I adore sweet tea. I can dig into a plate of pulled pork at the Pik-n-Pig like the best of ‘em. I feel like the sky might fall on me when in an open space without pine trees to hold it up. I like to think I’m something of a North Carolinian now. But, in my boot-wearing, San Antonio-adoring heart, I will always be a Texan. Which is why, I believe, I was recently overcome with an urge for homemade chalupas. Allow me to parse that word for you: a chalupa is a fried tortilla spread with spicy refried beans and topped high with all sorts of goodies like cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, tomatoes, lettuce and avocadoes. Drooling yet? You should be, even if you’re not a Texan.
My version is the fast-Tex-Mex version, but worlds better than that drive-thru Mexican spot of the “bell” variety. Before I knew it, this North Carolina transplant felt like I was sitting on the Riverwalk in San Antonio on a warm, summer’s day, watching the river boats lazily glide by, laden with sunglass-speckled tourists taking pictures of that impossibly big blue sky and those lovely old bridges. I might not have been in Texas in person, but my tastebuds were! And yours can be, too. Welcome to the great country, er, state of Texas, y’all.
Texas-Style Bean Chalupas
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed well (this is for the quick version, but by all means, cook your own beans if you have time)
4 corn tortillas
1⁄2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado, cubed
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 cup grated Monterey or pepper jack cheese
1 cup shredded lettuce
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1⁄2 cup sour cream
1⁄4 cup water
1⁄4 cup vegetable (not olive) oil
salt and pepper
pickled jalapenos, for garnish
First, make your easy refried beans. I do not use lard as some do. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add cumin and chili powder and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add drained and rinsed (or fresh cooked) beans and mash well with a potato masher. Cook in the spice oil for a few minutes, stirring constantly and pressing down. Add water and stir until you get a paste consistency. Season well with salt and pepper. For extra creaminess, a tablespoon of butter at the end does the trick for me. (And really, why not?) Now, prepare your tortillas. Heat 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil in a small skillet on medium-high, until rippling hot. (Olive oil burns at this temperature, which is why vegetable oil is better.) Fry each tortilla in the oil, turning once, until browned on each side. This will happen very quickly, and tongs are your friend here. Drain on paper towels. Now, build those beautiful chalupas. Spread the refried beans on a fried tortilla, then top with lettuce, tomato, avocado, onion, pickled jalapeno, cheese and sour cream. Muy deliciosa!
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The Rev. Whitney Wilkinson is pastor of Cameron Presbyterian Church.