Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tlacoyos with Swiss Chard, Potatoes, Mushrooms, and Salsa Borracha

I had heard lots of good things about Hugo Ortega's Street Food of Mexico and was curious to learn more about the chef and the new book. I made my way to the Texas Book Festival on a chilly Saturday morning in late October of last year for his talk and cooking demo. He spoke about traditional Mexican home cooking as well as the variety of food offered by street vendors in different areas of Mexico. He mentioned how cooking locally and seasonally was a given with the food of his upbringing, and he explained traditional cooking techniques and ingredients and some contemporary updates that can be made these days. For instance, although lard is often used in traditional recipes, he suggests olive oil as a substitute in most of the dishes in the book. I was impressed with the dishes he prepared that morning and couldn’t wait to read the review copy of the book I had received. In the book, you’ll find snacks, tacos, salsas, tortas, ceviches, sweets, and drinks along with stories about how the dishes are prepared by street vendors. Although the food is finished quickly and served to people on the go from vendors, the prep starts in advance so all the parts can be easily combined just before serving. The meats are slowly cooked, the salsas are made fresh, and the masa is portioned and shaped in advance. It’s fast food that isn’t. And, the recipes are very doable at home. The book also offers a visual feast of photos of the dishes, the ingredients, and street scenes in Mexico shot by Penny De Los Santos. After learning about masa and all the different things made with it, I had to decide whether to start with little indented masa bowls called sopes or sweet potato masa cakes for garnachas or thicker gorditas. I’ll get back to the others soon enough, but I decided to try tlacoyos first which are oval masa cakes with a filling of refried beans. They can be topped with any taco filling you like and whichever salsa you prefer, but I went seasonal with Swiss chard, mushrooms, and potato, and a salsa made from dried chiles, orange juice, garlic, and beer.

I made the salsa first since it can sit in the refrigerator for a few days. Dried pasilla chiles were to be used but I only found guajillos the day I was shopping, and I tend to use those two dried chiles interchangeably. The chiles were stemmed and seeded and then left to soak in a mixture of orange juice, beer, and garlic. After about an hour, the chiles and soaking liquid were transferred to a blender to puree. Trust me, use the blender here. My food processor was sitting right there as the chiles were ready to be pureed, so I tried it unsuccessfully. I ended up pouring everything into the blender and washing extra dishes. With this much liquid, the blender is a better choice, and it will produce a smoother puree. Next, I turned to the recipe for refritos. I had some black beans that I had already cooked in my freezer, so I started with those. My thawed beans were pureed in a food processor while finely chopped onion was sauteed in olive oil. Once the onion was translucent, the bean puree was added and simmered for 15 minutes. The refritos were cooled and refrigerated until the next day. For the tlacoyos, I mixed masa flour with a little salt and water and divided the dough into portions. Each ball of dough was flattened, a spoonful of refritos was placed on the dough, and the dough was rolled to enclose the beans. Then, the cakes were formed by pressing the dough into an oval. Mine weren’t very tidy. The dough cracked here and there, and the bean filling squished out in places. I decided not to worry about it. After all the cakes were formed, they were cooked for a few minutes on each side in a cast iron skillet with a little oil. The topping was a quick saute of onion and garlic to which sliced mushrooms, chopped Swish chard, roasted potato chunks, and peeled and chopped roasted poblanos were added. I served the tlacoyos with the “drunken” salsa and some crumbled cotija cheese. 

There are several other things I can’t wait to try from this book like the green tomatillo salsa, the pickled peppers, the cemitas which are sesame seed buns for tortas, the aguachile with shrimp and lime juice, meringue-filled pastries, and rum raisin ice cream. The freshness and flavors and all the great colors in these dishes jump off the pages and make me hungry.

Recipes reprinted with publisher's permission from Hugo Ortega's Street Food of Mexico by Hugo Ortega, Bright Sky Press, 2012.

Masa Cakes Stuffed with Refried Beans | Makes 4-8 servings

Tlacoyos are masa cakes stuffed with refried beans — pinto or black. They are usually prepared the night before and the ladies (page 18-19) pack them in baskets to sell the next day. If making ahead, place the raw tlacoyos on a sheet pan lined with a piece of parchment paper; cover with another piece of parchment paper and plastic wrap. Cook on a hot comal right before serving. The papas, champinones y acelgas taco filling (page 96) is another great vegetarian option that can be used as a topping for this recipe.

For the tlacoyos:
1 lb masa (fresh or prepared from mix, page 24)
1/2 cup refritos (page 132)
1 tbsp corn oil

For the tlacoyos (make ahead up to 1 day):
Divide the masa into eight equal masa balls; cover with a moistened kitchen towel while working. Using the palm of your hand, flatten each masa ball into a patty, about 4 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. Place 1 tablespoon refritos in the center and enclose the beans inside each patty by rolling it into a cylinder. Place each cylinder on a clean surface and pat down into an oval shape, about 1/4 inch thick. Store in refrigerator until ready to cook.

Before serving:
Place comal over low heat, preheat 5 minutes. Drizzle with corn oil and wipe off excess with a paper towel. Working two at a time, place each tlacoyo onto the hot comal and cook 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove from comal and top each with potatoes, Swiss chard and mushroom mixture, salsa, and garnish with cotija.

Tacos de papas, acelgas y champiƱones
Potatoes, Swiss Chard and Mushroom Tacos | Makes 4-8 servings

This vegetarian taco is fulfilling as well as hearty. This recipe shows that tacos are very versatile for any eating lifestyle. This vegetarian Mexican saute can also be used as a substitute for the chicken in the tacos de chile relleno (page 77).

