Let me start this post by saying that I LOVE sandwiches. They can be eaten at home or on the go. They are easily customizable, easy to make and absolutely delicious. The Mexican torta is no exception. I grew up eating all sorts of tortas whenever I would visit Mexico City. Some came from restaurants, some from little shops or huts and some were made at the local market. As good as all those were my favorites were always the ones prepared by either my grandmother or my mother. Those always seemed to have the extra something and personal touch that made them stand above all others.
Before jumping into how to make your own torta, let's take a look into what a torta really is. At its most basic a torta is just a sandwich, in other words, it is two pieces of bread that have a bunch of tasty ingredients wedged between them. What really differentiates a torta from other sandwiches is the type of bread used to make it. A torta is made with a bolillo, which is an oblong crusty white bread with a soft interior.
A variety of the bolillo is the telera though it has a more rounded shape, is divided in three sections, and is usually softer.
The bolillo is the foundation of a good torta, so having a good bolillo is essential. Luckily finding good bolillos is not difficult, especially if you live somewhere with a significant Hispanic population. Here in Houston I have a lot of choices. I can always go to the panaderia (Mexican bakery) right down the street. Or if I am doing my weekly shopping I can just pick some up at my local HEB in their bakery. Heck I am even lucky enough to have La Michoacana (a local grocery chain catering to Hispanic clientele) that sells both bolillos and teleras. If you are not lucky enough to have any of these resources at hand and simply cannot find bolillos or teleras, use French rolls or Italian bread. My mom says even a baguette can be used in a pinch.
Like with anything in life, there is a great variety in the types of tortas made. Usually they are simply classified by what they are made with. For example a tora de jamon is a torta made with ham or a torta de huevos is one made with scrambled eggs. Besides the main ingredient and the bread itself tortas vary by just how they are prepared. Some are served cold or prepared simply while others are made hot on a griddle. In Guadalajara there is a variation call the " torta ahogada" or drowned torta due to the fact that after the sandwich is made it is then smothered in a red sauce.
Making your own torta is as easy as making a ham sandwich. As stated earlier you will need some bolillos to start with. Since bolillos come in whole pieces you will then need to split them in half. Once the bread has been cut it is important to remove some of the migajon, or soft white part from the upper piece of the bread. This will give you a concave piece of bread that will help hold the sandwich together.
Once you have your bread ready you can go ahead and leave it as is to make your sandwich or you can toast it in the oven. We choose to toast our bread in a 350 degree oven for about 5-10 min.
While the bread was toasting my mom and I gathered up our sandwich fixings which included refried black beans, mustard, Mexican cream, queso fresco, sliced pickled jalapeno, ham, head cheese, fresh tomatoes, avocado, and red onion.
After the bread was done toasting, we were ready to build our tortas. First thing we did was spread our cream on the concave side of the bread. We then spread the black beans and mustard on the bottom half of the bolillo.
Next we started piling on the meats. First the ham, then the head cheese. After the meat was arranged so it would lie flat against the bread we added the queso fresco. Now we cut the cheese into slices, but it is possible and acceptable to crumble it and add it to your sandwich this way.
The last thing we added to the torta before topping it off with the other piece of bread was the pickled jalapenos. The jalapenos add little kick as well as a nice tang to the overall flavor profile of the sandwich.
All that was left to do was put the lid on the sandwich and enjoy. The sandwiches were so massive that we simply had to cut them in half just to handle them. They were a great lunch and so delicious. They reminded me so much of my visits to Mexico City.
The beauty of the torta is in its simplicity. A torta is so easy to assemble and to make it just how you want it. For instance I know head cheese may not be the most popular ingredient. If that is the case with you then just simply leave it out. Are you a vegetarian? Then make yourself a torta de aguacate (avocado)! The choice is yours. Hopefully this inspires some of you to just go out there get yourself some fresh bread and go nuts!