I know what you’re probably thinking… “another Mexican sandwich? Dude has some serious sandwich issues.” And you would be correct in that assumption. I promise I will get back to other kinds of meals for the blog at some point in the near future, but for now, enjoy the messy, spicy creation that translates to ‘drowned sandwich’.
I came across a recipe for this sandwich while I was researching recipes for the cemitas from my last post and immediately tagged it for future reference. Like the cemita, the torta ahogada is a regional dish, in this case from the Mexican state of Jalisco. Popular at soccer stadiums of all places (seems awfully messy for eating at a game) and from street stands, this torta is a fairly simple mix of meat, beans, onions and bread which is then dipped or soaked in a red tomato and chile sauce before eating.
As with all regional food items, there are differing schools of thought on the toppings, with some using beans, some using avocado, some calling the use of beans blasphemy, etc. so I kinda mixed and matched from different recipes until I had the version of the sandwich that I wanted.
One of the most distinct ingredients in the torta ahogada is the bread that is used for the authentic recipes. Called bolillo, these rolls are a sourdough-type bread with a salty flavor, thick crust, and very soft inside. They are also not available anywhere near me, at least not that I am aware of.
Since I had never had a sandwich made on bolillo, I quickly disregarded all the comments in the recipe posts from ‘torta experts’ who said it was a sin to make them without the proper bread. The fact that this sandwich is meant to be served with a massive amount of sauce on and in it meant that the bread of choice needed to be a very firm, crusty type of bread in order to keep the sandwich from disintegrating into a pile of soggy goo. For the sake of making single serve sandwiches instead of a sub-style thing, I went with some nice freshly baked ciabatta rolls from a local bakery.
Next up was the choice of meat. Most of the traditional recipes I found used shredded or sliced pork for the ‘meat base’, and normally I wouldn’t mind grilling up a tenderloin for something like this, but after 3 days of working, playing, and drinking in 94+ degree weather made the idea of slaving over a hot grill sound very unappealing. Option 2 was to throw a hunk of pork shoulder into the slow cooker and make pulled pork, but I got a late start today after the aforementioned days of sun and fun (aka ‘I slept till 11 am’) so that idea was out the window too.
Luckily there was a recipe by Ingrid Hoffman on FoodNetwork.com for this version of the sandwich that was also in my saved recipes pile that called for deli roast beef as the meat of choice. I wanted a hearty, meaty sandwich so I asked the guy at the deli to slice the roast beef medium-thick so it would have a similar thickness and texture to a slice of pork off a tenderloin. Meat problem solved.
The Food Network recipe also called for something I hadn’t seen mentioned in most of the traditional recipes I found: smashed avocado on the rolls. Several of the recipes I had dug up did call for using refried beans in a way similar to the avocados in Ingrid’s recipe, so rather than pick one as the way to go, I went with both! Smashed avocado was smeared on the top half of the rolls and the refried beans were smeared on the bottom half. This added to the mess when the finished sandwich was consumed, but it was worth it.
The rest of the ingredients were pretty much the same in every recipe – tomatoes and tomato sauce with some form of chile pepper and garlic for the sauce and sauteed onions for the sandwich. I used up the rest of my chipotles en adobo from the cemita to kick up the sauce, and threw some fresh cilantro and sliced jalapenos on top of the sandwich for a little crunch. I also decided to not dunk the entire sandwich in the sauce before serving like the traditional street vendors do, instead going with laying a finished sandwich in a shallow bowl with a puddle of sauce in it for dipping.
The final sandwich was a gooey mess of smoky, tomato-ey sauce with a kick. All the flavors melded together perfectly, and the crunch from the fresh jalapenos was a nice addition.
Did I mention it was messy? This thing is a 4 napkin meal – if you manage to eat it without making a mess, you did it wrong!