Anatomy Of A Killer Tostada!

Dinner, Lunch, Mexican | July 5, 2009 | By


The weather is starting to sizzle here in Los Angeles. Many warm, lazy Sunday afternoons are ahead of us. On such days the last thing I want to do is slave in our hot, tiny kitchen fixing dinner.

I mean sure, Mike will make me a Margarita to make the heat a bit more bearable, but who in their right mind wants to stand over a stove when they could be relaxing under the patio umbrella reading the NY Times!

What does this have to do with Tostadas, you ask? Plenty. You see, when I think of Tostadas I think of my mom. My mom hated cooking during a heat spell for the very same reasons I do….it sucks. So instead of cooking an elaborate meal, she would make tostadas.

Tostadas are perfect Summer food because there is little cooking involved and tostadas can be topped with just about anything. There is an art form to constructing a killer tostada though….you can’t just pile stuff on. So I’ve devised this guide detailing the anatomy of a killer tostada.

Anatomy of a killer tostada in second part of post…

Layers and Textures

The key to a killer tostada is to layer the flavors and textures so that they contrast and compliment each other. Almost any type of ingredient can be used but there are a few guidelines to follow. Below is a little sketch I made of the anatomy of great tostada.

First Layer – Tortilla

The very first layer is the fried tortilla. Many mainstream grocery stores sell pre-made tostadas but I HIGHLY recommend that you DO NOT purchase these. Most of the pre-made tostadas are not in fact fried tortillas, but rather ground up corn that is then placed in a mold to look like a tortilla.

Besides, all you really need to do is fry a cold tortilla on both sides in some vegetable oil until both sides turn a dark brown. It’s important that you allow the tortilla to fully brown because if you don’t it will be chewy and not flaky and crunchy.

Home fried tortillas are FAR superior in taste and texture so don’t skimp on this step. Remember, this is the foundation of the tostada!

Second Layer – The Mushy Stuff

I think of the second layer on a tostada sort of as the glue. The second layer should be an ingredient that is mushy, easy to spread, but thick enough so the rest of the ingredients can sink in and not fall off.

The classic ingredient for this is refried beans. Take your tostada and spread some refried beans on to it making sure to coat the entire center. I like to leave a little room near the edges so that when you pick up the tostada with your hands you don’t get beans all over them.

Other ideas are guacamole, melted cheese, hummus, or any type of spread really.

Third Layer – The Meat

The third layer should be the main ingredient in the tostada. All other layers and ingredients should compliment and be designed around THIS ONE. Most often the third layer is a protein like chicken, beef, pork, etc. But it doesn’t literally have to be meat. However, if it isn’t meat, make sure you choose an ingredient that is a bit firm and has bite because you want this layer to contrast in texture with the mushy layer.

I often make tuna tostadas using guacamole as my mushy layer…Yum!

Fourth Layer – Refreshing Crunch

The fourth layer is intended to add complexity to the flavors and textures already present. Adding chopped lettuce, cabbage, raw onion rings, etc. can really add a wonderful crunch.

For the tuna and guacamole tostadas, I added marinated red onions to compliment the tuna flavor and they were divine!

Fifth Layer – The Sauce

The last layer is intended to add moisture to prevent the tostada from being too dry. Salsa of course, is the obvious ingredient here but don’t be afraid to think outside the box. I often drizzle tostadas with thinned sour cream, or squeeze a bit of lime juice over the whole thing.

As you can see, a killer tostada can be endlessly modified and of course, this anatomy is more of a guideline than it is a rule. Feel free to change and disregard any of these guidelines.

Do you have a favorite recipe for tostadas? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Lentils With Breaded Chicken and Fried Egg

Chicken, Dinner | April 25, 2009 | By

delicious lentils, chicken, fried eggYum yum chicken dinner. I make this with pre-made lentils and breaded chicken breasts from trader joe’s. Super easy and delicious. The egg yolk is runny and mixes with the lentils and chicken and is just scrumptious.

recipe in second part of post…

Ingredients

1 cup cooked green lentils
2 small cooked breaded chicken breasts, I use trader Joe’s frozen breaded chicken breasts
1 egg
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Heat lentils until warm. Add minced garlic to lentils and mix. Set aside. Heat breaded chicken breast in olive oil until crispy. Take chicken breast and shred with a fork. Add balsamic vinegar to chicken and allow to marinate for a few minutes. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and fry egg until yolk starts to set. Sprinkle salt and pepper over egg. Add shredded chicken on top of lentils and place fried egg over chicken. Enjoy!

Quick No-Cook Chicken Dinner

Chicken, Dinner | March 10, 2009 | By

banana cakeBy Danny

easy chicken dinner

Warm Roast Chicken With Arugala Salad and Lemon Caper Vinaigrette

When I get home from teaching the last thing I want to do is cook an elaborate meal. I also don’t want to eat crap, so I’ve experimented with TEQUILA LIME CHICKEN TACOS using GROCERY STORE ROAST CHICKEN, but I wasn’t really in the mood for that today…

Full recipe in the second part of post…

I’ve recently been reading Nancy Silverton’s book, “A Twist Of The Wrist: Quick Flavorful Meals With Ingredients From Jars, Cans, Bags, and Boxes”, which has tons of delicious recipes that can be made in a snap, and so I decided to come up with my own quick, no-cook chicken dinner. This recipe is great because most of the ingredients are already in my PANTRY and it really whips up in minutes! It was surprisingly delicious!

