We’ve been in the state of Veracruz, staying in the town of Orizaba, for about a month now, and we must say: this has been our favorite destination so far. It’s a quiet mountain town with lots of access to the outdoors, and the people here are quiet and friendly (just like us!). Here in Orizaba, just like elsewhere, we’ve been cooking all of our meals ourselves, and today we’re bringing you our version of a classic Veracruzan dish: huevos con frijoles, but we’ve put it on tostada and made some other mild changes in the name of experimentation. Ready to dive in? Let’s go!
Huevos con frijoles is popular here in Veracruz as well as in the state of Oaxaca. Heck, this combination is popular in some form all over Mexico. Being made with such ubiquitous items like tortillas, beans, and eggs, a version of this dish very likely exists in most villages, towns, cities, and states in Mexico. Something specific that we’ve done differently with our huevos con frijoles is that we’ve kept the beans and the scrambled eggs separate. Usually this dish is made with refried beans, and they’re mixed right into the eggs. While that does taste amazing, it doesn’t look very appetizing, so in the name of pretty food (and like it or not, food blogs are as much about appearance as taste), we decided to top the scrambled eggs with whole black beans instead of mixing it all together. It tastes nearly the same so we figured why not change it up?
Furthermore, seafood is hugely popular here in the coastal state of Veracruz, but since we’re Americans with “weak” stomachs, we decided to play it a little safer and bring you a dish that doesn’t require freshly caught seafood. The South Louisianians in us are all about the fresh seafood, but the slightly sheepish travelers in us (who aren’t quite ready to take on Montezuma’s revenge) guided us toward this breakfast classic. Besides, we haven’t done any breakfast-type sandwiches on this site since we’ve switched over to our sandwich focus, so all of this coalesced into deciding that a huevos con frijoles tostada was the perfect dish to bring you this month.
In our neighborhood (Barrio Nuevo) in Orizaba, we’ve noticed something that we haven’t before in other parts of Mexico: a diverse and small scale economy. Our neighborhood is a fairly new development (hence the name), but it has the same vibrant mix of homes and businesses as the older parts of town. This is the result of Mexico’s traditionally large informal economy and small business development. These family owned and operated establishments are dotted all over our neighborhood. From people selling breakfast out of their living room windows to little grocery stores set up on corners, we’ve been pleasantly surprised just how easy it is to buy things directly from people here in Orizaba within blocks of our house. Of course, this is not limited to Orizaba—this phenomenon is prevalent all over Mexico. It’s just that we haven’t seen it so up close and personal before here, outside of taco carts and quesadilla grillers on the street. Truly, one never really needs to leave our neighborhood to access any of the fresh meat, eggs, produce, or prepared food they desire. We find this kind of economic (and social) activity fascinating.
While the businesses we bought our supplies from are very likely part of the formal economy, they exist just on the edge. We bought as many ingredients as possible from our little corner grocery store (which was nearly everything; store featured below), and then picked up the few remaining items we needed at the bigger grocery store in town (Chedraui).
Of course, we got our tortillas from the awesome tortilleria in our neighborhood. Every time we walk past that place, the tortilla machine is creaking away, producing some of THE BEST tortillas we’ve had here in Mexico. Also, it’s twelve pesos for a kilogram of hot, dense, satisfying corn. We like to eat our first few straight out of the paper, on the short walk home.
More than with previous sandwiches recipes, we’re going to focus on preparation in this post. It’s mainly because this huevos con frijoles tostada dish is made up of four components that each have their own recipe. Therefore, we feel it’s important to review each item and explore what’s relevant.
First, let’s get into the black beans. We’re using canned black beans here, but we’re also enhancing them by adding fresh onion, garlic, and tomato plus spices like cumin, paprika, and Mexican oregano. With the right ingredients and about 20 minutes’ time, you can take a simple can of black beans and turn them into a highly flavorful component of this dish. This is also a preparation for canned beans that you can take with you and use elsewhere, like with beans and rice or even making a black bean soup (just add stock and a bit more of each spice and you’ve got an easy soup!).
The next thing you’ll be preparing is the salsa. We’ve learned how to make quick and easy cooked salsa here in Mexico, and this technique is something we apply to many different salsa preparations beyond this one. The recipe starts with searing the ingredients in a mostly dry non-stick skillet (you may want to use a little oil to make sure nothing sticks). Searing the ingredients helps soften them enough to blend them together into a thick and chunky salsa. We’ve also made red version of this salsa with tomato and chiles instead of tomatillos. Once you master this technique, you’ll never really need to buy jarred salsa again. Quick note, though: you will need a traditional blender or an immersion (stick) blender to make this salsa.
Next up are the tostadas, which are nothing more than fried whole tortillas. They’re like one big tortilla chip. The corn tortillas found in the US are much drier and easier to fry than what we have here. No complaints, though, because we get much better tortillas here (bragging, yes!). To prepare the tostadas, you simply fry your tortilla for about a minute on each side. Don’t be tempted to “under-fry” them. They’ll be chewy and harder to eat. Allow them to fry until they’re crisp, and you’ll get a much heartier and easier to eat tostada in the end.
There’s really not much to say about scrambled eggs because this recipe calls for you to cook them however you normally cook scrambled eggs. Nothing special, just any old way you like them. The special parts of this recipe are what you put on and under your scrambled eggs. The eggs are just the blank canvas upon which you’re building.
Finally, let’s put it all together: just above, you see all of the completed ingredients ready to be built into a tostada. If you want your plate to be fancy and your tostada to not move around, you may want to put a dollop of beans (or even sour cream) on the plate and stick the tostada to it. To assemble, you just top the tostada with scrambled eggs, black beans, salsa, and cheese then round it all out with some sliced avocado doused with Tajín seasoning. Now, you’re ready to eat your huevos con frijoles tostada!
The real cultural importance here lies not necessarily in the final dish we’ve made here today but in the individual components: eggs, tortillas, beans, salsa. These are basic staples in the lives of many Mexicans and nearly all regional cuisines. They’re remixed into countless dishes and in numerous ways to make satisfying, nourishing food. It’s amazing to see how much can be done with a few relatively simple ingredients.
As we’ve said, we were able to buy nearly all of these ingredients right here in our small neighborhood, from local people who make their livings selling to their neighbors. It’s a continuation of old ways of doing business that have their roots in the dawn of commerce. It’s interesting to us, and refreshing, to see people still relying on each other—their neighbors, friends, and family—for their food supplies and in return, supporting each other’s livelihoods. For so many who get by on so little, these ties are vital to survival.
To Assemble Tostadas:
To Assemble Tostadas: