I’m a terrible gardener. But people tend to think of me as the green-thumb type because I work with food. And I suppose a lot of food people are green thumb people, but I am certainly not one of those people. I think it all comes down to a general dislike of yardwork. I love being outside but weeding is not my idea of a good time. But what makes weeding better? Cooking something slowly and lazily on the BBQ while you work. Something like these Beer-Braised Chicken Tostadas with Schmaltzy Refried Beans. Oh! And a cold beer reward certainly doesn’t hurt.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been spending hours whipping my front and back garden into shape. Or at least shape enough to keep the neighbors from silently judging me more than they already do. It’s been hard and hot work because naturally, I left the clean-up a little too long, and now it’s pretty much summer. One of these years I will get it right and start the yardwork in April, as every other sane person does. So to keep my spirits up, my partner and I have been indulging in BBQ adventures. We’ve been trying out all sorts of recipes on our charcoal kettle and I’ve been absolutely loving it.
My favorite thing to come out of our kettle this year are these Beer-Braised Chicken Tostadas. These take next to no time to prep and they are completely hands-off for a good hour and a half. And they serve up some solid aromatherapy while you wrestle with your raspberry cane. Simply brown some chicken thighs and drumsticks in a cast iron pot. Add some onions, garlic, a whole can of chipotle peppers, and a whole can of beer. Pop a cover on and place the pot in the center of your charcoal grill with hot coals flanking each side of the pot. Try to keep your bbq in the ballpark of 300°F. You have about 25° of wiggle room on either side. So you don’t have to babysit it too much.
Now, I realize not everyone has a BBQ in their backyard or a backyard for that matter. So I did test this recipe out in the oven and it was delicious. The only thing it lacked was that tell-tale smokiness. But honestly, once the winter rolls around again, I’m going to make this chicken in the oven on repeat. And I’m not going to be the least bit mad about it. So yeah, as long as you have an oven you can make this dish.
The other amazing thing about this chicken is you can use the braising liquid as the base for tortilla soup. All you have to do is chill it, scoop off the layer of fat that collects and solidifies on top, and puree it. Then add it to a pot with some chicken stock, a couple of cans of beans, and whatever veg you’re itching to get rid of. Top the soup with some cheese, avocado, and of course, some tortilla chips. So really, when you make this Beer-Braised Chicken you’re not just making dinner, you’re meal-prepping like one of those together people.
While the chicken is amazing, the refried bean threatened to steal the whole dang show. What I think made them extra delicious was the schmaltz. For the uninitiated, schmaltz is rendered chicken fat. It’s a very common ingredient in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. It’s what makes matzo ball soup so delicious, in my opinion. So when I was prepping the chicken legs for the pot, I made sure to reserve any excess chicken skin I trimmed away. Then I got my beans started with that skin. The result was a batch of extremely flavourful and unctuous refried beans. They tasted like I had labored over them for hours when in fact I did little more than open a couple of cans.
You can make the beans ahead of time and reheat them prior to serving. Spending a night in the fridge actually does the beans some good. You can also fry your tostadas ahead of time. I shallow fried my corn tortillas until they were golden and then I left them. While they certainly weren’t hot when it was time for dinner, they were crispier. And I found the piping hot toppings, warmed up the tostadas considerably anyway. So my advice to you is to fry the tostadas early.
As with any taco, burrito, or sandwich, the toppings are to your taste. You could literally pile anything you like on these guys. Just be aware if you’re overzealous with your toppings like I was, you will need a knife and fork. I went with shredded cabbage, white onion, radish, cilantro, jalapeño, and crumbled feta cheese. I would have used cotija if any store near me carried it. But if cotija is readily available where you live, I would suggest using it instead of the feta. But the feta does work in a pinch.
That’s everything you need to know about these Beer-Braised Chicken Tostadas with Schmaltzy Refried Beans. These are such a lazy but full-flavored cook. Perfect for slow summer afternoons and chill hangouts with friends. And be sure to make the tortilla soup the next day, I promise you won’t regret it.
