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Tired of tacos? Cook up these tostadas

By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3

How many times must I suffer through taco night at my house? I know the kids love them, and I’m happy to make the “kit” tacos for them, but sometimes I just have to branch out and make a different form of this tasty Mexican treat.

If you know me (and you read last week’s article), you will understand that there are only a few tastes that do not sit well with me. Of course, last week I lambasted red pepper flakes, but I’m here this week to kvetch about something else entirely; cumin.

Cumin is the ubiquitous seasoning used in the store-bought taco kits, reminiscent of the well-known taco fast food emporium on the lips of every late-nighter. Cumin, while a delicious flavoring agent in its own rite, is so overused that I can’t take it seriously sometimes.

As such, you won’t see a lick of it in this recipe, although I welcome you to add it if you see fit. One of my brothers lives in California, and as you can imagine there are more than a handful of authentic Mexican eateries. On one occasion, Fred was confused at how delicious the Carne Asada was, and asked the chef his secret.

His answer was very telling: “salt, pepper and a hot grill.” It doesn’t need to be difficult to be perfectly delicious. It doesn’t have to have the over-complication factors of a good mole sauce. No, just a small selection of ingredients can enliven the plainest of foods, elevating them to a majestic place.

Using ground beef and the taco kit for the kids, I decided to grill up some chicken breast, adding some zip with from fresh lime juice and adding just a hint of spice from Hank’s Hot Sauce. On a side note, if you haven’t tried Hank’s yet, you need to; I demand it. Locally, I know they sell it at Gilbert’s Provisions and Malibu’s Surf Shop, and Parker’s Produce once he reopens in the spring.

A good hot sauce is worth its weight in gold, and when I say “good” I don’t mean burn a hole in your stomach hot. I mean a balance of incredible flavors, a tangy bite and some heat that will not interfere with your taste buds as you work your way through your food. There’s nothing worse to me than ordering hot wings that are so hot that you can’t taste any after the first two. It’s still going to cost you $20 for the outing (assuming you have at least one beverage) and all for nothing.

No, I like things flavorful, but not painful. And this tostada is a simple way to work past the eternal taco night, if for no other reason than to have a little more flavor on the table.

Grilled Chicken Tostada

serves 4

4 Soft corn tortillas

2 Tbsp. Peanut oil

1 Large heirloom tomato, diced

1/2 Sweet onion, diced

Cilantro, chopped, as needed

20-ounces Grilled chicken (recipe follows)

2 Soft avocados, cut into chunks

1/4 cup Green herb sauce (recipe follows)

1/4 cup Crema fresca (recipe follows)

  1. Heat peanut oil in a small pan and fry the tortillas individually until they are crispy
  2. Drain on a paper towel and set aside
  3. Toss the avocados in a little bit of the herb sauce to keep them from turning brown (it also adds a nice zip to them)
  4. Stack and serve. This goes great with margaritas (hold the salt, please) or a good Mexican beer, such as Pacifico. If you don’t imbibe, a nice fresh limeade would definitely do the trick!

Grilled Chicken

makes 20 oz.

1 1/4 pound chicken breast

3 cloves garlic, smashed

Juice of 1 lime

Salt & Pepper, as needed

1 Tbsp. Hank’s Hot Sauce

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes
  2. Heat a grill or grill pan and cook it up, ensuring two things; that it’s cooked through, but not cooked until it is dry as dust
  3. Remove and chop, setting aside until ready to assemble

Green Herb Sauce

makes about 1 cup

1 bunch Italian parsley

1 bunch cilantro

cloves roasted garlic

3 Tbsp. Olive oil

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Salt & Pepper, as needed

  1. Wash the herbs and rip them at the base of the leaves. You will have a little stem in there but that’s fine for this dish
  2. Place them and other ingredients in a good blender and blend away until it is nice and smooth
  3. Adjust seasoning and set aside until ready to use

Crema Fresca

per cup

1 cup Heavy cream, high fat content if possible

1 Tbsp. Buttermilk

  1. This is the recipe that I’ve been using for years, and it this comes in handy in sweet applications as well
  2. Heat the cream in a small saucepan just for a few minutes until it is warm but not hot
  3. Add the buttermilk, mixing well
  4. Place in a mason jar or bowl that has a loose-fitting lid and let sit on the counter overnight, as long as it’s warm
  5. After it has sat out for 12-24 hours, you will notice some thickening. Tighten the lid and place in the refrigerator until ready to use