I ordered tortas and they brought me a turtle

I was gonna make a pun about the tortoise and the hare, but I thought it might be a little too racy for you.

Read Time: 4 minutes

I want to start off first by being clear and saying that this isn’t an authentic torta like you might find in Mexico. This isn’t even necessarily an authentic torta that I might find in a Mexican focused restaurant where I live in Chicago. These are sandwiches that I enjoy that’s inspired by these things.

Black bean spread, mashed avocado and Mexican focused spice rubbed steak are at the core of the sandwiches I’ve made and eaten this past week. My local market had super thin cut Delmonico steaks on special and that sent me on my way for some really tasty sandwiches. Keep reading and I’ll tell and show you how I put them together.

The telera rolls

First we need good bread. This is a great recipe for telera style rolls over at King Arthur Baking. I have used both lard and shortening in this recipe and to me they seem fairly interchangeable. The amount of lard/shortning/fat that is required to make 10 telera rolls seems to be small enough that you really don’t notice the difference. This week was the lard version.

This recipe instructs you to portion out 10 rolls which in my experience sets you up for smaller sized telera rolls and I’m happy about that. I like to stack my sandwiches with a lot of flavor and ingredients, but I don’t really want HUGE sandwiches (build up not out). These were weighed out to right around 90 grams each and they turned out around the size of a hamburger roll. I think if I were trying to be more authentic with these, I would shoot for 110 or 120 grams and I would shape them much more like a football than what I ended up with. But for me at home, they were great. They have great texture and they hold up to a somewhat messy sandwich.

Fresh telera style rolls.
The rolls closest to you were scored with a metal straw and the ones in the back were cut with a sharp knife before baking. Click to see larger.

The technique for getting the “stripes” in the rolls isn’t quite right on King Arthur Baking’s site. They tell you to slash with a knife right before baking, but that leads to a roll that doesn’t quite look like the telera rolls I usually see. Deep in the comments of the recipe you’ll find people talking about using metal straws. They mention checking YouTube for the proper technique and that’s where I found this really good instructional video.

Don’t get me wrong, if you follow King Arthur Baking’s technique exactly, you’ll still end up with pretty rolls, they just won’t look like the telera rolls that I’m familiar with at my local hispanic focused market or pandareria.

I took a photo of a previous batch that I did half scored with a metal straw prior to final rise and half with the King Arthur knife technique after final rise (pre-bake) and you can judge for yourself. Watch that video above if you want the most authentic shaping and scoring technique.

Black bean spread

One of the best parts about the sandwiches I made this week is the black bean spread that I put on the bottom roll. The onion, garlic and bacon fat all come together to make a very savory accompaniment to the steak. These black beans are also very very good as an alternative to salsa or guacamole with tortilla chips or crackers. Someone should start a movement to get more beans on sandwiches and this is a good recipe to start with.

20 minutes
Black bean spread

Fantastic with chips or spread on a sandwich, this black bean spread is something I sometimes make for taco night to stand in for refried beans as well. Spread on the bottom of your torta to get some real flavor started.

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Meat and spices

I marinated my very thin steaks with a bit of canola oil and fresh lime juice and my suburban taco seasoning. This seasoning is meant to be mixed with cooked ground meat to make tacos, but it’s also great sprinkled on french fries or rubbing on meat to add salt and tex-mex type seasoning.

For steaks, you could use all sorts of cuts. I picked up some really thin cut delmonico steaks that my local grocery had available. But you could use strip steak, or even something like flank steak that you thinly slice after cooking.

Make up a double or triple batch of this seasoning, you will definitely get a lot of use out of it in tacos even if you don’t try this steak torta.

5 minutes
Suburban taco seasoning

Much like the taco seasoning you buy in packets at the store, this is a pantry staple and it adds a little bit of spice and flavor to tacos or meat for tortas.

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The top three

I ate six different telera and steak sandwiches this week and here are the three best ones. Traditional tortas don’t typically have lettuce, but I bought some and I really enjoy the crunchy texture it adds.

Torta one

This was the baseline basic version with the ingredients that I had. Black bean spread on the bottom, steak, salted tomato, lettuce, queso fresco and mashed avocado.

My baseline steak torta.

Torta two

This one is the same as the first, but I opted to leave out the tomato. It’s not the right season for it anyway. I opted for extra black bean spread on this guy and it turned out that that was a very good choice. I find that mashed avocado isn’t quite as slippery in a sandwich as sliced avocado. So mash that stuff up so you won’t have slippage issues.

Heavy on the black bean spread, hold the tomatoes. Black bean spread, seasoned thinly sliced steak, lettuce, queso fresca and mashed avocado.

Torta three

Same as the first, minus tomatoes and I added pickled jalapenos and pickled radishes. The addition of pickled veggies adds a lot with texture and flavor. This mustard pickled radish recipe is a good one and they are great for snacks too. Adds zip, zing and crunch to your sandwich. You’ll find the radish recipe linked below this torta photo.

No tomato but added pickled radishes and jalapenos
Mustard pickled radishes

Pickled radishes are great as a snack and they add crunch and flavor to a sandwich. Pull them out of the fridge and enjoy with cheese and crackers if you want to be fancy.

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Extra credit: the build process

Here’s a build process gif of the first torta that I wrote about. Don’t stare at it too long or you’ll get really hungry!

Building one of my steak tortas.

I love it when telera roll week swings around each year. Maybe I’ll make it a bi-annual event going forward. I’ll bring you along next time with a different protein or style of torta inspired sandwich.

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