In Spanish, the word Pirata means pirate, and I had never heard of one in the food sense until I found them at a puesto in Monterrey that sold nothing else! It turned out to be a thing of beauty: a burrito-size flour tortilla filled with a thin layer of refried beans topped with mesquite-smoked fajitas, caramelized onions, and grated asadero cheese. Instead of being wrapped and served like a burrito, it was folded in half like a giant taco and then crisped to a golden brown on a hot griddle with a light film of oil. It was then served with a dollop of guacamole. As luck would have it, I found another place serving them the next day, and over the years one or two more. What brought them to mind is that I recently saw them advertised by the small Taco Palenque chain, the only place I’ve ever found them in the U.S. There, they are served in small taco-sized flour tortillas without the final crisping (but they’re still very good! To show just how rare they are, I could find no mention of them in the great Mexican chef, Ricardo Muñoz’s seminal Diccionario Enciclopédico de Gastronomía Mexicano. In all these years, it’s the first item that was not included!
Because of its scarcity and relative obscurity, I decided that I would relate the name to the form: a large flour tortilla filled and browned, no matter what the filling, except that it really should have cheese. This makes it a versatile item that is quick and easy to prepare. It also makes it difficult to write a one-size-fits-all recipe.
Bearing the above in mind, I suggest you first decide how much you want to eat, which will go a long way in determining what size tortilla you use. One of my favorites is to use the wafer-thin uncooked flour tortillas made by Guerrero called Fresqui-ricas that are usually found in the bread department with cooked tortillas. They are about 8 inches in diameter, and for a fresh and delicious result all you have to do is cook them on a hot surface for about 1 minute or less on each side. I then remove them to a work surface and spread a thin layer of refried beans on ½ the tortilla, sprinkle on cheese (Oaxaca, Chihuahua, Mozzarella, or Monterey Jack are good choices), and top with whatever filling I want, such as grilled beef, pork, or chicken, or one of the picadillos. Add a little salsa or pico de gallo, and maybe some caramelized onion, and fold it in half. I then drizzle a few drops of oil into a large Teflon pan over medium heat and place the formed piratas on it. After about 1 minute on each side, they become a crispy golden brown. Feel free to leave out or add as many items as you wish. I’m not sure, but think it will still be a pirata, and without any doubt it will be delicious!