This past Saturday, I was driving home when all of a sudden the craving for a torta drove me to Whole Foods instead. I found myself pulling into the parking lot almost unwillfully.
I am normally not a sandwich person, but tortas de milanesa aren’t your typical sandwiches either. Tortas are typically made with different types of bread like pan francés, teleras, or bolillo. They are generally massive and often come with pickled jalapeños. Tortas can contain lots of different fillings including ham or eggs, but my favorite torta is made with pork milanesa, a thin, breaded, and fried meat similar to an Austrian Schnitzel or an Italian Milanese.
I walked into the store and hopefully searched for some bolillo bread to no avail. Not exactly surprised by Whole Foods’ lack of Mexican bread, but sad nonetheless, I went home with ciabatta instead. (Thankfully, when I made the tortas for this blog, I was able to find some actual bolillo at a Brazilian cornerstore near by.) I did, however, find all of my other ingredients- tomatoes, onion, lettuce, avocado, pinto beans, and super thin pork loin steak.
My husband was not home, so with free reign over our kitchen, I quickly got to work. After pounding away at the pork loins, I loaded up the skillet with oil and began frying the milanesas. The smell of the milanesas frying surprised me with a wave of nostalgia. I was taken back to my childhood home in East Houston where I shared a bedroom with my little sister for eight years and where our local public library was a short walk away. In our tiny two bedroom house, the smell of whatever was cooking in the kitchen would always flood the rest of our house. Whenever my mother was frying up some milanesas, we knew from that savory smell that some special guests were on their way. I was particularly excited when she would pair the milanesas with a side of espaghetti verde. Usually the leftover milanesas would make their way into tortas. And if I was really lucky, I would get to take a torta de milanesa to school for lunch.
After a whole afternoon of frying, our apartment was filled with the aroma of delicious milanesas. I literally felt like I was in that tiny, two bedroom house again. When my husband came home later that night, he remarked, “it smells really good in here.” I laughed to myself- he had no idea how good it smelled to me.
A note about chiles en vinagre: Chiles en vinagre are pickled jalapeños. They can be found in the “Mexican” aisle of most grocery stores next to enchilada sauces and salsas. I made a batch of chiles en vinagre this past week, and I will never go back to the canned variety. These are much crunchier and spicier than canned chiles, and you get to control what spices you use! The real Mexican way to eat chiles en vinagre with a torta is by taking a whole chile and biting it in between torta bites. Alternatively, you can cut it into strips like I did in the pictures and put them inside your sandwich. This tangy and spicy ingredient will make your tortas all the better.
Tortas de Milanesa
Yields 4 Tortas
Prep Time: 25 Minutes
- 4 bolillo loaves
- ½ cup refried beans
- 1 tomato (sliced)
- 1 onion (sliced)
- 1 avocado (sliced)
- Plenty of sliced cheese! (queso fresco, mozzarella)
- Chiles en vinagre (optional)
- 4 pork loin steaks
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup italian style breadcrumbs
- 1 cup milk
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Place pork loin steaks one by one inside gallon sized zip lock bag. Flatten by pressing down with palm of hand or rolling pin. The resulting steaks should be almost doubled in size.
- Combine milk, salt, pepper and garlic powder in bowl. Place flattened steaks in bowl to marinate for 20 minutes to 1 hour. Place in fridge.
- Take soaked milanesas out and coat thoroughly with breadcrumbs.
- Heat skillet with oil to medium-high heat and fry milanesas until brown, about three minutes per side.
- While milanesas are cooking, cut open bolillo breads and hollow out the bolillo carefully. (This is where you will put the refried beans.) Coat one side of the bolillo with mayo and the other with refried beans. Layer the vegetables on top.
- When your milanesas are cooked, add them to your sandwiches and enjoy!