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Whip up and serve these last-minute New Year's dishes: Chicken tostadas, quesadillas

Having friends or family over to watch the ball drop but don't know what to serve them? Lucky for you, chef Aarón Sánchez has some quick and flavorful snacks that will have you in and out of the kitchen so you can enjoy your party. Here, he shares his recipes for chicken tostadas, salsa, zucchini quesadillas and more.Chicken tostadasCourtesy of "Simple Food, Big Flavor" by Aarón SánchezServes

Having friends or family over to watch the ball drop but don't know what to serve them? Lucky for you, chef Aarón Sánchez has some quick and flavorful snacks that will have you in and out of the kitchen so you can enjoy your party. Here, he shares his recipes for chicken tostadas, salsa, zucchini quesadillas and more.

Chicken tostadas
Courtesy of "Simple Food, Big Flavor" by Aarón Sánchez

Serves 6 as an appetizer or 2 for a main


  • 2 cups Roasted Tomato-Chile de Árbol Salsa (see below) or you can use store bought
  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • Salt
  • One 16-ounce can refried beans
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 1 Hass avocado
  • 3 cups finely shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/3 cup crumbled dry cheese, such as cotija (preferably the Cacique brand), lightly salty feta, or ricotta salata
  • 1/2 cup crema fresca (preferably the Cacique brand) or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges 

Heat the Roasted Tomato-Chile de Árbol Salsa and chicken in a skillet or medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is warmed through. Season with salt to taste, and keep it warm on the back of the stove.

Heat the refried beans in a small saucepan until hot. Set aside and keep warm.

Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Pour 1/4 inch of oil into a medium cast-iron skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Put 1 tortilla in the oil and fry until golden brown, turning once and pushing it flat into the hot oil, about 1 minute total. Transfer the fried tortilla to the baking sheet to drain. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Carefully spread a layer of refried beans on each tortilla with a knife, then spoon on some of the chicken mixture. Halve, pit, peel, and slice the avocado and top each tostada with avocado, lettuce, and radishes. Sprinkle each with cheese, then drizzle on the crema fresca or top with a dollop of sour cream. Garnish with the cilantro and serve immediately with a wedge or lime on the side to squeeze on before eating. 

Roasted tomato-chile de arbol salsa
Makes 2 cups


  • 1 pound plum tomatoes (about 4)
  • 3-6 chiles de árbol, depending on how spicy you like it
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the boiler.

Put the tomatoes on a baking sheet and broil, until the tomatoes are nice and charred, 10 to 12 minutes. Take the tomatoes out, let them cool just until you can handle them, slip off the skins, and cut out the tough cores. Transfer the tomatoes to a big bowl (don't you dare forget the tomato juice that has leaked out and reduced to awesomeness on the baking sheet), then roughly chop them.

While the tomatoes are broiling, heat a dry skillet over medium heat and toast the chiles (in batches, if necessary), flipping them over occasionally, until they just begin to smoke, about 5 minutes. Set them aside in a bowl.

Put the olive oil, onion, and garlic in a saucepan, set it over medium heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 7 minutes. Add the toasted chiles, tomatoes and 2 cups of water, bring to a simmer and cook for another 12 minutes, so the flavors come together. Let it cool a bit.

Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender. Add the cilantro, salt and pepper and puree until the mixture is very smooth.

Pour the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Store the salsa in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to a week, or in the freezer for a month. 

Zucchini quesadillas
Serves 4


  • 4 oz. queso quesadilla cheese, shredded
  • Olive oil, for cooking
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 poblano pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 2 cups of sliced zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 3 sprigs cilantro, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ten-inch flour tortillas

Heat a large sauté pan with a little oil and sauté the onion, garlic, and the roasted poblano pepper for 5 minutes until the onions have become translucent. Then, add the zucchini and deglaze with chicken stock. Add the cilantro, and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

To compose the quesadilla, lay 2 of the tortillas on a flat surface. Distribute the cheese equally on both tortillas. Then, spread 1/2 of the filling over the cheese. Cover with the other tortilla, place on heated griddle on nonstick sauté pan with a little oil, and cook for 3 minutes on each side. When nice and golden brown on each side and cheese has melted, remove and cut into quarters.

Mexican brownies
Yields: 18 servings


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground Mexican cinnamon (canela)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pequin chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides. Press the paper into the corners of the pan and lightly grease the paper with butter.

Melt the 2 sticks of butter in a nonstick saucepan over medium-low heat; do not boil. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. 

Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla to the saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.Add the cocoa, flour, cinnamon, chili powder, salt and baking powder and mix until smooth. 

Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out fudgy, 20 to 25 minutes. 

Cool in the pan on a rack, then use the parchment paper to lift out the brownies before slicing.