Along with the return of autumn comes the new school year. My cousin recently started her first year of college, and my brother just transferred to a new school. As a result, both are now students at my alma mater, The University of Pittsburgh. Now don't get me wrong, I'd be happy for and proud of them regardless of where they chose to go to school (and I am!!), but I'm particularly excited that they both chose Pitt. I loved my time there, and have found myself getting a little nostalgic from time to time for the sights, sounds, people, and foods that I came to know and love.
The Cathedral of Learning, on Pitt's campus
When giving my brother recommendations for restaurants the other day, the restaurant Vera Cruz came to mind. Vera Cruz is this little Mexican place on Forbes Avenue, close to the intersection of Forbes and Atwood St. They don't have a website, or I'd link it here. Now, this place isn't going to be rated by Zagat's or anything, but it was cheap, fast, close to campus, the people were always friendly, and above all else: tasty. They had all of the Mexican foods you'd expect: tacos, quesadillas, and so on. But they also had these baked potatoes loaded up with cheese, sour cream, black beans, tomatoes, other assorted toppings, and your choice of meat. I always got the chicken baked potato.
Anyway, I thought this would be easy enough to recreate in my own kitchen. The following recipe is for 2 people, but you can easily adapt it for 1 or many.
2 large baking potatoes, scrubbed and dried
2 small or 1 medium chicken breast, chopped up
1 tomato, diced
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (although you're probably not going to use this whole can unless you're a black bean fiend like me)
2/3 cup water
1 tbs vegetable oil or butter
Homemade taco seasoning (recipe below), or 1 packet store bought taco seasoning
Any other toppings you'd like!
Homemade Taco Seasoning
1 tbs chili powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
I didn't have onion powder this time around, but the taco seasoning was really good anyway.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to pierce your potatoes a few times with a fork after washing and drying them off, but before starting to cook them. I like to give my potatoes a head start in the microwave so that they don't take quite as long in the oven. So I nuke them for 6-7 minutes in the microwave before wrapping them in some foil and sticking them in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or so, depending upon how large the potatoes are.
While the potatoes are baking, start by gathering your spices and mixing the homemade taco seasoning in a bowl. Set that aside. Cut your chicken up into bite sized pieces. Heat a skillet with a little bit of oil or butter in it, and toss the chicken in. Cook until there's no more pink in the middle. Once your chicken is cooked, add the taco seasoning and water. Stir to coat everything, and then let it reduce a bit, just like you would do if you were making tacos from a boxed kit.
Once your potatoes are done baking, slit them open and fluff up the insides a bit. Then stuff them with whatever toppings your little heart desires!
It's not the prettiest picture, but boy was this tasty.
After taking that picture, I tore into that potato in a way that I'm not entirely proud of...