Sometimes the quickest meals are the tastiest. At least, that seems to be the consensus at my house. Does anyone else ever have a busy day and whip up a batch of pancakes or the like last minute because there’s nothing else you have the time/energy/ingredients to make, and your family is so delighted you’d think you served them a 10-course meal on your fanciest china? Well, we seem to have a lot of those nights lately, and I always wonder afterwards why I ever bother making complicated meals (not that I do very often anyway). This is one of my favorite go-to meals on days when I want a good, substantial, healthy dinner without putting in the work to make it.
The crackle of baked, corn tortillas topped with creamy black beans, avocado slices, and spicy, garlicky rice–it’s delicious. I love this recipe because it’s also incredibly versatile. I’ve codified one of my favorite versions below, but the truth is, it’s different every time we eat it. The tortillas and beans are essential in my mind, but everything else is optional. I like adding a combination of fresh salsa (especially if it’s pineapple- or peach-based), chopped onion and cilantro, a squirt of lime, pickled jalapenos, queso fresco or other Mexican cheese, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, or this curtido recipe, which is like a Salvadorian version of picco de gallo.
Have you ever baked corn tortillas before? They’re great—no need to deep-fat fry them to get a satisfying crunch. I like to bake these periodically and keep them around for snacks or easy kid lunches. They’re great on-the-go food, too.
I’m particularly excited about this version of Mexican rice. For years, I tried converting Mexican rice recipes to use brown rice and kept failing miserably. These recipes had the rice cook with the tomatoes, chiles, and onions, and, when I substituted brown rice, it invariably yielded a big, gloppy mess. Once I made this mistake when I was expecting company. If you’ve perused my blog a little, you’ve read the outcome. I hardly ever used white rice, but I had a big bag in the laundry room and, when I realized there was no redeeming my Mexican rice, I threw some on the stove last minute. Unfortunately, I had been storing my white rice in a thin plastic bag next to my laundry detergent. Well, it tasted just like soap. It was very embarrassing.
Since then, I’ve been wary of trying a brown rice version of this Mexican favorite. Then last week, I was making some Asian fried rice, when it occurred to me I could do the same thing with a Mexican twist. The result was fabulous, and super quick. This is definitely going to become a staple at my house. If you can get your hands on Hatch green chiles, it’s definitely worth it. When fire-roasted, their outer skins become singed and carry an incredible flavor. The canned ones taste like spicy pickles; a disappointing substitute.
What’s your favorite meal for busy week nights? I’m always looking for new ideas.
Special Diets & Allergies: Vegetarian, dairy free, vegan, soy free, wheat free (if you use all-corn tortillas), nut free. Hurrah!
If you have pre-cooked brown rice and black beans on hand, this recipe is a quick fix that packs a lot of flavor. The baked tortillas are crunchy and nutty, the avocado and beans are creamy and salty, and the Mexican brown rice has a hint of heat and delicious garlic undertones. The only tricky part is the timing of the tortillas: too long in the oven and they burn, too short and they become hard but not brittle—an impossible texture to chew. I would err on the overdone side.
White corn tortillas
Black beans, pureed until smooth with some of the cooking liquid
Mexican Brown Rice (recipe below)
Chopped cilantro (opt.)
Salt to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Place the tortillas in a single layer on a large cookie sheet, or two sheets, if you can fit them in side-by-side in your oven.
- Bake the tortillas for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Flip and bake another few minutes until browned and crisp, but not burnt. To test for doneness, try to bend one tortilla in half. If it’s still flexible, bake a little longer; if it cracks and shatters in pieces, they’re done.
- To serve, spread a large spoonful of black beans on top of a crisp tortilla. Scoop some of the stir-fried rice over the beans. Top with sliced avocados and a sprinkling of salt. Garnish with lime juice and cilantro if desired.
Mexican Brown Rice
Brown rice gives this Mexican classic a chewy texture which goes great with refried beans or in burritos. Make sure you use cold rice. Otherwise it will clump together and become a mushy mass.
1 T olive oil
1 small yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 C pre-cooked, cold, short-grain brown rice
1 C canned diced tomatoes, rinsed and well-drained
2 large, fire-roasted green chiles, preferably Hatch
a large handful of cilantro, chopped
1/2 t garlic salt, or more to taste
- Remove the green chile stems and slit each chile down the side. If you want less spice, carefully rinse the chiles to remove the seeds, but avoid washing off the chard skins. Chop the chiles and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion and sautee until just turning tender.
- Using your hands, break up any clumps in the rice and sprinkle it into the skillet. Cooking, stirring once or twice, for 2-3 minutes, until heated.
- Stir in the chopped green chiles, tomatoes, and cilantro. Stir and sprinkle with the garlic salt. Taste and adjust the seasonings if desired. Cook another minute or so until the cilantro is wilted.
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