Recipe below makes one serving

Ingredients

1 cup cooked roast chicken, lightly heated…you want the chicken to be warm, not hot
2 cups arugala
1 slice toasted sourdough bread

Dressing

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon drained capers
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Warm chicken in microwave so that it’s thoroughly warm but not hot. Toast slice of sourdough. Mix all ingredients for vinaigrette in separate bowl until emulsified and well combined. You can adjust the amounts of salt, garlic, and lemon juice depending on your taste. Toss Arugula in bowl with dressing so that it is well coated. Place slice of bread on plate. Pile chicken on top, and add arugula salad on top. Voila! Enjoy!


Turkey Chili Recipe

Dinner | January 8, 2009 | By

Low Fat Chili

Low Fat Turkey Chili

This is a super easy and healthy turkey chili recipe. I’m a big fan of comfort food. The Martha Stewart MACARONI AND CHEESE recipe I made for Thanksgiving is still one of my favorites, but this recipe is definitely an old standby for when I’m in the mood for yummy comfort food. This chili has great flavor from the added dark beer and plenty of kick from the peppers!

Turkey Chili recipe in the second part of the post…

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of Diced Tomatoes
  • 2 cans of Crushed Tomatoes
  • 3 cans of red kidney beans
  • 1 whole small onion
  • 3 cloves of Garlic
  • 1 large Chipotle Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of the sauce from the Chipotle peppers
  • 2 tablespoons of canned green peppers
  • 2 Jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 ½ tablespons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 package of ground Turkey, about 2 lbs.
  • Half a large container of Chicken Stock
  • 1 Guiness beer

Directions

Heat a bit of oil in the bottom of large sauce or stock pot. Lightly brown turkey until it is nice and brown, but not totally cooked. Dump remaining ingredients into the pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until beans are tender and liquid has reduced and thickened. If liquid is not reducing, uncover and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Serve with diced onions, sour cream, or cheese!

Easy Chicken And Dumplings Recipe

Chicken, Dinner | December 23, 2008 | By

chicken dumplings

Perfect Comfort Food

Chicken and dumplings stew is quintessential comfort food. Dont get me wrong, I love CLASSIC MACARONI AND CHEESE, but sometimes a nice stew does the job like no other! This dish is perfect for these cold winter nights. I make a big pot of this and have it for dinner the rest of the week! This is an extremely easy recipe to make, so give it a try!

Chicken and Dumplings recipe in the second part of post…

This recipe is adapted from Elise’s recipe over at Simply Recipes

Ingredients

Stew

  • 5 cups of prepared chicken stock
  • 1 whole chicken, in parts (2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breasts)
  • 3 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 6 boiling onions, peeled and halved
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, or chicken fat from the cooked chicken
  • 6 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp dry sherry or vermouth (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp of heavy cream (optional
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
  • Ground black or white pepper

Dumplings

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons cake flour (can sub all-purpose flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh herb leaves such as parsley, chives, and tarragon (optional)

Directions

Poach the chicken in the stock.
Add skinless chicken parts (legs, thighs, breasts), 2 bay leaves, and 3/4 teaspoon of salt to the stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat; continue to simmer, partially covered, until broth is flavorful and chicken parts are just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove chicken parts from the pan and set aside. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones in 2-inch chunks or strips. Place a strainer over a large bowl and pour the broth through it, straining out the solids from the broth. Discard the solids. Skim and reserve the chicken fat from broth (a fat separator works great for this task) and set aside 5 cups of broth, reserving extra for another use.

While chicken is cooking, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add (optional) chopped fresh herbs. Add melted butter and milk to the dry ingredients. Gently mix with a spoon until mixture just comes together. (Note: do not overmix! or your dumplings will turn out too dense.) Set aside.

Heat reserved chicken fat (or butter) in the pan you had used to make the stock over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour and thyme; cook, whisking constantly, until flour turns golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add sherry or vermouth, then slowly add the reserved 5 cups of chicken stock; simmer until mixture thickens slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the vegetables, simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in chicken and optional cream; return to a strong simmer. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Drop dumpling batter into the simmering stew by heaping teaspoonfuls, over the surface of the stew. Cover and simmer until dumplings are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Once you have covered the pan, do not uncover while the dumplings are cooking! In order for them to be light and fluffy, they must steam, not boil. Uncovering the pan releases the steam. If after 15 minutes they are still not cooked through (use a toothpick or skewer to test) cover pan again, and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Gently stir in peas and parsley. Ladle portions of meat, sauce, vegetables, and dumplings into soup plates and serve immediately.