Tostadas

My good friend Cathy makes the very best authentic Mexican dishes.  It’s what she has been cooking all of her life.  One of my favorites are her tostadas.  So good!  Of course she makes her own tortillas, which I only attempted once and failed miserably at.  It’s much easier to buy them at the grocery.  I’ve always wanted to try making her tostadas (with store bought tortillas) and finally asked me her to share her recipe with me.  Just like McDonalds has a recipe for special sauce, she does as well.  The secret ingredient in her sauce is pickled pigs feet.  An ingredient not easily found where I live.  Several stores later I hit the jackpot and now I know where to go.

I looked up tostada and it means “toasted” in Spanish.  Tostadas are made with tortillas that have been deep fried or toasted, usually corn tortillas.  They used to be made from tortillas that  were no longer fresh enough to be used for tacos, but took on a new life when they were fried.  Maybe that’s also how corn chips and nachos originated.  Tostadas can be made with any of the toppings you might use for tacos.  One locale in Mexico is famous for pizza sized tostadas called tlayudo which are topped with fried grasshoppers.

Because tostadas are made on fried tortillas they are somewhat fragile so you will want a base that is pasty enough to hold the other toppings in place.

Ingredients:

Tortillas (I used flour because that’s what I had on hand)

Vegetable oil for frying

Chorizo

Pinto beans

Onion

Cheese (I used a sharp cheddar)

Diced tomatoes

Pickled pigs feet

Oregano and garlic powder to taste

Heat your oil in a heavy skillet and deep fry the tortillas.  Drain on paper towel.

Add a little oil to a skillet and cook the chorizo with diced onions until the meat is no longer pink.  The chorizo I get is a little spicy and seasoned well so I did not add any additional spice.  If I were using ground beef or pork I would add cumin, chili powder, and oregano along with salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the beans and add to the onion and meat mixture.  Allow them to cook together and then mash the beans.  If necessary, add a little broth to keep the meat and beans from drying out.

While that’s cooking, dice up the jar of pickled pigs feet taking care to remove any bones.  I dumped the contents of the jar into my mesh strainer allowing the liquid to drain off and worked from there.

Purée the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.  I think I made a mistake here and added the pickled pigs feet to the blender along with the tomatoes.  I should have just blended the tomatoes and stirred in the finely diced pigs feet.  It made the color of the sauce a little off putting.  However I don’t think it changed the flavor profile.  Add oregano and garlic powder to taste.

Shred your cheese.  You can use cheese that you purchase already shredded, but I think when you shred it yourself it melts better and actually has more flavor.

Now you’re ready to assemble your  tostadas.  The first layer is your meat and bean mixture.  Then the sauce.

Choose whatever toppings you want to add and then cheese.

I put the assembled tostada in the microwave for 30 seconds to melt the cheese a little.  I served ours with avocado, lettuce and a little lime.

I don’t know what is proper, using your hands or silverware.  We used silverware.  They were excellent eaten with a knife and fork but might taste better using your hands!  Even the “I won’t eat pickled pigs feet folk” will like them.  It is a special sauce.  The ingredients can be the cook’s secret.  Thank you Cathy for sharing.  Enjoy your tostadas with a cold beer.  Cheers.

NOTE:  Use any toppings you like.  Diced tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, jalapeños, diced onion.  You’re only limited by your imagination.

Navajo Tacos

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I hadn’t made these in a long time.  What makes these tacos so very good is the fry bread.  The dough is made from very basic ingredients…flour, shortening, baking powder and water.  No yeast.  The fry bread is rustic, flattened and shaped by hand and then fried in hot oil.  Fry bread dates back to the mid 1800s and originated in Arizona.  It reminds me of the sopaipillas we love in New Mexico.  My daughter went to a restaurant in Denver Colorado a few years ago that specialized in tacos served on fry bread.  And fry bread was named the official state bread of South Dakota in 2005.  The fry bread.  It’s what makes these tacos stand out.

Fry bread Ingredients:

2 cups of flour

2 tsp of baking powder

1 tsp salt

4 T lard or shortening

2/3 cup cold water

peanut oil for frying

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Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Cut in the shortening until the mixture looks like fine meal.  I cheat and use my food processor…it works great!  With the food processor on low slowly add the water until the dough comes together.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times until the dough is smooth.  Wrap the dough in Saran Wrap and set aside while you make the chili.

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Chili Ingredients:

1 medium onion diced

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

1 T chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp dried oregano

3 T canola oil

1 pound ground pork (or beef)

3 T minced chipotle in adobo sauce

1 T tomato paste

1 can pinto beans

salt and pepper to taste

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Measure out the spices and dice the onion and mince the garlic.

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Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and sweat the onions, garlic and spices together  for a few minutes until the onions are tender.

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Add the ground pork, chipotle and tomato paste.  Cook until the pork is no longer pink.

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Stir in the beans and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Cover and keep warm in the oven while you fry the bread rounds.

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Heat the oil to 375.  I use a wok for deep frying.  The oil maintains a more consistent temperature, it’s less likely the oil will splash and it’s fairly easy to lift things out.  This is a trick I learned reading “The Food Lab” by J. Kanji Lopez-Alt.  An awesome book I highly recommend.

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Cut your dough into six pieces.  On a lightly floured surface use you hand to flatten and shape the dough into a disc.  Keep the discs covered with a clean kitchen towel or Saran Wrap until you are ready to fry them.

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Drop the discs, one at a time, into the hot oil. Cook a couple minutes on each side until the fry bread is golden brown.

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I line a jelly roll pan with paper towel and put a rack on top of the  paper towel.  As the breads finish frying I put them on the rack and keep them in a warm oven until I am ready to assemble the tacos.

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Get your favorite toppings ready so that you can assemble and serve the tacos.  I used shredded sharp cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, black olives, jalapeño and sour cream.  Well, no jalapeños on mine.  You could also use diced onion and salsa.  Avocado is my favorite topping but I did not have any.

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Put a generous serving of the chili on a fry bread and choose your toppings.  Squeeze on some fresh lime juice.

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If you have fry bread left over you can warm it and enjoy it with a little honey, jam or powdered sugar.

NOTE:  You can increase or decrease the seasoning based on your personal taste.  Mine were a little spicy tonight.  Or use your own favorite recipe for tacos.  Like I said, what makes these so special is the fry bread.

I usually open a couple cans of chipotles in adobo sauce at a time and run them through my small food processor.  I put the purée in an ice cube tray and freeze it.  Once the chipotle cubes are frozen I put them in zip lock snack bags and keep them in the freezer.  Recipes typically call for one or two tablespoons and this ensures that the rest of the can doesn’t go to waste.