I’ll never forget the day I discovered a single food item that combined my two favorite things in life: Tacos and sandwiches. I was standing in a fancy shopping mall in the middle of the Yucatan Peninsula (which is kind of a long story), and with that first torta, I fell head over heels in love with a new lunchtime obsession. A freshly-baked telera roll, swiped with refried black beans on both sides of the bun, then stacked high with slow-braised pork, shredded lettuce, tomato, and pickled habanero, with thick strands of Oaxaca cheese binding everything together under a healthy pour of cilantro crema and lots of mayo.
I’ve been making tortas in my own home kitchen ever since; they’re a great vehicle for leftovers, allowing you to stack all of the disparate remains from the bottoms of jars into a towering colossus of Mexican flavor. After cooking up a batch of Chicken Parmesan the day before, I had a pile of breaded, fried chicken breasts sitting in the fridge, slowly getting drier and less appealing, and this seemed like a great opportunity to make something the kids would like, but that I could serve to the grownups with a few interesting additions.
Tortas de Pollo Milanesa
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 eggs beaten
- 2 cups seasoned Panko breadcrumbs
- 4 chicken breast cutlets pounded thin
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 4 Telera (or Kaiser-style) rolls
- 1 can refried beans see note*
- 1/4 cup Mexican crema see note**
- 4 tsp mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup queso fresco crumbled
- Shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced avocado, pickled jalapenos, pickled red onions, or literally anything else you find in your fridge
- Set up your dredging station: In a shallow dish (pie plates work great), combine flour with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. In a second dish, beat together eggs. In a third dish, place seasoned breadcrumbs.
- Dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess. Dip into egg mixture, then dredge in bread crumbs, pressing on gently. Set aside on a clean plate and move on to the next one, working until all pieces are coated and ready to fry.
- In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. oil over medium high heat. Add breaded chicken. Cook until golden, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
- To assemble sandwiches, cut each roll in half lengthwise. Spread each cut side with refried beans (see note), then add fried chicken, and any additional toppings including lettuce, tomato, pickled jalapenos, pickled onions, sliced avocado, or anything else you can think of. Add crumbled queso fresco, drizzle with Mexican crema (see note), and spread top bun with mayonnaise, if desired.***
Real World Scorecard:
Violet (Age 7): Violet got a severely different version of this sandwich, opting for just mayonnaise and for what may be the first time ever, a little shredded lettuce. She ate it pretty happily, adding ketchup against even my most strident protestations.
Mina (Age 4): Mina’s sandwich was literally just chicken on bread, which was refused on principle. I explained that this is the same chicken that McNuggets are made of, served on the same bread that she eats every day, and she made a face that suggested she found my explanations laughably absurd and the expectation that she eat, completely unreasonable.
Does it enter the rotation? Maybe. This is a dinnertime option that allows lots of customizations, which is good for the grownups and may provide an opportunity for the kids to experiment with additional flavors and ingredients, as their mouths get less dumb.