As so many living in the Greater New Orleans area did back in the day, my family used to “raise the flag” at Pancho’s.
For those unfamiliar, Pancho’s Mexican Buffet had restaurant locations in Metairie and Chalmette. Think of it like the love child of Taco Bell and Piccadilly — an all-you-can-eat buffet of Tex-Mex food that starts off with you pushing a cafeteria tray down a steam table line and ends with complimentary soft-serve ice cream. As a child (or even as an adult), the best part was “raising the flag” — you’d “hoist” a tiny Mexican flag on your tabletop as a signal to the waitstaff that you were ready for more food. It was as amazing as it sounds.
While the Chalmette restaurant had shuttered years earlier, the Metairie Pancho’s was open until Katrina. It made a brief comeback in the Metairie area a few years post-K but didn’t survive. A pair of former managers opened their own very similar version called 2 Amigos in Kenner several years ago, but it closed late last year after struggling through the pandemic.
All that to say: my favorite item from Pancho’s ever since I was a child was their flautas. I don’t actually know what was in them, but I believe it was turkey.
Over a decade ago, I came across a recipe for turkey flautas while searching for ways to use up leftover turkey. I hand-wrote the recipe because my printer was on the fritz and made them with flour tortillas instead of corn tortillas since that’s what I had on hand. Immediately, I was taken back to tabletop Mexican flags and plastic baskets of warm sopaipillas because they tasted just like the flautas I’d remembered from Pancho’s!
I’ve been making them for years now because they fit great into my freezer-cooking way of life. For best results when freezing them, undercook them slightly during the frying or baking step (nothing in the filling is raw, so it isn’t unsafe) so they can brown fully when reheated. Cool completely and place in a freezer bag. No need to thaw before reheating in the air fryer or oven.
Since we’re entering the season of leftover turkey, this is a great time to give this recipe a try! Or, if you’re looking to try it but find yourself without leftover turkey, try my turkey breast recipe for the Instant Pot.
To Oven Bake: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place flautas on foil-lined baking sheet. Spray rolled tortillas with cooking spray and bake for 20-25 minutes until the ends are lightly browned.