Monday, March 27, 2006


Grilled Beef Tortas (Pepitos)

Richard Sandoval serves these grilled beef tortas for lunch at his Mexican restaurant, Maya, in San Francisco. They make use of bolillos, or French-style rolls, sold at Mexican panaderias.


4 bolillos, sliced in half, or 1 ciabatta or baguette, cut into fourths
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large white onion, sliced
8 ounces fillet tips or hanger steak, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons black bean puree or refried black beans
4 tablespoons guacamole
4 tablespoons diced Gouda
4 tablespoons diced queso Oaxaca (see Note)


Prepare a fire in a barbecue grill. Preheat the oven to broil.
Grill the rolls cut-side down over low heat until marked, then set aside.
Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onion and saute for about 6 minutes, until lightly browned.

Season the meat slices with salt and pepper and place on the grill. Grill for about 3 minutes, turning once, until cooked through.
Place the grilled rolls face-up on a baking sheet. Spread the bean puree and the guacamole on each roll and distribute the cheeses among the rolls. Place under the broiler until the cheese melts, about 2 minutes.
Add the steak and onions and put sandwich halves together.
Serves 4

Note: Look for queso Oaxaca in Latin-American stores.


Serves 4

8 ounces fresh Mexican chorizo sausage, casing removed (about 1 cup)
3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided use)
2 15-ounce cans black (or other) beans OR 31/2 cups home-cooked black (or other) beans with just enough liquid to cover them
4 telera or bolillo rolls, French rolls or submarine sandwich rolls (6 to 7
inches long, 3 inches wide)
About 6 ounces Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese such as feta or goat cheese, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and cut into 1/4-inch slices
About 3/4 cup Roasted Tomatillo Salsa or bottled hot sauce, such as Mexican Tamazula or Bufalo

1. Set a very large (12-inch) skillet over medium heat and add the chorizo. Cook, breaking up the clumps, until browned and thoroughly cooked, about 8 to 9 minutes. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the oil (depending on how much fat the chorizo has rendered) and the beans.

2. As the beans come to a simmer, mash them to a smooth paste with a Mexican bean masher, old-fashioned potato masher or the back of a large cooking spoon. Cook, stirring nearly constantly, until the consistency of of very soft mashed potatoes -expect about 10 minutes after adding the beans. Taste and season with salt if you think necessary.

3. Keep warm over the lowest heat, covered to keep the beans soft and moist. Heat a large griddle or skillet over medium. Slice the rolls open. Use fingers or a spoon to scrape out some of the soft bread in the center of each half, making a small hollow. Brush the insides with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, then lay them cut side down on the griddle or skillet to crisp to a rich golden brown, about 2 minutes. (You may have to do this in batches if your rolls are large or your griddle/skillet small.)

4. Smear about 1/2 cup of the chorizo-bean mixture over the bottom half of each roll. (You'll have about 1 cup of the mixture left over; cover and refrigerate for a midnight snack.) Top with slices of the cheese and the avocado. Spoon on the salsa or dash on the hot sauce. Set the top of the roll in place, and you're ready to serve. Freewheeling Riffs on Tortas Feel free to evolve this recipe as you like.

5. Layer in sliced rotisserie or smoked or grilled chicken. Use leftover roast pork or beef. Choose your favorite cheese (I love goat cheese on a torta.) Grill some onions or add a final, full-flavored layer of pungent herbs such as cilantro (or Pueblan papalo) or pickled chiles (jalapenos or smoky chipotles.) For most Mexican cooks to consider this a torta, you'll need to keep that smear of beans. For me, you'll need to keep the avocado and salsa too.

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