When I think about college, I think about tortillas. Every Tuesday night during freshman year, after I definitely did not consume alcohol (because that was illegal, and I was and am a law-abiding citizen), I’d buy a late-night cafeteria chicken quesadilla, made on a panini press by a man named Orlando. It cost four dollars, and yes, it was delicious, whether I was stone-cold sober or…not stone-cold sober.
But once I moved out of a dorm and into a house with a kitchen, that quesadilla craving turned into something else entirely. I started studying tostadas and frying my tortillas. I never looked back.
Crispy, casual tostadas—basically just crunchy fried corn tortillas with a variety of toppings—are meant for Rent Week. My tostadas are better than my college-era quesadillas, so I felt the need to improve upon the dance music as well, with this Quick Dance Party playlist (slightly more refined than sweaty basement EDM and free of charge). Crack a beer, turn the stereo way up (seriously, way up), and get in a real big mood. We’re making Fifth-Year Tostadas.
Dice ½ white onion and heat 2 tbsp. of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook ⅔ of the chopped onion. Don’t hold back. Once they’re soft, keep cooking. We want color on those onions. You’re the sheriff ‘round these parts. Take them out of the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil behind.
Fifth-Year Tostadas need salsa. Some would use a food processor to make a salsa verde, but I don’t have one of those. (And I work for a food publication. And I’m doing just fine.) I just use a very sharp knife to make a chunkier salsa. Either way works. Take the remaining (raw) chopped onion and put it in a small Tupperware. Finely chop 1 jalapeño, ¼ cup of cilantro, and 4 tomatillos, and add them to the Tupperware. Squeeze the juice of 1 lime over the mixture and season with salt. Put the lid on, and shake that Tupperware like a certain Andre 3000 lyric. Hey ya: We’ve got salsa verde!
Now, the fun starts. De-case 4 links of chorizo (you can increase the chorizo, but this is by far our most expensive ingredient, so that’s your call) and dry it off with a paper towel (removing moisture allows it to get super crispy). Heat the leftover oil in your pan to medium heat. Brown your chorizo in the skillet (for a refresher on how to do that perfectly, head here) until it’s crispy as hell, then take it out with a slotted spoon and leave the rendered fat in the pan. That, folks, is flavor for our beans.
Rinse 2 cans of pinto beans and dump them in your skillet with all that tasty chorizo fat in it. Add those aggressively cooked onions, turn the heat to medium, add a small glug of oil to the pan, and mash the hell out of everything with a potato masher (in this case, a bean and onion masher). They don’t have to be supremely smooth. Rough around the edges is just fine (food imitates life, after all). Add a ¼ cup of water to the beans to loosen them and season with salt, pepper, and cumin. If you don’t have cumin use a little bit of chile. If you don’t have either, whatever. You’ll survive. Fry the beans, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes.
Cover the bottom of a pan (maybe the one you just cleaned, or maybe a fresh one) in ¼” oil, and heat over medium-high heat. Working with one corn tortilla at a time, fry until crispy (about 1 minute on each side). Don’t be scared of color. We don’t want them burnt, but they should be hard enough to support the weight of beans and chorizo without folding. Transfer each one to a paper towel-lined plate when it’s finished and season with a little salt.
Spread a nice spoonful of beans on the tostada. Hit it with a sprinkling of that crispy chorizo (you don’t need to pile it on). If it’s a prosperous Rent Week, shred some purple cabbage or iceberg lettuce and scatter some over the chorizo, and drizzle on some of that dank salsa verde. Let some cilantro rain down like it’s monsoon season. We’ve arrived at Tostada Town. Man, this place is rad.
The truly great thing about this recipe (and tostadas in general) is that you can leave things out, depending on the week’s budget. Seriously, these are great with just refried beans (use lard or leftover bacon fat instead of chorizo fat) and salsa verde. It’s not about excess; it’s about the 2:00 a.m., fresh-off-the-dance-floor feeling. You don’t need a keg to throw a rager. Just a playlist and some fried tortillas.