While I was growing up in San Diego, dinner often revolved around something tucked into a soft or store-bought hard corn tortilla. Usually it was in the form of a taco, filled with seasoned shredded or ground beef. Pretty standard, albeit delicious, fare.
Once in a while, my mom would pull out a bag of corn tortillas that had dried out and couldn't be folded into a taco. So she'd heat up a little oil in a skillet, fry the tortillas flat — no folding necessary — and make tostadas.
In Spanish, tostada means toast. In Spain, it usually refers to a piece of toasted bread that's served, unsurprisingly, for breakfast. In Latin America, though, it describes a crispy, open-faced cousin to a taco — one that can hold even more delicious fillings and toppings.
In this week's recipe, Chicken Tinga Tostadas with Avocado Crema, the delicious topping comes in the form of tender shredded chicken in a smoky tomato sauce.
While the chicken topping is easy to make, its flavor is complex. Boneless chicken thighs are sautéed, then onions, garlic and spices are added to the skillet to cook away before being puréed with canned tomatoes and chipotle chiles. The sauce then goes back into the pan with the browned chicken to simmer until the chicken is tender and the flavors in the sauce marry into something savory and just spicy enough to be interesting.
Tostada shells are typically easy to find premade in the global section of most grocery stores, but they also are easy to make yourself, either fried or baked. The internet is full of recipes for both versions.
Homemade or store-bought, the warm shells are first slathered with refried beans before being topped with the juicy chicken, a quick slaw made with shredded cabbage, lime juice and cilantro and avocado crema.
The crema is simply avocado mixed with sour cream and a touch more lime juice, but its cool creaminess pulls the tostada together, along with a showering of salty Cotija cheese.
Cool, crunchy, spicy, creamy, salty — there are a lot of contrasting flavors and textures in each bite. And the result is delicious enough to make you take a break from tacos and turn your next Tuesday into a tostada fiesta.
Chicken Tinga Tostadas with Avocado Crema
Makes 8 tostadas.
Note: Frying or baking your own tostada shells is quick and easy to do, but premade shells can be found in the global section of most grocery stores. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 1 tbsp. chili powder
• 1 tsp. ground cumin
• 1 (15-oz.) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
• 1 chipotle chile in adobo (from a 7-oz. can)
• 3 tbsp. lime juice, divided
• 1 medium avocado, pitted, peeled and mashed
• 1/4 c. sour cream
• 2 c. thinly sliced cabbage
• 1/4 c. chopped cilantro
• 8 tostada shells, warmed (see Note)
• 1 (15-oz.) can refried beans, warmed
• 1/2 c. crumbled Cotija cheese
• Lime wedges
Season the chicken thighs with 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.
In a large skillet (with a cover), heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes per side, until browned. Transfer to a plate. Reduce heat to medium and add onion to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder and cumin and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup of water and cook, scraping the bits from the bottom of the skillet, until liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and transfer onion mixture to a blender. Add tomatoes and chipotle chile to the blender and pulse until puréed.
Pour sauce back into the skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add chicken and turn to coat. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from the sauce and transfer to a cutting board. Let cool slightly and use two forks to shred the chicken.
While the chicken is cooling, bring the sauce in the skillet to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Return shredded chicken to the sauce, add 1 tablespoon lime juice and cook, stirring, until heated. Keep warm.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the avocado, sour cream and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Season with a pinch of salt.
In another bowl, combine cabbage, cilantro and remaining 1 tablespoon of lime juice.
To assemble the tostadas, top each tostada shell with refried beans, chicken, cabbage mixture, avocado crema and Cotija. Serve with lime wedges on the side.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.