I really didn’t like TexMex. I blame it on overexposure to crappy quick service chain restaurants and the fact I never set food in Texas until a few years ago. But even more than TexMex, I really didn’t and still don’t like Taco Bell Mexican Pizza (although, as a tween I’d scrounge coins from my sister’s car and buy them on a regular basis). So, when I found myself in a TexMex restaurant in San Antonio, I was simultaneously intrigued and mortified to find a Mexican pizza on the menu.
In fairness, it wasn’t called a Mexican pizza, but a tlayuda, and, out of respect to Mexican culinary connoisseurs like Diana Kennedy, I should explain that a tlayuda isn’t a pizza but a traditional Oaxacan street food. It’s made by charring a handmade tortilla over a comal, smothering it with refried black beans, piling it with a heap of cabbage, and topping it with an assortment of garnishes from tomatoes and avocados to cecina or chorizo.
Honestly though, who has a comal? And, for the record, when you look at a tlayuda, it kinda resembles a pizza, no? Just swap a tortilla for pizza dough, refried beans for tomato sauce, Mexican cheese for Italian, and sprinkle on some fresh, uncooked toppings. But no matter how you slice it, an authentic tlayuda resides in a place far away any pizza much less that Taco Bell pizza.
But wait — let me get back to San Antonio. My food-loving, road trip companions (aka the Three Amigas) and I decided to try out the tlayuda, and while it met the mark for tradition, it just wasn’t very exciting. By the end of the meal, we were certain we could do better, so each of us amigas is posting our own improved take. Gaby’s and Lillian’s sound fantastic but here’s mine: a TexMex Tlayuda.
Typically made with a over-sized tortilla, I had a hard time finding a tortilla big enough that would also get as crisp as I’d like (I’m always in need of crunch in my food). Then, when I found the tortilla, it was seriously unwieldy to eat, so I decided to make this one individual-sized. Since my trip taught me not only about driving and drinking (not simultaneously, of course) but also about how rocking real TexMex food can be, it felt only fair to give my tlayuda a TexMex spin. So here it is: a blend of flavors reminiscent of a traditional tlayuda with a nod to Texas Caviar and topped with my favorite taco toppings. It’s nowhere near traditional but is my very personalized take on the dish. Perhaps we could coin it AidaMex? Or not.