This Tostada Bar for 15 is proof that there is something about Tostadas that just seems to make people happy 🙂
Maybe it's the improved fillings-to-tortilla ratio, or maybe it's the satisfying crunch of the warm Tostada shell...
But whatever it is, this spread is a great option for the next time you need to feed a big crew. There's plenty here for all tastes, ensuring that your friends and family will be be able to create their own personal Tostada masterpiece.
How To Make a Tostada Bar for 15 People
Be sure to recruit some helpers as this would be a lot for a single cook, but when there's a crew in the kitchen it all comes together quite easily.
We're making Chicken Tinga for these Tostadas, but there will be plenty of options for the vegetarian crew as well.
Here's a quick look at the fixings in the above pic:
Cilantro Lime Rice
Roasted Tomato Tomatillo Salsa
warm Tostada shells
cheese: shredded Jack and crumbled Queso Fresco
some plain chicken for the young ones
First things first, get those tomatoes and tomatillos roasting! You'll need:
15 plum tomatoes (approx. 4 lbs.)
30 tomatillos (approx. 3 lbs.)
Give 'em a good rinse, de-stem, and let them roast in the oven (400F) for a half hour or so.
Don't sweat the exact time too much -- I'm in the habit of plopping them in there and grabbing them when I need them.
For the Chicken Tinga, I'm still in the habit of brining the chicken first. This will give you a considerable bump in flavor so I tend to do it when possible, but you can consider it optional.
Add 1/2 cup Kosher or sea salt to a large mixing bowl along with 2 quarts of water. Stir to dissolve the salt and add 6 boneless chicken breasts.
That comes out to about 3 lbs. worth or chicken. This is a good amount for a mixture of adults and kids -- if you're feeding 15 hungry dudes then consider adding a couple more.
Once all of that is in place I usually recruit some helpers to work on the individual dishes. You can print out multiple copies of the instructions below if you want to have them handy for your helpers.
First up, get someone started on the Refried Beans that I always talk about.
These beans are super easy to make and they're a great starting point for anyone who wants to build a vegetarian Tostada as their meal.
Roughly chop an onion and cook it in some oil along with 4 peeled garlic cloves. Once the onion has softened you'll be adding:
2 cans beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup stock (or water)
1-3 chipotles in adobo More info on chipotles in adobo
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper
Bring this up to temp and then give it all a whirl in a blender. You can always adjust the consistency by adding another splash of liquid.
The Roasted Tomato and Tomatillo Salsa is also a good one to hand off to a kitchen helper.
Here's a look at the ingredient list:
1 small onion
2-3 teaspoons salt
15 roasted tomatillos
1-4 chipotles in adobo
pinch of cumin
1.5 teaspoons salt
freshly cracked black pepper
Easy Tostada Bar for 15
- 6 boneless chicken breasts (approx. 3 lbs.)
- 15 plum tomatoes (approx 4 lbs.)
- 30 tomatillos (approx 3 lbs.)
- 4 onions (white or yellow)
- 4 jalapenos
- 1 can chipotles in adobo
- 1 garlic head
- 8 limes
- 2 cans beans (black or pinto)
- 2 cups rice
- 8 avocados
- 2-3 bags tortilla chips
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 2 lbs. cheese (I used both Jack and Queso Fresco)
- 40 tostada shells
- Mexican oregano
- black pepper
- stock (optional)
- Brining the chicken is optional, but I usually do it when time permits as it will give you a bump in flavor. Add 1/2 cup Kosher or sea salt to 2 quarts cold water in a large mixing bowl. Dissolve the salt and add the 6 chicken breasts (or 3 lbs. worth of chicken). Cover and let brine in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. If it won't fit in the fridge I usually just give it a shorter brine on the countertop for 30 minutes or so.
- De-husk the tomatillos and give 'em a good rinse. Rinse the tomatoes as well, then de-stem both the tomatoes and tomatillos. Place them on a baking tray and roast them in the oven at 400F for 30 minutes or so. Don't sweat the exact timing too much, I usually just leave them in the oven and grab 'em when I need 'em.
- Once you've reached this point I usually find it easiest to build a few cutting board stations in the kitchen and then recruit some helpers! Give them each a dish that they can see through from beginning to end. You can print multiple copies of the instructions so each of your helpers has a reference.
- For the Refried Beans, start by peeling 4 garlic cloves and roughly chopping 1 onion. Cook the onion and garlic in a glug of oil over medium heat (you can leave the garlic cloves whole). Once the onion is starting to brown add 2 cans of beans (drained and rinsed), 1-4 chipotles in adobo, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and 1 cup stock (or water). You can use less chipotles for a milder version. Let simmer for a few minutes until heated through and then add everything to a blender, combining well. Take a final taste for seasoning and heat. Add more salt if necessary and if you want more heat you can add more chipotles. I usually add the beans to a bowl, cover with foil, and let them sit on an unused part of the stove to help keep them warm. Note: you can always thicken up the blended beans by simmering them over low heat, or thin them out by adding splashes of water.
