Wikipedia defines tlacoyos as oval shaped fried cakes made of masa. They are similar to fresh corn tortillas, but are somewhat torpedo shaped and fatter. I define tlacoyos as crunchy little flavor bombs.
My tlacoyos come from a recipe from Rick Bayless's excellent cookbook Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen, winner of the Julia Child Cookbook of the Year Award.
You will need a tortilla press and a couple small sheets of heavy plastic wrap to use with the press. Bayless suggests and I endorse the use of squares of garbage bag for this purpose. It works very well and makes clean up a non-issue. I suppose if you don't have a tortilla press, a flat heavy object of any sort on a flat surface might be substituted, but tortilla presses are cheap and attractive objects. Go get one.
The first part of the recipe makes a lot more black beans than you will need for this application. Make the big pot, and use the black beans elsewhere or pair them with rice for a simple dinner dish another night. They keep for a few days refrigerated and taste great in everything.
You will need to use masa for this recipe. Regular cornmeal is usually ground too finely to substitute, though the adventurous (or masa deprived) can give it a try. If you are lucky enough to have fresh masa, give it a go and I'm envious, but most of us will be stuck using masa harina, and I present the recipe with that ingredient. Masa is readily available at most Latino markets, and in many supermarkets. It comes in a bag much like flour, and should be stored like flour in a cool, dry place.
If you'd like to try making your own masa, Gourmet Sleuth has a nice explanation of how to go about it.
Epazote might be tough to find fresh, but if you have to substitute dried, do it anyway. Epazote gives the beans a nice middle note of flavor that beans and salt by themselves don't have. Most Mexican markets in my area have dried epazote in plastic packets on a wall.
The green tomatilla salsa mentioned in the recipe is one from Bayless's book. You can use a different salsa if you wish, but this salsa was particularly well suited to cut through the earthy flavors of the masa and black beans.
Black Bean Tlacoyos
Part 1 - Black Beans
1 pound dried black beans, washed, picked over to remove dirt, stones, etc...
1 small white onion, diced
2 tablespoons oil (I used corn)
2 sprigs fresh epazote or 1 teaspoon dried epazote
two quarts water and possibly a bit more
one teaspoon salt or to taste
No need to soak the beans for this recipe. In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently to prevent burning for ten minutes or so until the onions have a golden color.
Add the beans and two quarts water to the pot. Add the epazote. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook for two hours, stirring occasionally. If the water level gets less than a half-inch over the beans, add more water to cover.
When beans are tender, without chalky texture at all, add salt to taste. Stir well and simmer for fifteen minutes more so beans absorb salt. Cool and store.
Part 2 - Tlacoyos
1 3/4 cups masa corn meal
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (or lard if you prefer)
pinch of salt
1 cup plus two tablespoons warm water
3/4 cup black beans from above recipe
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Drain the beans, reserving the liquid, and mash them up with a fork. If you find the beans are too dry to mash, add some of the reserved liquid back until you have a spreadable paste.
Mix the masa, shortening, salt, and water together until the dough resembles a soft chocolate chip cookie dough. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts, form into balls, place the balls on a plate and cover with plastic wrap.
Heat a griddle or dry skillet on medium heat. Get the tortilla press out. Cover the bottom plate with a square of heavy plastic. Take a ball of dough and place it in the middle of the press. Put eh second sheet of plastic on top of it and close the press. Push down lightly on the handle to evenly press the masa.
Remove the top sheet of plastic. You will now have a flat round tortilla-like object. Leaving a half-inch gap at each end, drop a teaspoon's worth of mashed black beans in a vertical stripe from top to bottom of the masa circle.
Reach under the plastic and fold two sides in towards each other, parallel to the stripe, loosely covering the filling. You should now have a long box with round ends with the black bean stripe running down the center, partially covered by the folded in sides of the circle. Working from underneath, fold and pinch the masa at the open ends to close it over the bean filling.
The goal is to form an oval, but mine ended up more like rectangles. It won't affect the flavor as long as you keep the black beans on the inside and the masa on the outside.
Place the finished masa oval (OK fine, we can call it tlacoyo now) in the dry pan and toast it for ten minutes. Repeat the forming procedure and add the rest of the tlacoyos to the pan as you can. Toast for about 5 minutes per side, removing finished pieces or batches before adding new ones. The tlacoyos will firm up and the masa will feel more brittle. Set aside on a cooling rack until all are finshed toasting. You should have some dark marks on each one from the pan.
Remove from the cooling rack and place on a plate them cover in plastic wrap again.
Put a baking sheet in the oven and set the temperature of the oven to the lowest possible setting (Probably 150-200 F).Add 1/3 cup of oil to a skillet and heat until shimmering.
Working in batches, carefully lay tlacoyos in the pan until the pan is full but not crowded. Fry for two minutes then turn the tlacoyos over and fry the other side for two minutes. Drain on paper towels, then put the finished tlacoyos on the baking sheet to hold until you are finished with all the pieces and are ready to serve.
Part 3- Accompaniments (use some, all, or none)
1 cup green salsa - roasted tomatilla salsa ideally from p.42 in Bayless's book.
10-12 thinly slice radishes
1/2 diced onion
1/3 pound hot cooked chorizo.
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup crumbled queso anejo
Place items in small containers around the table. Diners may sprinkle some or all of the ingredients on top of the tlacoyos before eating. I highly recommend the onion, salsa, cilantro and queso at the very least. You can imagine other accompaniments that would go well here.
I served these with a mushroom and cactus soup. They made a nice crunchy accompaniment. You could use all sorts of fillings if you preferred. I plan to try a spicy mushroom and zucchini filling next with larger tlacoyos.