Red Chile Beef Tostada

If you have any smoky chipotle black beans leftover, you might want to consider making this tostada — a dish that represents the marriage of two of my all-time favorite recipes.

Lucky enough to live only a short drive from the Napa Valley, I’ve had the opportunity to dine at Cindy Pawlcyn’s restaurants since I was a boy.  Having eaten amazing meals at Go Fish and Mustards Grill, the most memorable dish came on a visit to Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen for lunch when I first tasted her famous Rabbit Tostada.  Imagine tender, juicy chile-braised rabbit nestled on top of warm, earthy black beans and a crispy fried tortilla.  Finished with a refreshing salad of herbs, thinly sliced cabbage and tart feta cheese, quite simply, this is as good as a tostada can get.

The other half of this recipe comes from pioneering chef, Robert Del Grande and his restaurant, Cafe Annie.  While I still haven’t had the opportunity to visit the iconic Houston restaurant, I have made his signature bar staple, Black Bean Nachos with Red Chile Beef.  With each tortilla chip covered in the perfect amount of over five different flavor components, it goes without saying that these were the most delicious and extravagant nachos I’d ever eaten.  However, at a prep time of close to three hours, I haven’t gotten around to making them as often as I would like.

Hence, the Red Chile Beef Tostada was born.  Taking key elements from each dish, I’ve put together a recipe that pays homage to the very best of each chef.  Rich, meaty red chile beef fills in for the guajillo-braised rabbit in Cindy’s dish, whereas a black bean topped tostada and refreshing cabbage slaw takes the place of the bite-size nacho in Robert’s.  The result is too delicious to describe. You’re just going to have to try it.


Inspired by Robert Del Grande’s, Black Bean Nachos with Red Chile Beef from Saveur, Issue #97 and Cindy Pawlcyn’s, Big Small Plates

Toasting the chiles in the oven is a quick and easy way to wake up their dormant flavor prior to soaking.  After I make the purée, I like to pass the chile sauce through a fine mesh sieve in order to catch any stray seeds and skin.  This simple step produces a beautiful, velvety sauce.  When preparing the skirt steak, I like to chop the meat by hand in order to control the size of the pieces.  That being said, pulsing the meat in a food processor or passing it through the coarse dial of a meat grinder would also work very well.  Finally, when assembling the tostadas you can gently mash the smoky black beans to help them to sit on the tortilla without rolling off.


For the Red Chile Beef:

  • 9 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • Salt to taste
  • I lb. skirt steak, finely chopped
  • 1/4 Mexican chorizo, casing removed and crumbled

For the Vinaigrette:

  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • Pinch of chile flakes
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

For the tostadas:

  • 6-8 corn tortillas, fried in vegetable oil until crisp
  • 2 cups smoky chipotle black beans
  • 2 cups finely shredded cabbage
  • 4 radishes, sliced thinly
  • 1/3 bunch of cilantro, leaves only
  • 4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
  • Mexican crema or sour cream for drizzling
  • Lime wedges for garnish


  1. Make the red chile beef: Preheat an oven to 350°.  Place guajillo chiles on a sheet pan and toast in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until very aromatic.  Place the toasted chiles in a bowl and submerge them in very warm water.  Let the chiles sit for at least 20-25 minutes in order to reconstitute.  Remove the chiles from their soaking liquid and place them in a blender or food processor.  Add the chicken stock, garlic, bay leaf, cumin and salt and process until you have a nice purée.  Pass the chile purée through a sieve to remove any unprocessed skins/seeds and set sauce aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat and brown the steak and chorizo in batches (about 5-7 minutes).  Once browned, drain the steak/chorizo of excess grease on paper towels.  Return the browned meat to the skillet along with the reserved purée and simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, or until thickened.  Taste one last time for seasoning and allow to cool. Chill the red chile beef in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  3. Prepare the vinaigrette: Whisk together the garlic, salt, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, brown sugar and chile flakes until the sugar has dissolved.  Pour in the olive oil in a slow and steady stream, whisking constantly until emulsified.  Set aside until ready to use.
  4. Assemble the tostadas: In separate saucepans, heat the red chile beef and smoky chipotle black beans.  Lightly toss the shredded cabbage, sliced radishes and cilantro leaves with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat.  Arrange the fried tortillas on a work surface and top each with 1/3 cup of the black beans and 1/4 cup of the red chile beef.  Carefully mound some of the dressed cabbage and cilantro on top of the red chile beef and finish each tostada with a crumbling of queso fresco and a drizzle of crema.  Serve with lime wedges and plenty of napkins.

Serves 6

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  1. this sounds so good, especially when it’s cold and rainy outside. thanks for sharing!

    • jim
    • October 17th, 2009

    I just want to eat the screen.

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