- For the Roasted Tomato and Tomatillo Salsa, add 6 roasted tomatoes and 12 roasted tomatillos to a blender along with 1 small onion (peeled and cut into quarters), 3 peeled garlic cloves, 1-3 rinsed and de-stemmed jalapenos, 20-25 sprigs rinsed cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. Start with just a single jalapeno for a milder version. Combine well (I usually leave it a bit chunky.) Take a taste for seasoning and heat. Salt is optional on this Salsa, I added just a pinch at the end. For more heat simply add another 1/2 jalapeno, combine, and taste test from there.
- For the Easy Guacamole, finely chop 1/2 onion. Use the back of a fork to smoosh the onion until it turns translucent. Add the onion to a bowl along with the flesh of 8 avocados, 2 teaspoons of salt, and the juice of 4 limes. Mush and mix well. Taste for seasoning, adding dashes of salt and lime until you like it.
- For the Cilantro Lime Rice start by adding 2 cups rice and a glug of olive oil to a saucepan over medium heat. Saute the rice, stirring regularly, until it is starting to turn light brown. Add 4 cups water (or stock) to the pan along with 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce heat to a simmer and let it cook until all the liquid is absorbed. Once cooked you can remove it from the heat and let it rest for a few minutes, covered. Chop up 15-20 sprigs cilantro and add it to the rice along with the juice of 1 lime. Combine well. As written, this rice will have a subtle cilantro-lime flavor, but you are always welcome to add a bit more cilantro and lime for a more prominent flavor. Note: be sure to give the cilantro a good rinse. You can use the upper stems of the cilantro, but I usually twist off and discard the bottom portion of the stems.
- For the Chicken Tinga, you can either poach or bake the chicken. I poached this batch by adding the brined chicken breasts to a pot of boiling water, then reducing heat to a simmer and cooking until the insides are 160F. It usually takes around 20 minutes to fully cook the chicken. Alternatively, you can bake the chicken. Simply pat dry the brined chicken breasts and add them to a baking sheet -- cook for 20 minutes at 400F or until the inside temp of the chicken reaches 160F or is no longer pink. Using either method, once the chicken is cooked you can set it aside for a few minutes to cool, and then shred it using two forks (or your hands!). This shredded chicken will be added to the Tinga sauce once it is complete (see the step below). You can also set some of the shredded chicken aside if you have young ones who will want plain chicken.
- For the Tinga sauce, start by cooking 1 large roughly chopped onion (or 1.5 smaller onions) and 8 whole, peeled garlic cloves in a glug of oil over medium heat. Try to use a large saucepan as it will eventually hold all of the chicken. Cook until the onion is just starting to brown, approx. 5-8 minutes. Add the onion garlic mixture to a blender along with 6 roasted tomatoes, 15 roasted tomatillos, and 1-5 chipotles in adobo. Combine well. I typically scrape out the seeds of the chipotles but you can consider this optional. For a milder version consider starting with only 1 chipotle, taste testing, and increasing from there if you want more heat. I used 3 chipotles for this batch. Add the sauce from the blender back to the pan that was used to cook the onion along with the remaining ingredients: 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano, a pinch of cumin (optional), 1.5 teaspoons salt, and some freshly cracked black pepper. Let simmer for a few minutes and then add the cooked, shredded chicken to the Tinga sauce, combining well. Let simmer until everything is at a uniform temperature. Take a final taste for seasoning -- I added another generous pinch of salt to this batch.
- The final step is to warm up the Tostada shells. I usually start by cooking 20 of them for the first round -- simply add the Tostada shells to a baking sheet and plop them in the oven (400F) for 3-4 minutes. Once warm you can put them at the head of the serving table. When everyone is finishing their first round you can cook an additional round of Tostada shells.
- Prep the remaining ingredients and add them to serving bowls. For this feast that meant shredding Jack cheese, crumbling some Queso Fresco, chopping some cilantro, and adding tortilla chips to the table.
- Now it's time to line everything up! Try to put the tostada shells, Chicken Tinga, refried beans, and rice towards the head of the serving table next to the plates -- followed by the cheese, freshly chopped cilantro (optional), Guacamole, Roasted Tomato Tomatillo Salsa, and tortilla chips. It's worth mentioning to everyone that a simple tostada with refried beans, Tinga, and cheese is already delicious and a great starting point to consider.
- Enjoy! And be sure to note how your friends and family build awesomely unique Tostada masterpieces that have never been built before 🙂
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