Photo © Copyright Sandra A. Gutierrez 2016; All Rights Reserved
When you think of Mexican street food, you usually think of tacos. But are you award of the open-faced, toasty, warm, topped-to-the-brim sandwiches called: molletes? Think of these as Mexican bruschetta--only bigger!
Molletes are usually made on Mexican breads called "bolillos" (round rolls) or "teleras" (oval-shaped). But for their shapes, these are similar breads; both are crunchy outside and starchy inside. I have an easy time finding both of these kinds of breads in my local Mexican bakeries. However, for those of you who have a harder time finding them, may I suggest you substitute them with ciabatta rolls? What you want is bread that toasts crunchy on the inside but stays meaty on the inside so you can sink your teeth deliciously into it with each bite. You don't want bread with crusts that explode and send bread shards all over the place. There needs to be crunch, but also the bread needs to hold its shape. You also want bread that is sturdy enough to hold a good compendium of toppings (hoagie rolls, kaisers, and soft rolls just won't do). Therefore, ciabatta rolls--so popular nowadays--makes a great mollete base.
So how do you make a mollete at home? Very easily. At it's most basic, a mollete will be topped with beans and cheese. However, your imagination is the limit. Avocados, pickled onions, chile escabeches, chorizo, and eggs often become toppings for molletes. When it comes to the cheese, there are two currents: one is to top them with good melting cheese, such as asadero (or like my friend Diana Kennedy, the queen of Mexican cooking, taught me: good Muenster); the other is to top them with crumbly queso fresco or with queso cotija. Choose whichever you prefer, but don't skip the cheese.
The beans can be whole cooked beans or parados that have been smashed slightly; pureed beans, or refried beans. They can be black or pintos. Again, your choice. In Mexico, they're usually enjoyed for breakfast or as a merienda (snack). However, I love to eat molletes either for brunch or for a light luncheon.
One note on Cotija cheese: This crumbly, dry, hard, salty, Mexican cow-milk's cheese is similar in flavor and texture to Italian pecorino. Just please learn to pronounce it. I often find (even among food professionals) that it's mispronounced as "co-ji-ta" instead of the correct version: co-ti-ja. I mention this because the former means "small female cripple" and that's not nice nor politically correct (in Spanish, it also sounds disgustingly cannibalistic!). So don't insult anyone...learn to pronounce it, please!
Molletes are so easy to make that they don't require a recipe. However, here is mine:
Photograph ©Copyright Sandra A. Gutierrez, 2016. All Rights Reserved.
Molletes de Frijoles y Queso Cotija
2 ciabatta rolls, split lengthwise in half
2 cups warm refried beans (canned or homemade)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 large Roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup Cotija cheese
A few cilantro leaves (for garnish)
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spread 1/2 cup of of beans on each of the ciabatta halves; set them on a baking pan and bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and top each half with green onions, tomatoes, cheese, and cilantro. Serve immediately.
Recipe © Copyright Sandra A. Gutierrez, 2016; All Rights Reserved.