Torta Loca de Pollo y Plátano
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breast filets)
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus 3 tablespoons if frying chicken, plus more for plantains
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
4 whole cloves
2 very ripe plantains, peeled and diagonally sliced
1 1/2 cups refried beans, homemade or store bought
6 bolillos, teleras, individual baguettes or large baguettes cut into 4-inch pieces and halved
2 large ripe Mexican avocados, halved, pitted, meat scooped out and sliced
Place the chicken in a container or dish.
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, oil, cumin, cinnamon, allspice black pepper and salt. With your hands, pulverize the tops of the cloves into the mix and discard the stems. Whisk with a fork or whisk until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture all over the chicken, making sure it is entirely covered. You may marinate it for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator, or cook immediately.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Make sure your chicken thighs are not rolled out before you bake them; they should be in their normal shape, as if there were a bone still in them. Place the baking dish with the chicken in the oven and roast for 25 minutes. Raise the oven temperature to 500 and roast for 5 more minutes, until the chicken has browned on top and bottom and the meat is thoroughly cooked. Alternatively, heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large casserole or frying pan set over medium high heat. Once hot, cook the chicken for about 4 to 5 minutes per side.
Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before you slice. Once it is cool enough to handle, cut each thigh into 1/2-inch slices across the grain.
Heat about 1/2-inch oil in a large casserole or frying pan over medium to medium-high heat. Once it is hot, test with a plantain slice to see if there are active bubbles all around it (without foaming over). Fry the plantain slices, without crowding the pan (you may need to do it in batches), for about 2 to 3 minutes per side until they are golden brown, a bit caramelized and crisp. Remove and place on a paper towel covered plate.
Heat your refried beans!
To assemble the tortas: If the bread is fresh, just slice it in half, no need to toast. If it isn’t fresh, toast it for a few minutes. Spread about 2 to 3 tablespoons refried beans on the bottom half, top with 4 to 5 cooked plantain slices, then a chicken thigh and then 3 to 4 slices of avocado. Place top half on bread on. Cut in half and eat, or pack and take it to go.
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The same foods that parents pack into a hearty school lunch in Mexico are perfect for school lunchtime in America. These dishes are so tasty and filling, even grownups will want to take them to work…
HAM AND CHEESE TORTA SANDWICHES
Tortas de jamón y queso
2 Mexican bolillo or telera rolls, or small baguettes
1/2 cup refried beans
1/2 ripe Mexican avocado, scooped and sliced
4 slices Mexican queso fresco, Oaxaca or Mozzarella
4 to 6 slices turkey, ham or cooked chicken
1 tomato, sliced and seeded
A couple of thin slices of onion, optional
Pickled jalapeño peppers to taste, optional
Salt to taste, optional
2 tablespoons Mexican-style cream, optional
Slice the rolls in half lengthwise. If they’re not fresh, toast them slightly for a few minutes. On one side, spread a tablespoon of refried beans; on the other, mash 1/4 of an avocado with a fork.
Top the bottom half of the bread with a few slices of cheese, 2 or 3 slices of turkey or cold cuts of your choice, it may also be shredded chicken or meat, and a couple of slices of tomato.
Drizzle a tablespoon of Mexican-style cream and crown your package with as many pickled jalapeños as you wish. Sprinkle a bit of salt on top.
Place the top half of the roll on the sandwich and slice the torta horizontally. Eat it or wrap it up so that it can travel along with you.
Not to be confused with the other kind of tortas, (tortes translates to tortas in Spanish…) Mexico’s favorite sandwich made with a crispy bread roll adapted from the baguette; tortes are a cross between a fluffy and moist bread, a savory pudding, and now that I think of it, also a souffle.
Although there are quite a few variations, tortes have a few things in common. For one thing, they are easy to prepare. Next, they are versatile since they can be a side to both dry or saucy entrees, they can become the main dish accompanied by a salad and they can travel solo in grand style. What’s more, and crucial around home, they help eager parents deceive picky eaters who don’t like vegetables that much.
Continue reading Zucchini Torte for You and Me (and turns out my mother too)
Zucchini Torte for You and Me (and turns out my mother too)
Some people get motion sickness when they travel. Some people get hungry. I am among the latter.
The minute I step on whatever will transport me from one place to another, my mind swims through related food memories… and I just have to eat. So since I know I will have a craving for something other than a moist, soggy, chewy and never-ever crunchy baguette from the Amtrak train, and after being so spoiled with the food from El Chepe Train, I am packing my own Torta.
Torta (according to me…): A satisfying and delicious, self contained, easy to transport, edible package filled with tasty ingredients that just love to schmooze together.
Continue reading I am packing my own Torta…