A Cinco de Mayo Trifecta: Chicken Verde Tortilla Stack, Easy Black Bean Dip, and Black Bean "Tortizzas"

If there were a snazzy term for an excellent grouping of five items, and if I had two more Mexican-themed recipes in my backlog to share with you, this post and its title would be a whole lot more clever. As it is, I only have three recipes that could be considered festive on this celebratory day, and I personally have never heard of a "Pent"-ecta, so we'll stick with just the three. Although I have eaten nothing remotely Mexican-themed today (and let's not delve into the details of my very un-Nutritionally laudable meal plan so far), I did want to show my Holiday Spirit through the beauty of three phenomenal dishes that I threw together in ma propre tete (alas, it is quite a shame that I cannot speak even a smidgeon of Spanish).

The first meal came a fairly/decently/kind of long time ago, and is the reason why I had leftover homemade Salsa Verde that I teased you with - gosh! - eons ago, and then never posted about. My subconscious must have secretly been holding out for this day of all days. Anyway, I created a Chicken Salsa Verde Tortilla Stack, which turned out pretty well. The timing of the recipe flowed nicely and in my notes I even quoted Rachael Ray by calling it Dee-lish! It had a kick to it without being so hot that you need to soak your lips in a bucket of ice, and it had a very clean element to it (though, come on, with a tortilla stack I was kind of envisioning an oozing, corn-and-beans-falling-out-of-it, cheesy mess of a dish that bloomed into a Spicy Heaven in your mouth). I also had envisioned a crispier tortilla component, whereas mine just got a little soggy in the baking process. The chicken was pre-boiled to cook it before being shredded to assemble and bake, and while this was easy and a healthier alternative to constantly sauteeing/pan-frying everything, I wish it had had slightly more flavor. To remedy all of these set backs, next time I would: 
(1) Pre-Bake the tortillas to crisp them up before baking as a casserole                                                   
(2) Add a few more vegetables to give it the sensation of heft and serious eats without detracting from the clean element it has going on already.                                                                                           
(3) Marinate the chicken in some of the salsa verde before baking, rather than boiling, to help seal in more flavor.                                                                                                                                         
Overall, though, I thoroughly enjoyed this meal. I used smaller tortillas for a personal stack, but I can see it working out very well as more of a tortilla pie/casserole for a larger group, using the larger tortillas instead.

Next up we have a very easy black bean dip. Seriously, when the directions consist of "mash everything up in a bowl," I'm game. It was perfect for this week when the combination of moving and academic finals were enough to trigger my attraction to take out, which is usually subdued enough to be all-but ignored. I took some of the same tortillas I used in the previous recipe and crisped them up into chips in the oven (you see, I slowly learn from my mistakes!) to use as dippers, alongside some bell peppers. This dip was not bursting with flavor, but had a much subtler enjoyability to it. I found the quiet flavors as they came through to be reminiscent of a fairly standard black bean recipe, with cumin playing a major role in the spice department. The only thing I would add to this dip is a hint of lime, because I'm picturing the salt from the chip meeting a dash of lime in the black bean mixture, and my taste buds are theoretically going to town. I did really like dipping the bell pepper slices into the dip, but let's be real for a second - those homemade corn tortilla chips were pretty fantastic! They were crisp and golden along the edges with just the slightest chew in the center, and the sprinkling of salt across the top really did a wonderful job of enhancing...well, just about everything. (You see, I can use salt appreciatively - I just can't stand it being stuck inside a dish where it gets masked and overpowered. If I'm gonna eat salt, I want it to be added almost as an afterthought, sprinkled across the top of the dish so that it meets my taste buds confidently.)

Naturally, I had leftover dip by the end of this, since I wanted to make the full batch, which called for a convenient full can of beans (which I conveniently found at the back of my pantry before the move). So, the following day for lunch, I made what I can only endearingly refer to as "Tortizzas." Using the last corn tortillas in a tasty attempt to clear some space in my freezer, I made a nacho-turn-personal-pizza concoction that can only be described as Out of This World. I grew impatient in the pre-crisping of the tortillas, so I found the centers to be more akin to Cinco de Mayo Recipe #1 (the stack), meaning I would 100% advocating letting them bake for at least 5-10 minutes in the oven before adding any kind of topping whatsoever. As it is, it's a very fun way to interpret a quick personal pizza recipe, and it would be phenomenal with additional toppings such as salsa, sour cream, jalapeno peppers or chilis, etc.

So, Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone! I hope you enjoy this trio of Mexican-inspired dishes, as I did (though on admittedly the very wrong day of May). The recipes below do reflect the changes that I would make if I were to make this again, which will likely happen in the not so distant future. 

Chicken Salsa Verde Tortilla Stack
Yield: 1 serving

The Ingredients - Salsa Verde*
1/2 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
salt and cayenne pepper
1/4 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound fresh tomatillos, husked
1-2 jalapeƱos, seeded and chopped
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
hot sauce, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste

The Ingredients - The Stack
1/2 breast chicken
cumin and paprika, for seasoning
3 small corn tortillas
1/3 batch salsa verde
2-3 tablespoons cheddar cheese
small handful cherry tomatoes, sliced

The Method
Prepare the salsa verde: cover the bottom of a medium-size saucepan with water and add to it the onion, salt, and cayenne. Cover the pan and cook, without stirring, over medium heat until the onions have softened, approximately 5 minutes. Add in the bell pepper, tomatillos, and jalapenos before covering once more. Cook until the tomatillos have softened significantly and have released their juices, roughly 15-20 minutes. Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor to the desired consistency (recommended: relatively smooth), and season to taste with hot sauce and red pepper flakes, reserving the cilantro for addition just before serving.

Take 2 tablespoons of the salsa and add it to a zip-lock freezer bag along with the chicken, cumin, and paprika, and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour, preferably longer. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and prepare a baking sheet with aluminum foil and either oil or nonstick spray. Spread the tortillas on the sheet, brushing both sides with a very scant amount of oil (optional, though this helps them to crisp). Place the chicken in the oven to bake until fully (or mostly) cooked, approximately 20-30 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the breast. Add the baking sheet of tortillas into the oven for the last 8-10 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through. Once done, remove from the oven and allow the chicken to cool to a temperature that you can reasonably work with, before shredding. Leave the oven on or allow time for a second preheat before the next step.

Assemble the stack: place one tortilla down on a baking dish, spread with 1/3 of the salsa verde**, and top with chicken, tomatoes, and cheese. Place the next tortilla on top and repeat, ending with the third tortilla and a sprinkling of salsa and cheese. Bake in the oven for approximately 15 minutes.

*This recipe, as stated in an earlier entry, is courtesy of Dana Treat
**This means 1/3 of already third-ed batch, aka 1/9 of the total recipe.

Black Bean Dip with Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips & Green Bell Pepper, courtesy of The Local Cook & The Food Network
Yield: 3-4 servings

The Ingredients - The Dip
1 1/2 cups (1 can) black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped pecans
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
dash of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
cayenne pepper, to taste

The Ingredients - The Chips
6-8 six-inch corn tortillas
vegetable oil, for brushing
salt, to taste

The Method
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Brush both sides of the tortillas with the oil, quarter each one, and sprinkle with salt. Bake in an even layer until crisp and lightly golden, approximately 10-15 minutes, rotating the entire sheet halfway through.

Meanwhile, prepare the dip by mashing all of the ingredients in a bowl until well mixed (I found a pastry blender to do a nice job of this). Slice a few segments of bell pepper, and serve with the dip and chips.

Black Bean "Torti-zzas"
Yield: 1 serving

The Ingredients
2 six-inch corn tortillas
4-6 tablespoons black bean dip (above)
diced vegetables of choice (I used green bell pepper and spinach)
condiments of choice (I used cheddar jack cheese)

The Method
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (greased with nonstick spray or oil). Prebake the tortillas in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until crisp but not quite browned. Remove from the oven, spread each tortilla with 2-3 tablespoons of black bean dip and top with vegetables and condiments of choice. Return to the oven to bake for another 15 minutes or so, rotating the sheet halfway through. Remove when the toppings have warmed through and the cheese is melted.

Lastly, I lied to you - I used the black bean dip in another recipe for eggs in a basket. However, that meal was such a hot mess of cheese, egg yolk, and wilted spinach that I couldn't bring myself to snap a picture of it. It was very delicious, so if you find yourself with extra bean dip I'd give it a shot, but I've already taken up enough space on here for one day!

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