Recipe Reviews: Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Crusty Black Bean-Chorizo Subs (tortas) Review

4.5 stars (on a 5 star scale)
p. 225-227

Satisfying and simple home cooking. Very easy to cook. Refrigerates well. To reheat, all one needs is a fresh roll (and avocado and cheese, if you don't happen to still have some in the fridge).

From experimenting, I have much advice on how to make good sandwiches with this filling.
* Cheese (queso fresco) is an important topping. However, if you get a bite with beans and big chunk of cold cheese, it detracts. I'd advise putting on some of the beans, adding the cheese, covering the cheese with more beans, then closing up the sandwich and waiting a tad. This will give the cheese time to warm up.
* The richness of an avocado also contributes significantly. However, I'd advise that instead of putting avocado slices on the sandwich as the recipe suggests, cutting the avocado into small chunks. This prevents bites from hitting the edge of an avocado and dragging the whole avocado out with it, yielding an unbalanced bite. This is more of a problem with not quite ripe avocados that are still pretty hard, but I'd advise doing it for all avocados, ripe or not.
* The recipe suggests adding hot sauce. Since I didn't feel it was necessary, I didn't add any.
* When reheating the bean mixture to make leftovers, realize that the refrigerated mixture shrinks a lot when heated. i.e., you probably want at least a cup of cold beans to get the half a cup of warm beans needed per sandwich.
* The sandwich is better warm. I found that when I'm halfway done, briefly microwaving the whole thing (bread, beans, cheese, and all) isn't a bad idea.
* I tried a number of different kinds of bread. They all worked well. For pictures, see below.

I also have comments about the process of making the bean mixture:
* Mashing beans is hard. A plastic spoon/spatula is too flexible and thus ineffective. Cooking in a non-stick skillet precludes using a metal potato masher. I ended up doing my best mashing beans with a wooden spatula against the skillet, but this was fairly ineffective. It didn't end up looking much like "soft mashed potatoes" but did have a similar consistency.
* Next time, perhaps don't add all the liquid from the cans of beans. The recipe calls for simmering and mashing the beans for ten minutes. It took at least double that to boil off most of the liquid from the beans.
* "Salt to taste" was for me only a handful of salt, despite using low sodium black beans that had only 130mg sodium (5% RDA) per serving.

I could've easily given this five stars, as I imagine it could be a recipe on a regular rotation in a family and when someone leaves the household, he'll never find his family's exact preparation of this dish elsewhere. When he returns home, this is what he'll crave as good home cooking. Sadly, I don't feel comfortable giving such a unsophisticated dish five stars, so four and a half it is.

The recipe provided enough filling for four sandwiches. I ate each of these on different bread, mostly because it was hard to find short, crusty sandwich rolls so I had to make do with what I could find. Below are pictures of each instance and occasional comments on how well each type of bread worked.

on Safeway crusty roll. This roll is closest to the type of roll that is supposed to be used.

on Safeway ciabatta roll. The softness of the roll is a refreshing change, making it easy to squish it to soak up juices.

on Safeway ciabatta roll with toppings.

on Draeger's sweet mini baguette. A tough outer shell is useful, making is easy to prevent the filling from escaping out the back of the sandwich.

on part of a Trader Joe's crusty roll.


  • Haven't yeet tried this but it looks great! For mashing beans I love the potato masher. If you are worried about scarring a non stick skillet, you can still use it but carefully. Only use it straight up and down and don't scrape the pan. You can also dump the beans into a bowl, mash 'em up, and return them to the pan. If you have a small child in the vicinity this is a good job for them.

    By Anonymous MMC, at 8:24 AM  

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