Torta has many culinary definitions, depending on the geographical area where it is being used.
In several countries in South America and Europe, torte or torta, is a cake or sweet cake. In Spain a torta is also a fried mixture of scrambled eggs and fillings like potatoes, onions, peppers, etc.
In Mexico, a torta is a sandwich which is commonly served on a bolillo or pan telera. A bolillo is a football-shaped roll about 6-inches long. A bolillo is similar to French bread in that they are both crusty on the outside and have a soft, uneven crumb inside. Pan telera (telera bread) is more like Italian bread, soft outside and inside. The telera, round and flat, is most commonly pressed like panini. Bolillos are sold at in Manchester. Italian bread is sold at , and in Manchester and , and in Town and Country.
Bolillos and pan telera both have their positive attributes, depending on the filling and your mood. My grandmother cooked tortas with telera bread on a stove top panini press, melting the flavors together. Bolillos are best fresh, allowing the crust to be easily consumed and the flavor to be at its peak. Tortas have many possible fillings, such as carne asada (marinated steak), lengua (beef tongue), shredded beef, chorizo with cheese, chicken, turkey, carnitas (braised pork), carne al pastor (shepherd style-the meat is cooked on a spit) and eggs with various additions..
One of my fondest torta recipes is a Torta Cubana from a restaurant called El Porton in Mexico City. Served warm on pan telera or on bollilos, the torta is filled with roast pork, ham, cheese and topped with avocado, jalapeños, tomatoes, Mayonesa McCormick (lime mayonnaise), onions and a swirl of chipotle in adobo. The Mayonesa McCormick is available in Walmart, Schnucks, Dierbergs and in Manchester. In the U.S., I see Torta Cubana on a menu and I am thrilled at the prospect of having my childhood torta. However, as I read on, I am disappointed at the description--roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and yellow mustard. But it is a matter of personal preference. I have also seen Tortas Cubana recipes with ingredients like breaded veal, refried beans and combinations that wander from there. All this really says is tortas can be made and named to your liking.
The recipe for the torta includes a marinade for the pork, how to roast the pork and assembly of the torta.
Marinated, Roasted Pork
3 tablespoons (about one ounces) achiote seeds*
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons cinnamon, preferably Mexican canela
1 teaspoons cumin
1 head garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2-pound boneless pork loin
- In a spice grinder, grind achiote seeds, oregano, adding black pepper, cinnamon and cumin. Run the grinder until mixture is a fine powder.
- In a blender, combine the ground mixture with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, garlic, 1/2 cup lime juice and 1/4 cup orange juice. Blend until smooth.
- In a large, plastic food bag combine the loin and the marinade, turning the meat to coat it evenly.
- Let the pork marinate refrigerated for three hours or more.
- Before roasting,remove pork from marinade and pat dry.
*To simplify the recipe, achiote paste can be purchased at Walmart. Mix the achiote paste with the lime juice and orange juice, eliminate the salt and continue to follow the recipe as written.
Roast Pork Method:
- Preheat oven to 350˚F.
- Heat a thin coating of oil in the bottom of a heavy roasting pan over medium to high heat. Brown the pork well on all sides in the hot roasting pan, about 10 minutes.
- Transfer the roasting pan to the oven and bake until the pork registers about 150˚F on a meat thermometer. Total cooking time should be about 40 minutes.
- Remove the pork from the pan and let rest, covered, five to seven minutes.
- Slice when ready to assemble tortas.
Torta Cubana El Porton (my version), generously serves four to six
roast pork (recipe below)
8 -12 ounces ham, thinly sliced
1 pound Chihuahua* cheese, sliced
2 avocados, sliced
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
pickled jalapeños, sliced, to taste
12 tablespoons Mayonesa McCormick
chipotle sauce, to taste
- Prepare (slice) torta ingredients while pork is cooking to prevent the pork from sitting around sliced and drying out.
- Once the pork is done and sliced, begin assembling the tortas.
- Slice the bolillos in half lengthwise.
- Spread two tablespoons of mayonesa on both sides of each bolillo.
- On one half of the bolillos place one layer each of pork, ham and cheese.
- Then dress with toppings to your liking: avocados, tomatoes, onions and jalapeños.
- Swirl about a teaspoon of chipotle sauce on top of each torta.
- Place the other half of the bolillo on top. At this point it can be heated in a panini press or served as it is.
*The Chihuaha cheese is available at La Morena in Manchester.
Enjoy your torta creations. The recipes include generous amounts, so feel free to indulge during this meal.