1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 medium white onion, sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled, minced
1/2 lb white button mushrooms, cleaned, sliced or a mixture of your choice
1/2 large bunch Swiss chard, washed, stemmed
2 chilaca or poblano peppers, roasted, seeded, peeled, deveined, cut into strips
1 large yellow potato, roasted, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tsp kosher salt
8 regular-sized tortillas or masa cakes (page 74), warm
1 recipe Hugo's salsa Mexicana or Salsa Borracha, optional to accompany

Place cast iron skillet over medium heat, add olive oil to skillet and preheat 2 minutes. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add mushrooms and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add Swiss chard and allow it to wilt, about 5 minutes. Add peppers and cook for 6 minutes. Add potato and continue to cook 2 minutes. Stir gently as not to mash the potato. Add salt. Divide evenly among the tortillas. Serve with salsa.

Salsa borracha
Drunken Red Chile Salsa | Makes 1 1/2 cups

Traditionally, salsa borracha is made with pulque, a milk-colored alcoholic beverage made from the fermentation of the maguey and agave plant. Due to its scarcity, I used my favorite Mexican beer instead, giving it a delicious, tangy taste. This particular salsa will keep in the refrigerator up to three days. Store in airtight jar or plastic container.

6 long dried pasilla peppers, toasted, stemmed
1 cup fresh orange juice
3/4 cup beer or 1 1/2 cups pulque if available
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp kosher salt

Place peppers in a deep bowl. Add orange juice, beer or pulque if using, and garlic. To completely submerge peppers in liquid, place a small bowl over peppers to act as weight. Allow peppers to soften in liquid, about 1 hour. Strain, reserving 1 cup liquid, discard the rest. Transfer peppers, garlic and reserved liquid to a blender and add salt. Puree into a smooth, thick consistency. 

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program.


  1. it looks so amazing, salsa borracha sounds like something I need to try.

  2. Those look really good! I love everything about this dish.



  3. I'd love to get a copy of this book. I've heard South American and Mexican cuisine is the new trend in our country. And we're starting to see cookbooks and restaurants popping up for us to experience xx

  4. Happy New Year Lisa. I've never heard of tlacoyos before or salsa borracha but they look and sound really good.

  5. Tlacoyos, refritos...they sound so foreign to me, but they do look very delicious.

  6. Lisa, you always post very creative dishes, and this one is another one...never heard of salsa borracha and tlacoyos...these little bites look fabulous.
    Happy 2013 and have a great week!

  7. i don't think i've ever seen a word begin with 'tl'--awesome. the dish itself is also awesome, with ingredients and flavors that are among some of my absolute favorites!

  8. That is just classy city my friend :)

    Choc Chip Uru

  9. This is absolutely the kind of mexican food I need in my life! I'm so glad you shared the recipe!

  10. What little I know about Mexican cooking was garnered from some of the 50 Women Game Changers we did. This looks absolutely marvelous and very doable, Lisa. I've never even heard the name!

  11. I have read about Hugo Ortega's Street Food of Mexico and wondered if it would be a book I would use. I'm pleased you have reviewed the book as I find the recipes approachable. We often have the standard fare of tacos, burritos and chili verde and trying some new recipes would be a welcome change to our weeknights!

  12. Yum, sounds like a fabulous cookbook! These flavors together sound super addicting.

  13. Happy New Year!! In Australia, we're in the throes of authentic Mexican love at the moment. For years we just had Tex Mex but these sorts of dishes are really coming to the fore now which is great!

  14. Oh Lisa these look amazing. I had Mexican last night. It is a huge trend in Australia at the moment. Maybe not a trend, hopefully a lifestyle change! I love how fresh and flavourful Mexican food is.

  15. Mexican food is full of flavor, and addictive. This one culinary adventure, I must tackle in my own kitchen. Still feel intimidating by it, but always intriguing.

  16. I adore Mexican food, so I'm sure I'd really love the cookbook. This dish sounds really flavorful!

  17. That salsa sounds terrific! I hate that I missed the book festival this year- there were so many great sessions I would have loved to catch. I don't usually care for refried beans so your version of tlacoyos sounds more to my taste. Beautiful shot!

  18. Wow, really nice. I haven't heard of this book - thanks for giving me a clue. It's so hard to find decent lard (unless you make it yourself) that I'm glad to hear he suggests substituting olive oil - that makes things so much easier. Great post - thanks.

  19. Really nice photos. This cookbook sounds like it might be a must for my library. Traditional Mexican and street foods are something I seek out. Rick Bayless has a swiss chard/potato taco recipe that I love. These little tiacoyas look so more interesting.

  20. the cookbook sounds fantastic, i need to get a copy! such a great dish, Lisa!

  21. I have never heard of this book - but this dish looks fantastic. Thanks for sharing Lisa. Happy Belated New Year to you :)

  22. Wow, these look good! And I must check out that cookbook. More authentic Mexican is on my must-make list for this year. I may start with this!

  23. Mexican street food is something I'd like to learn more about so this book really does fit the bill. In the UK, I was invited to a Mexican street food workshop and I was kicking myself for not being able to go. The flavours look explosive and there are lots of little dishes I've never heard of before.Do you think you'll make more dishes from the book?

    1. Jacqueline: Definitely! There are several other things, both sweet and savory, I can't wait to try from the book.

  24. They look beautiful, as your food always does. We are eating so much more Mexican food with our move to California, I'm intrigued by these!


Blogging tips