Sometimes I forget that sandwiches can exist outside the realm of lunch. A few too many soggy sandwiches have started turning me into a bit of a sandwich skeptic, and call me crazy, but I often find that the idea of a sandwich is better than the actual sandwich itself. Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept of the sandwich and a good one done right is pure bliss. It’s just that for me, most sandwiches are just not particularly memorable meals, and don’t even cross my mind when it’s time to prepare dinner. But I do love it when a sandwich can prove me wrong, and I recently discovered one that did just that.
If you hadn’t worked this out from my previous post, Rick Bayless is the best. He makes delicious mexican food, and he is so enthusiastic about it you can’t help but jump to the kitchen and whip up something chorizo-y when you read one of his recipes. This is essentially what happened when I read his recipe for Crusty Black Bean-Chorizo Subs; I immediately had to make them. And the best part is, his recipes are authentic, easy and adaptable, perfect for an “everyday” recipe.
This recipe can work for a variety of proteins– you can cook up some ground meat with the bean mixture and slather it on, as Bayless indicates and as I’ve done below, or you can cook something separately (leftovers, even, as with the chicken pictured above) and layer that on top of the beans. You can vary the kind of beans you use, and you can play with the fixins too, although I suggest that no matter what you do, you invest in a good ripe avocado or two. We made this recipe with one can of beans, to serve two, but you could easily stretch it to serve more people by adding an additional can of beans and some more of whichever protein you choose. The finished products, with those toasty little rolls enveloping tasty mexican flavors, seem to combine all the crunchy goodness of a taco with the soft yumminess of a burrito, while still exuding a certain sandwichness that just might restore a little of my faith in the idea of sandwiches for dinner.
Adapted from Mexican Everyday, by Rick Bayless
4 Crusty french rolls, or a baguette cut into a few portions (again, just use more rolls if you want to serve more people)
Queso Fresco, feta, cheddar cheese, or a combination, crumbled or sliced
1-2 ripe avocados, sliced
Salsa of your choice
Optional additional toppings: pickled or fresh jalapenos, slices of roasted peppers, leftover steak or slices of roast chicken or pork, fresh shredded lettuce, cilantro, grilled onions, or anything else you can imagine.
For the bean filling:
1 can beans of your choice (don’t drain), or 2 cups home-cooked beans with liquid to cover
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t chile powder
about 1/3 lb chorizo, soyrizo, or other ground meat (optional–if you want to substitute leftover slices of pork, chicken, steak, you can layer them on top of the beans with the other fixins, or you could go bean-centric and omit the other stuff)
Over medium heat, cook chorizo (if using) in a large skillet, breaking up clumps, until browned. If the chorizo has rendered enough fat to keep the skillet well oiled, add the can of beans; if not, add a splash of vegetable or olive oil and then add the beans, juice and all. Bring the beans to a simmer, then mash them using the back of a sturdy spoon. Continue stirring and mashing until the beans become smooth and thick enough to spread on the sandwich. Season with salt, cumin, and chile powder to taste.
While the beans are cooking, slice open your rolls or baguettes, and scoop out a little bit of the bread inside with your fingers to make space for the fillings (whenever I forget this or choose not too, I regret it when my sandwich explodes on me). Drizzle the rolls with a little olive oil and toast on a griddle until golden brown and toasty (you can also just use a toaster or toaster oven if you want, but the effect is a little drier).
To assemble tortas, smear your bean mixture in a nice thick layer on the bottom half of your roll. Top with cheese, avocado, salsa, and leftover slices of chicken/pork/steak if using. You can also add as many of the other additional topping ideas you like, as long as you can fit them inside! Close the top of the sandwich and enjoy!