black olives
  • diced tomato
  • pickled jalapeno
What To Do
For the Chicken
  1. Place the chicken breasts in a small pan just big enough to hold them. Pour enough chicken broth (or stock, if you have it) to barely cover the chicken. Toss in the onion and a bit of salt.
  2. Bring the heat up until the chicken reaches an active simmer and then turn the heat down until the broth is barely bubbling. Slowly poach the chicken to an internal temperature of 165F. You will want to turn the pieces of chicken a few times to ensure even cooking. The whole process should take maybe 15-20 minutes
For the Chicken Tinga
  1. While the chicken is poaching, heat a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. When hot, add the oil. When the oil shimmers, add the onions and spices. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onion starts to brown and the spices darken a bit, about 7 minutes.
  3. Put the onions in the jar of your blender. Add the can of Ro-Tel (tomatoes and green chiles) and the chipotle in adobo.
  4. Puree and add back to the skillet. Turn off heat if the chicken isn't ready.
  5. Once the chicken has reached 165F, remove from the poaching liquid and place in the tomato mixture in the skillet. (Strain the poaching liquid and save it to cook rice or something).
  6. Using two forks, thoroughly shred the chicken and let simmer in the sauce until most of the juices are absorbed and the chicken is nice and moist but not at all soupy, about 10 minutes.
  7. Spread the chicken on a sheet pan and place in the fridge or freezer to chill quickly. If you're not making chings right away, refrigerate the chicken until ready to cook.
To Make the Chings (instructions from TC owner Joel. My notes are in parentheses)
  1. Start with a 12" flour tortilla. (I could only find 10" tortillas, so that's what I used)
  2. Steam it well so it's pliable and easy to work with. (I wrapped my tortillas in damp paper towels and steamed them in the microwave for 30 seconds on high power)
  3. Fill it with 5 to 6 ounces of COLD (40 degrees) cooked shredded chicken and roll it up tight. (For 10" tortillas, I used 4 oz of the chicken). Use a couple of lubricated tooth picks to keep the tortilla closed. (I just dipped mine in the oil before it got hot. They were easy to remove once the chings were done.)
  4. Put the whole thing in a deep fryer or pot of vegetable oil and cook at 350 degrees for about 4 min or until outside is golden brown. Make sure it's completely submerged in oil. (I shallow fried mine for 2½ minutes per side)
  5. Remove from oil, place on cutting board, REMOVE TOOTHPICKS, (Yes!)
  6. Cut into 10 sections and arrange on a plate. (The meat on the ends of my chings were black from the oil, so after trimming off about 1" from either end, I was able to cut each remaining length into 6 pieces.
  7. Sprinkle shredded cheese generously on top and put the plate in the oven on broil, high. Careful not to burn, shouldn't take but a min to melt the cheese. (Since I didn't want to burn my wooden plates and I doubt my regular plates are broiler safe, I arranged the chings on foil-lined sheet, topped them with cheese, broiled everything and then transferred them to my serving plate with a spatula.)
To Garnish and Serve
  1. Put what u like in the center of the plate, we garnish it with a guacamole salad in the center. (I used the obligatory guacamole, some salsa and sour cream. I meant to use black olives but I totally forgot).
  2. The Chings Junior Style were spectacular. You will love them!

And Now, the Rest of the Line-Up!

progressive eats logo

Memory Lane Comfort Food

Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. This month’s theme is Memory Lane and is hosted by Lana Stuart who blogs at Never Enough Thyme.For our Memory Lane dinner, we all created recipes based on comfort foods which evoke feelings of nostalgia and warmth

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out.

We have a core group of 12 bloggers, but we will always need substitutes and if there is enough interest would consider additional groups. To see our upcoming themes and how you can participate, please check out the schedule at Creative Culinary or contact Barb for more information.

Thank you for taking the time to read today. Enjoy the Chings Junior Style, and thank Joel for sharing the hows of it all.

Take care, and have a lovely day.

Comments

  1. says

    Oh my goodness!! That looks absolutely mind-blowing. Your beloved has a good taste 😀 in food and other things .. Love love love this kicked up a spice notch version!

  2. says

    Well, you sure worked your magic obtaining this recipe! Anything with that much cheese on top AND served with guacamole cannot be ignored. It looks marvelous!!!

    • says

      I had just a couple of questions about what they did, and The Beloved just said, “Why not get in touch with them?” so I did. They were so nice and helpful! And the chings–Lord, they’re good!

  3. says

    Oh what a sweet lovely story about you and the Beloved. I haven’t met him yet, but I feel like I know him already. You made me yearn for those good old days when we yearned till our knees were weak and we longed for that one who makes our heart do somersaults. And these Chings, oh my lord, this is why I try not to read your blog posts before dinner or else it’s my stomach that will do somersaults. I must try making these for my family — my boys will enjoy it. Thanks for the recipe and blog visit. Fun doing Progressive Eats with you and the group for the first time, Jenni!

    • says

      Yes, so glad you’re in PE now, Betty Ann! And this group *always* makes me hungry! I made Anshie’s potatoes and chickpeas tonight and they were incredible! Your soup in on my list, too!

  4. says

    OMG Jenni, these look phenomenal. I was thinking you would be contributing another of your amazing desserts. But now you came up with this super amazing Mexican-ish dish. I’d have a tough time choosing between Ching and Chong. So I think I’ll have to go try both next time I visit my cousin who lives in Florida! Love the backstory about you and The Beloved too :-)

  5. says

    OK, I had been wondering what these would turn out to be! They look AMAZING. No wonder they’re so popular! And I love that they have such a good story to go with them :)

  6. says

    Ok, so I grew up in Florida, just moved from there to here only 1 1/2 yrs ago, went only to the beach at Patrick Air Force Base, and NEVER did I ever here or go to the Taco place you speak of. I am disappointed beyond belief, because I am Floridian, I am all knowing of the great places to eat there, and I missed this one…..not good on my part. This looks delicious, and if I ever get a chance to go back, actually that is if I ever want to go back, at least past St Augustine, I will have to check this place out. I am still perplexed that I did not know of this place, I am glad to have gone down memory lane with you, because you mention so many things in this post, that make me think of the place of my birth:o)

    • says

      Oh, I’m glad I gave you a trip down memory land, Mandi! =) I didn’t love living in Florida, but man, Taco City was always a destination when we went to the coast! I do hope you get to give it a try sometime. If not, my version is a pretty close approximation!

  7. says

    When I saw the name of your recipe for this month, I couldn’t imagine what “Chings, Junior Style” could be! Still not quite sure why they’re called Chings, but wowee am I anxious to give them a try! Just a great addition to our theme for this month.

    • says

      I have no idea why they’re called chings, unless it’s from “chimichanga,” since they’re basically chimichangas cut up. Whatever they’re called, they are ridiculously good, Lana! I do hope you can give them a try–there’s not much not to love about spicy shredded chicken in fried flour tortillas! =)

  8. says

    I have added chings junior-style to my short list of deep fried things I will eat no matter what the cost to my waistline. Please, please invite me along on your next jaunt to Taco City. Or better yet, I’ll drive to your house next time they’re on the menu. (Your beloved and mine would have a ball trading stories of dives they have known and loved.)

Trackbacks

Speak Your Mind

Rate this recipe: