BAKED VEGGIE CHIMICHANGAS

Baked Veggie Chimichangas

Experimentation in Arizona led to the chimichanga, the state's most notable contribution to border cooking, write the Jamisons in ''The Border Cookbook.''

They continue: ''Roughly translatable as 'thingamajig,' it's a deep-fried [although this recipe is for the baked variety] burrito, usually stuffed with meat or beans, cheese, and mild chiles. The crunchy surface enhances the texture, providing contrast with the molten interior.''

FILLING:

4 tablespoons butter

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced thin

3 celery stalks, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 cup evaporated milk

2 to 3 tablespoons minced pickled jalapeno, plus 1 tablespoon jalapeno pickling liquid (available in Hispanic food markets, or if you must, substitute canned green chiles)

10 ounces fresh spinach, chopped

4 ounces mild cheddar cheese, grated

4 thin flour tortillas, preferably 7 to 8 inches in diameter

Melted butter

Grated mild cheddar cheese and pickled jalapeno slices, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, celery, onion, and garlic and saute the vegetables briefly, until they are softened. Mix in the flour, salt, and pepper. Add the milk, jalapeno and pickling liquid, and spinach and stir to combine. Cover and simmer for several minutes, just until the spinach is wilted. If the mixture is soupy, remove the lid and cook 1 or 2 additional minutes. Stir in the cheese and remove the pan from the heat. Taste and add a little more salt or pickling liquid to give the mixture more tang. Set the filling aside to cool for 10 minutes. (The filling can be made ahead and refrigerated for a day. Rewarm it before proceeding.)

Warm the tortillas for a few seconds on a griddle or in a heavy skillet. Transfer them to a plastic bag to stay soft.

Spoon equal portions of vegetable mixture onto the center of each tortilla. Fold sides in and roll up into a tight package, securing chimichangas with toothpicks. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Brush each ''chimi'' with melted butter.

Bake the chimis on the baking sheet for 10 minutes or until lightly crisp and golden brown. Remove the toothpicks, scatter cheese and jalapenos over the top, and serve the chimis immediately. Serves 4.

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