Chicago chef Rick Bayless has been sharing his deep knowledge of Mexican food for decades in his restaurants, on television, and through eight cookbooks to date. This recipe is excerpted from his latest book, More Mexican Everyday (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.).
Photo: Christopher Hirsheimer
Grilled Tostadas with Bacon, Avocado Mayo and Heirloom Tomatoes
Serves 4 to 6
About the most compelling dish in Oaxaca — a region of compelling dishes — is a tlayuda. Huge leathery corn tortillas are crisped on a charcoal fire, brushed with the roasty-flavored dark lard called asiento, splashed with salsa (plus or minus brothy beans) and strewn with chorizo or pork cecina or beef tasajo. It’s smoky, rustic and appealing beyond words. Nobody doesn’t love a good tlayuda.
Back in the States, a good tlayuda is almost unreachable, unless you live in parts of Los Angeles or other places where lots of Oaxaqueños have imported those special tortillas. They’re made from corn that’s perfect (unlike our American corn) for creating that unique size and texture. But we can lift a page from Oaxaca’s playbook and grill tortillas to crispiness, giving them touches of rustic char, then brush them with a little fat and top them with things that make sense where we live. In the summer, I basically create BLT flavors, focusing on great bacon and heirloom tomatoes. An avocado mayo with a good amount of cilantro finishes my midwestern tostada by way of Oaxaca.
12 good corn tortillas (it’s best to use factory-made tortillas here, especially ones meant for serving at the table, not the super-thin, coarse-ground kind that are best for frying into chips)
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 cup vegetable oil
½ avocado, flesh scooped from the skin and roughly chopped
Fresh hot green chile to taste (1 to 2 serranos or 2 to 3 jalapeños), seeds removed if you wish, chopped into small pieces
About ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro, plus a few leaves for garnish
About 10 thick slices (10 ounces) bacon, cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
A generous pound of mixed heirloom tomatoes (different colors and sizes will make your finished dish more interesting), cored, seeded if you wish, cut into ¼-inch slices or pieces
Lay the tortillas in a single layer, cover with a dish towel or napkin and let them dry for about 30 minutes (depending on their moistness) until they are leathery. This will enable them to crisp thoroughly on the grill.
Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, combine the egg yolks and lime juice and pulse until blended. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the oil (the yolks and oil should emulsify and become creamy). Turn the machine off, add the avocado, green chile and cilantro and run the processor or blender for another 20 seconds to ensure that these ingredients are incorporated. You may have to stop the machine once or twice to scrape down the sides. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon. Scrape the mayonnaise into a bowl and set aside.
In a large (10-inch) skillet set over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Pour the fat into a small bowl. You need about ¼ cup bacon fat; if you don’t have that much, add vegetable oil to bring it to that quantity.
When the tortillas are ready, turn on a gas grill to medium or light a charcoal fire and let the coals burn until medium hot and covered with gray ash. When you’re about ready to serve, lay several tortillas on the grill and turn every 20 seconds or so until they’re golden brown all over and cracker-crisp; this will take 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the heat of your fire. Brush the top of each tortilla generously with the bacon fat and let the tortillas crisp a little longer, then remove them to a serving platter. Spread on some spicy avocado mayo and top with a portion of the tomatoes. Sprinkle each tostada with about 1 tablespoon bacon, garnish with cilantro leaves and immediately serve to your guests while you make the next round.
Riffs on Grilled Tostadas: Sky’s the limit here, once you’ve crisped your tortillas on the grill. I always choose something creamy (avocado mayo, guacamole, mashed beans), then add a vegetable (grilled zucchini or eggplant, snow peas or broccolini or baby artichokes, everything cut into small pieces), then something meaty (coarsely shredded chicken, chorizo sausage, shrimp, leftover shreds of roast). Then maybe I splash on a salsa and, occasionally, sprinkle on fresh cheese (Mexican queso fresco, crumbled goat cheese, dryish feta). Really, the sky is the limit.
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