The last time I had this dish I was in the middle of Cancun, Mexico, far from the run of beachfront tourist hotels. I found this little restaurant in the city center serving panuchos, fried tortillas filled with black beans, and topped with meat and pickled red onions. I couldn't believe I'd never heard of this dish before. The tortilla was crisp, but the insides were creamy from the black beans. Sort of like a tostada but way more delicate.
For some help in recreating the dish I turned to Rick Bayless' incredible Authentic Mexico. The only remotely difficult part of the dish is getting the tortillas to puff up in the center so you can separate them into two sections. Just take your time. The hole the filling goes through doesn't have to be that big. The tortillas should separate. If they don't, use a small sharp knife to pry them apart.
Though it's more authentic to top these with chicken, chorizo is what I had on hand. All that's left is a sprinkling of pickled red onions, which might seem like an easy part of the recipe to skip. You certainly can. But they are really crisp and acidic and a perfect contrast to the creamy fried tortillas. They are also not nearly as time-consuming to make as I assumed. The recipe for the pickled red onions makes a lot more than you'll need for the dish, so you can scale it back a little bit if you'd like. But I'd go for the gold. They keep well in the fridge and love to sit on top of other Mexican inspired dishes.
About the author: Nick Kindelsperger is a freelance writer in Chicago. He is the co-founder of The Paupered Chef and spends most of his time playing with the new cooking gadgets he got from his wedding.
- For the pickled red onions:
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- For the panuchos:
- 6 corn tortillas
- 2 cups Mexican chorizo
- 1 can refried beans
- 2/3 cup canola oil
- 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
Dump the red onion slices into a pot and cover with water and pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and drain the onions.
Grind the black peppercorns and cumin seeds in a mortar or grinder. Add them along with the oregano, garlic, salt, vinegar, and drained red onions to a small pot. Pour in enough water to just cover the red onions. Bring to a boil and cook for three minutes. Then kill the heat and transfer everything to a bowl and set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add one tortilla at a time to the skillet and flip it frequently until it becomes stiff and leathery. I should also start to puff up in the middle. Remove from the skillet and take a small knife and cut along the side of the tortilla to loosen the two sides. Cut about one-third of the way around the tortilla. Use your fingers to carefully open the pocket. If it seems like it might tear, just stop. The pocket doesn't have to be as big as the tortilla. Repeat with the other tortillas.
Scoop about 1 tablespoon of the beans into the pocket. Smooth it out by pressing down on the top of the tortilla.
Pour the oil into a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the stuffed tortilla and cook for about 3 minutes until the bottom is crisp. Remove and drain. Repeat with the other tortillas.
Meanwhile, cook the chorizo in another skillet set over medium heat. It should be done by the time the other tortillas have been fried.
Transfer the stuffed tortillas to plates. Top with a sprinkling of the chorizo and some pickled onions.