While I was in Texas over the holidays, I did a lot more than celebrate and spoil my parents’ miniature schnauzer. The second week of vacation wasn’t vacation at all, really. I hosted a pop-up sale in my parents’ dining room and catered my friend/reader Robyn’s birthday party!
Together with my sous chef/little sister, Eliot, I made a full Tex-Mex dinner for Robyn’s 30 guests. There were pans and pans of Enchiladas Suizas, chorizo refried beans, and Mexican rice (side dish recipes coming later this week!), and a Mexican Vanilla Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream. Robyn let me use her amazing Mexican vanilla for the cake, and even gave me a bottle! Talk about a good hostess 😊
I was super happy with all the food, but the biggest hit of the party was the appetizer: Caramelized Mushroom Tostadas. And who wouldn’t love them? Crispy fried tortillas layered with guacamole, sweet and savory mushrooms, pickled red onion, and cotija cheese–they’re an unbelievable combination of flavors and textures! Crispy, crunchy, creamy, earthy, sweet, salty, and tangy–that’s a lot to pack into a two-bite canapé.
While these Caramelized Mushroom Tostadas make a great appetizer (just use a 2 1/2″ round cutter to make tiny tostada shells), they’re also a great main course. There are a few steps in putting them together, but they’re not difficult to make at all! This batch came together in an hour, including making the guacamole and frying the tostada shells. Sure, you could use purchased guac and shells, but the homemade versions are super simple to make and far more delicious than anything you can find in stores.
Start by quick-pickling some red onion. I know pickling can sound daunting, but this method is so simple, it’s ridiculous. Just whisk together vinegar, sugar, and salt, and pour it over some thinly-sliced red onion. Let that sit at room temperature for an hour. That’s literally it–easy. You can make these pickles up to two weeks in advance. Just keep them in the brine in the fridge.
While your red onions are pickling, caramelize some mushrooms. Well, a lot of mushrooms–this recipe requires a full pound of them! When they’re all sliced up, it will look like you way over-prepared, but mushrooms shrink down dramatically while cooking. Once all is said and done, you’ll be left with about two cups.
What makes these mushrooms caramelized? Two things. First, they’re cooked over pretty high heat until nice and brown. Second, they’re seasoned with sugar in addition to salt, cumin, and cayenne. Sweetened mushrooms might sound a little odd, but along with the salt and spices, they are super delicious.
The most daunting step of the whole tostada-making process is definitely making the shells, but really, there’s nothing to fear. I know a lot of people are intimidated by frying, but they shouldn’t be. Yes, there’s hot oil and that can burn you, but if you take the proper precautions, you’ll be fine. Fill a clean, dry pan with 1/2-inch of oil. When the oil is nice and hot, take a couple of corn tortillas and gently place them in the pan. They’ll bubble up quickly and dramatically. After about 45 seconds, they’ll start turning golden at the edges. Flip the tortillas and cook for another 30 seconds or so. Transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle them with salt. Voila! You just made tostada shells and you and your kitchen are still intact 😊
Once the tortillas are crispy, it’s time to assemble the tostadas. Spread guacamole over each tostada shell. Scatter the beautiful brown caramelized mushrooms over the guac, and then top them with a few of the pickled red onions. Sprinkle on some cotija cheese and dig in!
Caramelized Mushroom Tostadas
makes 5-6 six-inch tostadas
Quick-Pickled Red Onion:
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced (I use a combination of white button and cremini)
1 1/2 tablespoons (4 1/2 teaspoons) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
neutral-flavored oil (I used canola)
6 corn tortillas
1-1 1/2 cups guacamole
2 tablespoons grated cotija cheese
Pickle the red onion. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar, and salt. Allow sugar and salt to dissolve. Place sliced red onion in a jar. Pour vinegar mixture over the top and cover. Let sit for one hour.
Caramelize the mushrooms. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add approximately 1/3 of the sliced mushrooms. Stir occasionally until starting to brown. Move cooked mushrooms to the edge of the pan, and add another 1/3 of the mushrooms. When those are cooked, move them to the side. Brown the last 1/3 of the mushrooms. Sprinkle mushrooms with sugar, salt, cumin, and cayenne. Stir and continue to cook just until sugar melts. Set aside.
Make the tostada shells. Line a plate with a double layer of paper towels. Set aside.
Heat 1/2-inch of canola oil in a medium-large skillet over medium-high heat. Let oil get very hot (mine reached 350F). Working in batches, fry tortillas for 45 seconds-1 minute, until turning golden at the edges. Use tongs to flip tortillas, and let fry for an additional 30-45 seconds, until crisp. Remove to paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Assemble tostadas. Spread 2-3 tablespoons of guacamole over each tostada shell, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top guacamole with 2-3 tablespoons of caramelized mushrooms. Add a few pieces of pickled red onion. Sprinkle with cotija cheese.
Serve tostadas immediately. Leftover assembled tostadas do not keep well.