I have this friend. Her name is Kristen.
Kristen and I met in the best of ways — we were Craigslist roommates. When I first moved to DC, I was sleeping on a very gracious friend’s couch for two or three weeks while I was job and house hunting. I didn’t quite understand how carnivorous house hunting in this city would be, and Kristen’s house happened to be the first actual open house I’ve ever experienced.
It was a group house near Dupont Circle, and the room was going for $780 — a steal, even by 2009 standards. On my walk to the house, I figured: well, a room in the gayborhood that I can actually afford. There must be something wrong with the place.
When I walked in, I was initially shocked by the number of girls in the house, visiting to try to snag the room. But I luckily ran into Sarah, the girl who was moving out (insert typical name-coincidence banter here), who gave me a quick tour of the room. I asked her a few questions, and I like to think that she and I hit it off. I think I mentioned that this was my first open house.
“Here’s what you do,” she said. “Go find each of the roommates. Talk to them, and make sure they remember you. Say hi to Kristen first — she’s on the balcony.”
So I worked my way through a tiny house filled with girls, some of them dressed up and holding gift bottles of wine. Well, this is probably a waste, I thought to myself, regretting the choice of sweaty running clothes amidst all the yuppies in their post-work wear. There were at least seven people on a patio that comfortably fits four. There was a white couch with one seat open. I looked at it, and the girl sitting there offered me the seat. That was Kristen.
Kristen was wearing the equivalent of (purple) Soffe shorts and a yellow-ish spaghetti tank top. It was a hot and sweaty night in September. She was drinking cheap beer. She later informed me that other Sarah had made her change from a less acceptable outfit into this one. She argues that her future roommates needed to know what she’d actually look like when living with her — valid.
“Nice,” I said, pointing to the beer.
“I teach 7th graders,” she replied. I think I made a joke about how she should probably double fist with another beer. We hit it off, and I told her that I wanted to meet the other roommates that lived there. She mentioned one of them still being at work, and the other, well, he apparently made pancakes every day at 2 PM (more true than I’d like to remember).
So I eventually worked my way through the house, met the boys (and even asked which one of them made pancakes on the reg). I made friends with the other girls there, mostly under the assumption that no one I met would have been offered the room. After all, you have to form allies. I needed a place to live. As I walked down the steps of the house, a few of the girls and I exchanged phone numbers. The companionship in such a competitive situation was more comforting than I expected.
I took the train back to Arlington, where I was staying, and decided to grab a cheap dinner at the Pentagon City mall on my way home. They had wifi, so I figured I could check Craigslist for any housing postings that I hadn’t written to yet (I’m pretty good at the numbers game). And right when I sat down with my three-dollar slice of pizza and opened my computer, the email from Sarah was there — I got the room. I had a home!
Without even thinking about it, I accepted. And moved in a week or two later. It was a good year-and-a-half run in that house — I started this blog, and Kristen was part of the core group that encouraged it. Hopefully, you’ll be reading a guest post from her sometime soon (I’ve been trying to get her to write about these tostadas for six months).
Now, she has her own apartment, and hands-down, the cutest cat in the world. Last winter, she made this dish for brunch one morning — years later, she decided to pick up cooking. It made me so. happy.
This is the result of a brilliantly creative, DGAF mind who randomly decides to pick up cooking. She made this up on the fly. I’ve attempted to recreate the recipe below.
Simple Chicken Tostadas, a la Go Team Kristen (makes 6 tostadas)
8 corn tortillas (6 for tostadas, 2 to slice into strips for garnish)
1 can refried beans
2 jalapenos, diced
2 or 3 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 to 5 green onions, depending on how much you adore green onions
A handful of chopped red cabbage
Salt and pepper
Shredded cheese, jack or cheddar
1 Avocado, sliced
1 lime, sliced
This dish requires a sink full of dishes, but it’s well worth it.
Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
To start, pat the pieces of chicken dry with a paper towel, and season them with salt and pepper. Heat a drizzle of vegetable oil in a skillet, and cook the chicken on medium heat. Saute with a healthy handful of diced jalapenos and green onions until the chicken is cooked all the way through (and hopefully with a bit of browning). Once that’s done, transfer the contents of the skillet to a bowl, and set aside.
In a small saucepan, empty the can of refried beans and heat on medium.
Then, drizzle a little bit more oil into the skillet, and have a baking sheet nearby. Carefully fry each tortilla, one at a time, until crispy — getting both sides to reach a light golden brown (we’ll be baking them as well, so you don’t want them too dark). As you finish each one, place them about an inch apart from each other on your baking sheet. Then, slice the remaining 2 tortillas into 1/4-inch strips, and fry until crispy. Let those ones drain on a paper towel, and set aside.
Spoon a dollop of refried bean on each tortilla, spreading to cover the tortilla, but leaving an edge for a crust. Then, top with a portion of the cooked chicken, and then the shredded cheese. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly — about 10 minutes. But keep an eye on it, since everyone’s oven is different!
While the tostadas are in the oven, combine the chopped cabbage, green onions, and remaining jalapenos into a bowl with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
When you remove the tostadas, top them with sour cream, the cabbage mixture, avocado slices, and the fried tortilla strips. Serve with a wedge of lime.