Serious Heat: How Do You Gussy Up a Tostada?

Note: On Wednesdays, Andrea Lynn, senior editor of Chile Peppermagazine, drops by with Serious Heat.

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Photograph by Bill Milne

I'm a sucker for tortillas and anything taco-related (see last week's Kogi-inspired bulgogi tacos). One of my favorite treats growing up--second to homemade Sloppy Joes--was the crunchy happiness of a tostada. Maybe my Southern roots nudge me more in the way of fried glory. My mom's filling was a mixture of refried pinto beans and generously-seasoned ground beef. Like a flat version of a taco, the fact that you have space to build upwards always made me go overboard with toppings. Cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, jalapeños, olives, and sour cream--if it was offered, it went on my tostada. Messy to eat, but worth every gooey drop.

So, when it came to creating a spicier spin of the tostada for Chile Pepper's July issue, I thought of intensifying the crunch factor with a double-decker tostada. Mashed black beans, spice-packed chorizo and cheese are sandwiched between two crispy, fried flour tortillas. On top, there is a thin layer of cilantro-jalapeño pesto garnished with a mixture of salsa and sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes and scallions. This double-decker can be made as simple or as complex as needed. Just add olives, red onion, avocado and sliced chiles on the top when time allows. And get ready for the ultimate tostada experience. What's a tostada topping must-have for you?

Double-Decker Chorizo Tostadas with Cilantro-Jalapeño Pesto

Yield: 4 servings
Zest Factor: Medium

Make sure the cilantro is dried very well after washing or the pesto will be unnecessarily liquidy. Also, I liked to use the seeds of two of the four jalapeños for a little oomph, but use as many as you like.

For the cilantro-jalapeño pesto:
1/2 bunch cilantro
juice and zest of 1 lime
4 jalapeños, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
Salt
Canola oil

For the tostadas:
12 ounces chorizo sausage
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can black beans
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 (8-inch) flour tortillas
Canola oil
1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
1/2 cup jarred salsa (your choice)
1/2 cup sour cream
iceberg lettuce, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 scallions, chopped

1. In a food processor, add cilantro, lime zest and juice, jalapeños, garlic and salt. Purée, pouring in about 2 tablespoons of canola oil until thick and emulsified. Taste, and add salt, if needed. Reserve.

2. Remove casings from chorizo, and crumble into pieces. In a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, add chorizo, and sauté until fully cooked, about 5 or 6 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the meat. Move chorizo onto paper towels to absorb fat.

3. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of chorizo oil from sauté pan, and warm over medium-high heat. Add black beans with liquid, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper. Using a potato masher or fork, mash the black beans until coarsely smashed, like refried beans. Reserve.

4. Preheat oven to 400°F. In a clean large sauté pan, add 1 inch of canola oil, and warm over high heat. When hot, add 1 flour tortilla, and fry until golden on each side, about 2 minutes each. Use tongs to keep tortillas submerged in oil, if needed. Fry 2 more tortillas. On a foil-lined baking sheet, add the 3 tortillas. Layer them with black bean mixture, chorizo and cheese. Place in oven until cheese melts, around 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, finish frying remaining 3 tortillas. In a bowl, combine salsa and sour cream until mixed. Layer the 3 empty tortillas with pesto, salsa/sour cream mixture, lettuce, tomatoes and scallions. Remove black bean tostadas from oven. Place pesto tostadas on top. Use a serrated knife to cut into quarters and serve.

Serious Heat: How Do You Gussy Up a Tostada?

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