Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Stuffing Yourself Silly On Tortas

I looked all over San Miguel for a Cemita and I couldn’t find one. I’m new here so unless I am missing something there are none to be found. Anyway, it gives me an excuse to go to Puebla to get this sandwich which is served on a bread roll that’s covered with sesame seeds. It’s as much about the sandwich as it is the roll. That’s not the real draw however; the bread is made with egg, and resembles a brioche. Just mention Brioche and you have my attention.

I decided to try the closest thing here in San Miguel, the Torta, at:

El Tucan, Hernando Macias #56

Torta Mundo, Umaran #29

Tortitlan, Juarez #17

Back in Chicago, I go to Rick Bayless’s street food restaurant XOCO where they serve tortas in soup. I’ve gotten use to eating them that way so this will be a new adventure.

For those who have not had one, a torta is served on a bolillo to which you add meat (a milanesa of pork, chicken or steak or ham) and then overstuff with veggies. For the most part, they are pretty healthy except if you select a milanesa, which of course I did because many people told me it was their favorite.

After a brief flirt with all three, El Tucan and Tortitlan topped my list as the best torta restaurants in San Miguel. 

At Hernandez Macias #56, El Tucan turned out to be a real find in many other ways.

I hesitated when I walked in the door because this was Guy Fieri’s (Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives) definition of a real dive ( a hole in the wall, not necessary speaking about the way they prepare their food).

Dives are also known by locals as the best place to eat, because of both price and the quality of the food.

Fact of the matter was the smell of French fries drew me in. They were REAL French fries and I stood in the entry, next to the long stove, watching the cook cut them. These were the first fresh-cut fries I’ve had since I’ve been in San Miguel. Did I tell you that French Fries are my favorite food? I was impressed.

After having the Torta Milanesa Pollo, which was delicious, I decided to go back the next day to try the hamburger. Guy Fieri would give this place a huge thumbs up for the food. I actually can’t remember when a burger tasted so darn good. Alejandro, the owner, grinds fresh hamburger daily from flank steak. He worked in Illinois for many years and truly knows fresh food.

That night, I decided to try my hand and make a Torta for dinner. I used only the best ingredients:

Bolillos from Cumpanio Bakery, Correo #29
Bread crumbs from La Queseria, Calle Ancha San Antonio #35b
Chicken from La Lonja Carniceria , Mesones #33
Veggies from the Organic market

I have to admit that I liked my version better than the ones I ate out and it all goes back to the fresh ingredients.

OK – So I’m Still Craving a Cemita…

I had a Cemita recipe from a 2004 issue of Gourmet magazine. After looking high and low for a cemita bun, or something like one, I made this sandwich today. It was exactly the savor I was craving. I thought that it would be hot but it was actually just the right amount of spice.

We’ll see when I travel to Puebla which one is better.

For chile-marinated pork or chicken:
6 dried guajillo chiles
1 dried ancho chile
4 thin (1/2- inch) rib pork chops, bones (1 lb total) discarded or chicken
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 whole clove
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 large garlic cloves, quartered
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

For sandwiches:
4 Mexican cemita rolls or sesame seed hamburger buns
2 avocados
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 1/2 cups Oaxaca cheese or mozzarella cheese, shredded
4 chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped
1/2 large white onion, thinly sliced
1 large plum tomato, thinly sliced crosswise

Discard chile stems and cut guajillo and ancho chiles open lengthwise. Discard seeds and ribs.

Heat a dry heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot, then toast chiles, a few at a time, turning and pressing down with tongs, until softened and fragrant, about 10 seconds per side.

Transfer chiles to a bowl, then cover with hot water and soak until softened, about 20 minutes.

Trim fat from pork or chicken and pound between 2 sheets of wax paper with flat side of a meat pounder or with a rolling pin until meat is about 1/8 inch thick.

Heat skillet over low heat until hot then toast cumin, peppercorns, clove, and cinnamon, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Transfer spices to a blender and add vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt, and soaked chiles with about 1/3 cup soaking water, then blend until smooth. Transfer half of chile paste to an airtight container and chill or freeze for another use, then put remainder in a small bowl.

Spread a thin layer of chile paste in middle of a sheet of plastic wrap large enough to wrap all of meat and put 1 pork chop over paste. Spread a thin layer of chile paste on top, then continue layering meat, spreading each piece with chile paste. Wrap stacked pork in plastic wrap and marinate, chilled, at least 2 hours.

Heat 1tablespoons oil in a heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Season pork chops or chicken with salt and sauté, in batches, adding more oil as necessary, until just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Toast rolls in the oven until golden brown.

In a bowl, lightly mash avocado with a fork, then spread on both sides of rolls.

Season avocado with salt, then top with cilantro.

Next layer pork, cheese, chipotles, onion, and tomato.

Buen Apetito!