IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Tortas Ahogadas

SERVINGS
6
RATE THIS RECIPE
(2)
Ren Fuller
SERVINGS
6
RATE THIS RECIPE
(2)

Ingredients

Salsa de Jitomate
  • 3 pounds Roma tomatoes, cored and left whole
  • 1/4 medium white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons rendered lard or extra-virgin olive oil
Salsa Picante
  • 8 chiles de árbol, stemmed
  • 1/4 medium white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons rendered lard or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Tortas
  • 6 birotes salados, bolillos or hoagie rolls
  • 2 cups frijoles refritos
  • 1⅓ pounds carnitas estilo Ciudad Mexico
To Serve
  • cebolla morada encurtida
  • quartered radishes
  • lime wedges

Chef notes

It's amazing to me to see how many riffs there are on this torta around the country. I have tried many of them, but nothing comes close to the original in Guadalajara, where the star of the show is the bread, the birote — a deep golden-brown, crusty roll with a slight tang from lime juice. Panaderos (bakers) will tell you that the birote can only be made properly in Guadalajara because of the high altitude (5,138 feet) and climate of the city. The birote has such a crispy crust that you have to bathe it in a salsa in order to soften it up enough to eat without cutting your mouth. But that crust soaks up all of those delicious flavors from the salsas and melts in your mouth when you take a bite. The torta is filled with slow-braised pork carnitas that fall apart and melt into the torta and sit atop of a thin layer of refried beans. Two salsas, one tomato-based and the other made from spicy chile de árbol, allows you to control the level of heat in each torta.

Preparation

For the salsa de jitomate:

In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring the tomatoes, onion, cloves, garlic, oregano, salt, cumin and 2 cups water to a boil. Cover and cook until the skin starts to peel away from the tomatoes, for about 10 minutes. Working in batches if necessary, transfer the tomatoes, aromatics and cooking liquid to a blender and carefully puree until smooth.

Wipe the pot dry with paper towels. Heat the lard over high heat. Strain the tomato puree through a fine-mesh sieve (discard the solids) and pour the strained puree into the hot lard (be careful — the mixture will spit and splatter). Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened slightly and the flavors have come together, for about 20 minutes. Keep in the pot until ready to serve.

For the salsa picante:

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the chiles de árbol, onion, garlic and 2 cups water to a boil. Cook until the chiles are softened, for about 10 minutes. Transfer to the blender and puree until smooth.

Wipe the pot dry with paper towels. Heat the lard over high heat. Strain the chile de árbol puree through a fine mesh sieve, discard the solids and pour the strained puree into the hot lard (be careful — the mixture will spit and splatter). Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the vinegar and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened slightly and the flavors have come together, for about 15 minutes.

Assemble the torta:

Warm the salsas. Split the birotes horizontally, keeping the roll attached on one long side. Spread about 1/3 cup frijoles on the bottom of each birote, then top with the carnitas.

To serve:

Carefully dip each torta into the pot of warm salsa de jitomate (you can also ladle the salsa de jitomate over each torta, but I prefer to dip the torta so that the salsa gets into every nook and cranny and the carnitas and the cut sides of the bread get good and soaked). Transfer to a deep plate or wide bowl and spoon a bit more salsa over each torta; it should pool around the edges. Top with salsa picante and cebolla morada encurtida. Serve with the radishes and lime wedges on the side.

Reprinted with permission from "Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico" by Rick Martínez, copyright© 2022. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.