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Tortas Ahogadas

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 4 hr 15 min
  • Active: 1 hr 15 min
  • Yield: 6 servings
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Braised Pork Butt:

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons ground cumin 

2 tablespoons granulated garlic 

1 tablespoon smoked paprika 

2 teaspoons dry mustard 

1 teaspoon ground coriander 

1 tablespoon kosher salt 

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

2 1/2 pounds boneless pork butt, fat trimmed, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces 

1/4 cup canola oil 

One 12-ounce bottle Mexican beer 

Tomato Sauce:

6 to 8 dried chile de arbol

2 tablespoons canola oil 

1/2 white onion, diced 

1 jalapeno, cored, seeded and diced 

2 cloves garlic, minced 

2 teaspoons ground cumin 

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano 

1/4 cup red wine vinegar 

One 28-ounce can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


6 bolillo rolls (see Cook's Note)

Olive oil, for brushing

2 cups shredded green cabbage

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro 

Pico de gallo, recipe follows

Pickled Red Onions, recipe follows

Pico de Gallo:

4 Roma tomatoes, diced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced 

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 red onion, minced 

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon minced garlic 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Pickled Red Onions:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced 

Sea salt 

1 bay leaf 

Pinch cayenne 

Pinch ground cinnamon 

1 whole star anise 

2 tablespoons honey 

1/4 cup red wine vinegar 


  1. For the braised pork butt: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cumin, garlic, paprika, mustard, coriander, salt and pepper. Pat the pork dry, then coat it with the rub.
  3. In a large cast-iron pan, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Sear the pork until browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Pour in the beer, cover the pan tightly with foil and transfer it to the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Let the pork cool a bit before shredding.
  4. For the tomato sauce: Soak the chile de arbol for 20 minutes in warm water. Once rehydrated, remove the stems and seeds and roughly chop. Heat the canola in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the chile de arbol, jalapeno, garlic, cumin and oregano and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the vinegar, tomatoes and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring often. When done, puree the sauce until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. To assemble the sandwich: Slice the bolillos in half, leaving them hinged at one end. Brush the insides with olive oil. Place the bolillos cut-side up on a baking sheet; transfer to the oven and toast until crispy, about 5 minutes. Fill each bolillo with some shredded pork, topped with some tomato sauce, shredded cabbage, cilantro, pico de gallo and pickled red onions. Serve.

Pico de Gallo:

  1. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, jalapeno, lime juice, red onion, cilantro and garlic. Mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and refrigerate for 1 hour to allow flavors to meld.

Pickled Red Onions:

  1. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, the onions and some sea salt, and saute until the onions are just softened, about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf, cayenne, cinnamon, start anise, honey, red wine vinegar and just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Remove the whole spices and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cook’s Note

Bolillo rolls, 6-inches long and football-shaped, are traditional in tortas. If you cannot find them, substitute French rolls of roughly equivalent size and shape.