When I'm in a Tex-Mex mood, which is more often than I'd like to admit, I'll frequently cook up a large batch of black beans. They are so versatile that it's really hard to go wrong. They keep fantastically and it's pretty easy to simmer a large pot of them and season them to your liking.
How do I like to use these beans? One of my favorite meals is definitely these crunchy, cheesy pan-fried black bean tacos.
I start the "Black Bean" chapter in Love Your Leftovers with a spicy dried black bean recipe. While the beans simmer, I add some onion, peppers, and cumin seeds to really make the flavors pop. Of course, you can also just used canned black beans in a pinch if you want to make the recipes in that chapter.
The below recipe is sort of a cross between a hard shell taco and a quesadilla. Once you master the method, you'll never go back. It's my wife's favorite recipe in the chapter and she has exceptional taste, evidenced by the fact that she chose to marry me.
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Serves 3 to 4, or makes 8 tacos | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Total Time: 30 minutes
2 cups cooked black beans
1/2 cup minced red onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
Pinch of salt
4 to 6 ounces (1 heaping cup) grated Pepper Jack cheese
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
8 corn tortillas
In a medium bowl, add beans along with red onion, cilantro, cumin, and paprika. Add a pinch of salt and lightly mash all the ingredients together. Grate the cheese and have it ready as well.
In a large, nonstick or cast-iron skillet, add the 2 tablespoons oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add one corn tortilla at a time and let each get hot in the oil for a few seconds. Then add about 1/4 cup of the bean filling to one half of the tortilla. Top with a sprinkle of grated cheese. Try not to overfill the tacos, or you might have issues flipping them without losing filling.
Using a spatula, carefully fold the other half of the tortilla over to form a shell. Press down lightly on the tortilla so it holds its shape. If some cheese spills out, don’t worry — it will get crispy and delicious.
As the first taco cooks, move it to the side and begin a second one. Depending on the size of your pan, you can cook two or three tacos at once. A griddle will hold even more.
Cook each taco until they are nicely browned and crispy, about 3 minutes per side. When flipping the taco to cook on the other side, use a spatula and flip the taco toward the fold so the filling doesn’t fall out. If your pan is very dry between batches, add another drizzle of oil.
Place the cooked tacos in a warm oven while you finish the rest. If the tacos are very greasy, blot them with a paper towel before moving them to the oven.
Serve tacos with toppings like hot sauce, salsa, avocados, and sour cream.
Corn tortillas are resilient to heat. Don’t worry about burning them; they are very sturdy. Just be sure to cook tortillas on each side long enough to get them really crispy.