Beer-Braised Chicken Tostadas with Schmaltzy Refried Beans
- 1 cast-iron pot
- 1 cast-iron frying pan
- 1 Food Processor optional
- 1 potato masher optional
- 3 whole chicken legs
- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 sweet onion cut into wedges
- 6 cloves garlic smashed and peeled
- 1 tbsp tomato paste heaping
- 1 (186ml, 6.5 fl oz) can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 1 (473ml, 16 fl oz) can beer I used an amber ale
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 lime juiced
Schmaltzy Refried Beans
- reserved chicken skin
- 2 (540 ml, 19 fl oz) cans black beans ** drained and rinsed
- ½ white onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 lime juiced
- 8 corn tortillas
- ½ cup neutral oil I used canola
- 1 batch Schmaltzy Refried Beans see above
- 1 batch Beer-Braised Chicken see above
- ½ white onion finely diced
- ¼ head savoy cabbage shredded
- 1-2 jalapeños sliced thin on a mandolin
- 3-4 radishes sliced thin on a mandolin
- ½ cup feta crumbled
- Tajín for sprinkling
- fresh cilantro sprigs to garnish
- lime wedges to garnish
For the Beer-Braised Chicken
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. If using a charcoal grill, organize the coals in two baskets on either side of the BBQ. Try to maintain a grill temperature between 275° and 325°F.
- Separate the chicken legs into thighs and drumsticks. Remove and reserve any excess skin. Season the chicken liberally with salt and set aside.3 whole chicken legs
- Pour the flour into a bowl and roll each chicken piece in the flour until coated. Set the chicken aside.⅔ cup all-purpose flour
- In a cast-iron pot brown the chicken on all sides over medium-high heat. Remove the chicken from the pot and set it aside.
- Add the onion and garlic to the pot and sprinkle generously with salt. Saute until the onion is just translucent. Stir in the tomato paste, chipotle peppers, beer, and honey. Bring the mixture up to a boil then take it off of the heat.1 sweet onion, 6 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1 (186ml, 6.5 fl oz) can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, 1 (473ml, 16 fl oz) can beer, 2 tbsp honey
- Return the chicken to the pot and cover. Transfer the pot either to the middle rack of the oven or the center of your charcoal grill. Cook the chicken for an hour and 20 minutes or until the meat is falling off of the bone. Take the chicken off of the heat and finish with the lime juice1 lime
- Remove the chicken from the pot and place it on a plate. Shred the chicken with two forks and remove the bones. Keep the meat warm until ready to serve. Reserve the braising mixture for future tortilla soup.
For the Beans
- Place the reserved chicken skin in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Render the chicken fat out of the skin and then remove it from the pan.reserved chicken skin
- Add the onion to the skillet along with a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until the onion is just translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute more.½ white onion, 4 cloves garlic
- Pour the beans and chicken stock into the frying pan and bring everything up to a simmer. Simmer the beans for 10 minutes before removing from the heat and placing them in a food processor. *** Add the lime juice and blitz until smooth. Taste and season with salt accordingly. ****2 (540 ml, 19 fl oz) cans black beans **, ½ cup chicken stock, 1 lime
For the Tostadas
- Pour the oil into a large cast-iron skillet and heat until shimmering. Add the corn tortillas and fry until golden on both sides. Transfer the tortillas to a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside them to drain.8 corn tortillas, ½ cup neutral oil
- Top the tortillas with a spoonful of refried beans and a generous amount of chicken. Finish the tostadas with cabbage, jalapeño rings, radish, cilantro, feta cheese, onion, and a sprinkling of Tajín. Serve immediately with lime wedges and a round of beers.1 batch Schmaltzy Refried Beans, 1 batch Beer-Braised Chicken, ½ white onion, ¼ head savoy cabbage, 1-2 jalapeños, 3-4 radishes, ½ cup feta, Tajín, fresh cilantro sprigs, lime wedges