One of my favorite family dinners as a kid were something we always called chalupas, but I think they’d be more accurately called tostadas. The were corn tortilla shells smeared with refried beans and spiced ground beef, cheese, pickled jalapenos, and sour cream (if I recall correctly). I resurrected this family fave recently (so…zombie tostadas?) and plan to make this a regular casual dinner party meal. Most everything can be prepped ahead, so you're free to sit and drink margaritas on the front porch with your guests.
I make no claim that these are in any way traditional Mexican fare, only that they are delicious. We’ve updated the family recipe with Mexican chorizo, fresh jalapenos, and fresh cilantro and avocados, which are much easier to find and afford here in California than in Massachusetts in the 80’s. We’ve also swapped Greek yogurt for the sour cream; nothing wrong with sour cream or crema, but we always keep Greek yogurt in the house, so it was a matter of convenience.
When we were kids, a major characteristic of a successful family meal was sweat – specifically on our upper lips and brows. We liked a spicy meal. In the grand family tradition, we’ve upped the kick on this version: the chorizo is spicy, I used a local dairy’s spicy pepper jack cheese, chiles in the refried beans, topped them with some habanero salsa, and purely by chance we ended up with the three hottest jalapenos in the land. These zombie tostadas were fantastic and the margaritas and beer kept us cool – or at least gently soused, so we didn’t care that we were on fire.
If I were at my best, there are a few things I might have made from scratch. I would have liked to have tried out Elise Bauer’s refried beans , Michael Ruhlman’s Mexican chorizo recipe (seen here with an amazing egg recipe!) , and homemade salsa. However, even if like me you’re temporarily impaired, and look a lot like Joan Cusack in Sixteen Candles, you can use some prepared ingredients with great results.
18 tostada shells – these are round, flat and already crisp corn tortillas*
2-14oz cans refried beans with chiles (or an equal amount of homemade)
1 pound of Mexican chorizo, browned and well drained
8 oz. pepper jack or jack cheese, grated
1 bunch scallions or green onions, sliced
3 jalapenos, sliced
8 oz Greek yogurt, crema or sour cream
1 cup + salsa
2-3 avocados, sliced
1 cup+ cilantro leaves
Preheat oven to 350.
Sauté Chorizo, breaking up meat with a fork or my favorite, a potato masher. When fully cooked and well browned, drain and set aside on a paper towel lined plate. Meanwhile, heat refried beans in a small saucepan.
Lay out your tortilla shells on a lined cookie sheet. I found that six per cookie sheet fit nicely. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of beans on each tortilla, spreading evenly and to the edges. Sprinkle with one tablespoon of chorizo and about 2 tablespoons of cheese per tortilla.
Bake 10-12 minutes, until cheese is well melted and chorizo is quite hot to the touch.
We set up the remaining ingredients as self-serve in little bowls on the table, so everyone could dress their tostada to their own liking.
Serves 6-8, depending on side dishes
Expect to need to drain the chorizo at least once as you're browning it - it's some fatty stuff.
We can get tostada shells in the grocery store in California, but when we were kids my stepmom would have to buy soft corn tortillas and fry them, so that's an option if you can't find them near you.
We went minimalist, so we just served it with this jalapeno slaw (also: margaritas), conveniently finishing the huge head of red cabbage in the fridge from our pulled pork extravaganza. However, sometime I’d love to do this Baked Buttered Corn or just corn grilled in their husks, maybe with some lime zest, chile powder and butter.
I ate some of the remaining tostada shells with a fresh batch of beans and some avocado and salsa nearly every day for lunch - the pictures above, with the exception of the chorizo, are from a lunch batch. While it was lacking some of the fixings, the key points of what make this so tasty and delightful – crunchy AND creamy, hot AND cold, spicy AND refreshing – remained in the leftovers. Take some license, add what you like and omit what you don’t, but try it – and let me know what you think!