I just got back from almost six months Mexico. The Vancouver summer is glorious, but there are lots of things I already miss about the country…and Mexico City in particular. Mexico City is famous for its street food, especially its “antojitos”, the Mexican-Spanish word for masa-based light meals, or snacks. Tlacoyos are a Mexico City classic: served almost exclusively street-side, patted thick and cooked on comals by little old ladies with rapid fire hands. The best ones are made with blue corn, and filled with either fava or refried beans, chicharron or a creamy, ricotta-like cheese called requesón. The toppings are almost always the same: more requesón, nopales (cactus) or potatoes with chile. I decided to be a bit liberal with my toppings. I made the usual potatoes, but lacking for nopales, I made rajas (sliced peppers, usual green poblanos, though I also included sweet red ones, since I like them too) and fried up some onions…since fried onions pretty much always make everything better! I don’t know where to find blue masa ’round these parts, so had to use standard white corn masa harina. The filling is a little different too, black beans and cheddar cheese. But I used what I had…and lo and behold, they were still delicious, if a little inauthentic!
Black Bean and Cheese Tlacoyos
Oil (or lard, if you’re feeling ambitious/not worried about vegetarians)
Cheese (Oaxaca or Requesón are more traditional, but I used aged sharp Canadian Cheddar)
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Poblano Pepper
Pour Masa Harina into a bowl. I didn’t measure, but I’m going to guess that I used about 2 cups worth. Add salt. Add a couple dobs of oil, as well as water in small amounts, mixing and adding more water until the dough is soft, flexible, but not sticky. Leave to rest at least 30 minutes.
In the meantime, begin preparing the toppings. To save time, I pre-cooked the potatoes in the microwave, though boiling also works.
Heat oil in a cast iron pan. Chop onion, and begin sautéing in the oil on medium heat. They should take at least 5 minutes. The longer, the better in general with onions. Julienne the peppers and add to the onions, stirring. When the pepper begin to soften, and you start to get blackening marks, add potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and whatever else you might like. I avoided using other spices as the poblano has a lot of flavour of its own. Cook for another couple minutes, then remove from heat. Set aside to be reheated, or keep warm (as I did) in the sun (or oven.)
By now the dough should be ready. Grab large handfuls of dough and shape them into balls. Place between two pieces of wax paper, and with a small pot, press down on the ball. You should create a circle of dough slightly thicker than a tortilla. Unstick the top wax paper, then place back on the dough and flip the whole operation upside down. Remove the new top wax paper (now the dough should come off easily from both sides.) Place a small handful of black beans in the centre, along with chunks of cheese.
Using the paper like a sushi mat, roll one side of the dough onto the other, forming a pocket (like a quesadilla.)
Shape the tlacoyo into football shape, making sure the edges are sealed. Place wax paper back on top, and with the same pot, gently flatten again.
Place the same cast iron pan back on the head (and make sure there’s nothing stuck to it!) You will not need to add more oil, as these are generally cooked without oil (though any residual oil is fine.) When the pan is hot, place tlacoyos on and flip after 2-3 minutes. Turn again at least 2 more times, until both sides are slightly charred and the masa is firm. Remove from heat and top with whatever combination of toppings you like! Finish with a squeeze of lime and salsa (traditional salsa roja or salsa verde are used!)