Bread Makes the Sandwich, Roberto Santibanez 'Torta de Carnitas' from Nick Malgieri 'Bread'

What would become of sandwiches without bread?

Here's a taste of Mexico with a recipe by Roberto Santibanez from  Bread, 'Over 60 Breads, Rolls and Cakes Plus Delicious Recipes Using Them' (Kyle Books, October 2012) by Nick Malgieri...


Possibly the most interesting sandwiches in the world, Mexican tortas combine boldly seasoned elements in a way that achieves both complexity and a certain delicacy. A torta is usually constructed on a telera roll, but there are dozens of regional variations on the bread. This recipe is from my very dear friend Roberto Santibañez, chef/owner of Fonda in the East Village in Manhattan and in Park Slope in Brooklyn, New York.

Friendship aside, my critical side knows that he cooks the best Mexican food outside Mexico, bar none.

Makes 4 tortas 

4 Teleras, page 82, or other rolls of your choice

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to

spreading consistency

1/2 cup refried black beans, see below

Half the Carnitas, see below, warm but not red hot

4 paper-thin slices white or red onion, peeled but

left intact

4 slices pickled jalapeños, or more or less to taste,

see Note below

1 ripe Haas avocado, quartered, peeled, and each

quarter cut across into 1/2-inch slices

2 tablespoons mayonnaise, Mexican crema, or crème fraiche 


1. Split the rolls and butter. Lightly toast the buttered sides on a griddle, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, or under the broiler.

2. Spread the bottom halves of each roll with 2 tablespoons refried beans. Spread a quarter of the carnitas on each. Top with the slices of onion, the pickled jalapeños, and the avocado.

3. Spread the top halves of each roll with mayonnaise or crema and press lightly on the torta to adhere. Tortas are not usually cut in half before being served but this gringo recommends you do so to make eating a little easier. Serve immediately. 

NOTE: The pickled jalapeños can be replaced with 1 tablespoon chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. Pulse the whole can of chiles and sauce in a food processor, pack into a plastic container, press plastic wrap against the surface, and refrigerate. 


Combine 1 tablespoon olive or mild vegetable oil, such as safflower or canola, 1 tablespoon finely grated white onion (it’s okay if it’s mainly liquid), and 1/2 small clove garlic, finely grated, in a medium saucepan. Set over low heat and cook until the aroma of the garlic is evident and the onion and garlic are starting to color a little. Off heat, stir in one 15-ounce can black beans and their liquid. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon ground toasted chipotle chile or other ground hot pepper and 1/4 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano leaves, preferably Mexican. Increase the heat slightly to bring to a boil, then decrease again and start using a potato masher to turn the beans to a purée. Regulate the heat so that the beans simmer gently and cook, stirring frequently, until they thicken slightly.

Stir in salt to taste— they shouldn’t be too salty. Cool the beans and scrape them into a plastic container for storage. Bring to room temperature before using. 


Combine 2 pounds boneless pork shoulder with some fat on the meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces, with 3 cups water, 1 cup thinly sliced white onion, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons orange juice, 8 peeled cloves garlic, 3 medium bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon each dried oregano, crumbled, and fine sea salt in a 3- to 4-quart enameled iron Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium heat, skimming as necessary, then decrease the heat to an active simmer. Cook until the water evaporates, the pork is very tender, and it starts to fry in its rendered fat, about 1 and 1/2 hours. Transfer to a gratin dish or other baking dish and bake the pork and fat at 450˚F until it colors deeply, about 20 minutes. Cool to just warm. For advance preparation, cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat and cool to lukewarm before using. 


TORTA DE ALBÓNDIGAS: For a single sandwich, after spreading the bottom half of the telera with the beans, top with 2 of the albondigas and some of their sauce on page 34—they should be warm but not hot. Sprinkle with cilantro, onion, and cheese as in the albóndigas recipe. Top with avocado if you wish, then spread the top half of the roll with mayonnaise or crema. 

TORTA DE PECHUGA: For a single sandwich, cook a chicken breast as in Rosemary Chicken Sandwiches, page 71. Slice if you wish, but in Mexico it would be used whole.

Assemble the sandwich as at left, but sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of crumbled queso fresco. 

TORTA DE MILANESA: Bread and fry in vegetable oil some thin 3-ounce pork or chicken cutlets as in Wiener Schnitzel, page 42. Assemble like the Torta de Pechuga, above. 

p.82: Mexican sandwich rolls 

Makes 8 rolls

11/2 cups/340 grams cool tap water, about 70°F

21/4 teaspoons/7 grams fine granulated active dry or instant yeast

1 cup/225 grams whole milk, scalded and cooled

6 cups/800 grams unbleached bread flour (spoon into a dry-measure cup and level off)

2 tablespoons/30 grams sugar

3 teaspoons/18 grams fine sea salt

Cornmeal for the pan

One heavy cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan sprinkled with cornmeal, plus a spray bottle filled with

warm water, and one 1/2-inch-diameter dowel 

These are the rolls that tortas, Mexican sandwiches, are made on.

They’re split and reheated in the oven, or split and the cut sides buttered and quickly toasted on a griddle. Their light texture and thin crust make it easier to bite through the large amounts of filling common in tortas. 

1. Whisk the water and yeast together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk in the cooled milk. Add the flour and sugar and stir. Place the bowl on the mixer with the dough hook attachment and beat on the lowest speed until a rough dough forms, about 3 minutes, then let the dough rest for 15 minutes. 

2. Sprinkle in the salt and beat the dough on medium speed until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes. 

3. Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and cover it with a piece of oiled plastic wrap.

Let the dough rise until it’s more than doubled in bulk, about 2 hours. 

4. Scrape the dough onto a floured work surface. Flour the dough and your hands and flatten the dough to a disk. Fold the two sides in to overlap at the middle, then roll the top toward you all the way to the end, jelly-roll style. Invert, flatten, and repeat; scrape it back into the bowl. Cover the dough and let it rest another 30 minutes. 

5. Flour the work surface and use a scraper to invert and move the dough onto it. Gently ease the dough, without deflating it too much, into an 8-inch square. Use an oiled scraper to cut the square into 8 equal pieces, each about 120 grams. Round each piece of dough (see step 6, page 80), placing it upside down on a flour-dusted towel. If the dough is very sticky, flour the palm of your hand, not the dough. Cover with another towel or oiled or sprayed plastic wrap and let the rolls rest for 10 minutes. 

6. To form the teleras, place a piece of dough rounded side upward on a lightly floured surface and use the palm of your hand to gently flatten it. Generously flour the surface of the roll and use a 1/2-inch diameter dowel to mark 2 parallel lines in the top of the roll in its length. Each line should be a little less than one third of the way in from the side. Use the dowel to roll back and forth and make a 1/4-inch wide trench in each of the marked places.

Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Arrange 4 rolls on each of the prepared pans, spacing them well apart, and cover them again. Let the rolls proof until they’re about 50% larger than their original size.

Once the teleras have started to puff, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 450˚F. 

7. Once the rolls have fully risen, place the pans in the oven and decrease the heat to 400˚F. Bake until well risen and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Once the rolls are fully risen and starting to color, about halfway through the baking time, turn the pans back to front and move the pan on the upper rack to the lower one and vice versa.

8. Cool the rolls on a rack and use them the day they are baked, or wrap, bag, and freeze for longer storage. Reheat the defrosted rolls at 350˚F for 3 minutes and cool before serving.

(* Recipe excepted from 'Bread' by Nick Malgieri-published by Kyle Books, October 2012- photography by Romulo Yanes, all rights reserved)

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