Recipe Flash: Mexican Chicken Tortas
Hosting a Finger Food Party anytime soon? Check out our guide here!
Mini sandwiches are one of the best items on our catering menu. At parties that fall somewhere between dinner buffets and cocktail hours with itsy-bitsy bites, they usually make an appearance. They’re cute but still filling, and their concept seems to spark our creativity: there have been mini meatball subs, mini brisket sandwiches, and mini pulled chicken on brioche buns. (Of course any time you see a mini sandwich on BGSK you should feel free to remember that, should you not be catering a finger food party, you can simply enlarge the size of the bread, make regular-sized sandwiches, and assume a lower yield.) Jointly, these sandwiches led to Mexican Chicken Tortas being served at an office party we catered for Jordana’s mom, Andrea.
The tortas are composed of many recipe parts you can find elsewhere on this blog, but it’s the combination of them that make the sandwiches stand out. Spiced refried beans, smoky chipotle mayo, cumin-scented chicken thighs, and sweet-and-sour red cabbage crunch conspire to create an addictive, filling sandwich, as perfect for a Superbowl party as for a picnic, or even a dinner for two.
From our kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Cara and Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS
Mexican Chicken Tortas
Makes 12 small sandwiches
For the beans:
1 tablespoon safflower or other neutral oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 can refried beans (not fat free)
cayenne to taste
For the chipotle mayo:
½ cup mayonnaise
1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the can)
For the red cabbage crunch:
1/2 small red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons neutral oil
For the chicken & assembly:
1 1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground pepper
about 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you want about 12 small thighs)
4 ounces jack cheese, grated
12 dinner rolls (for mini sandwiches) or 8 kaiser rolls (for meal-sized sandwiches), sliced almost all the way through
For the refried beans, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cooking, stirring frequently, until soft but not brown, 6-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Sprinkle the spices into the pan and cook for another minute, stirring to distribute them. Scrape in the refried beans and stir to combine them with onion mixture. Raise the heat to medium-high and let the beans cook, stirring every few minutes to let a crust develop on the bottom. This increases the flavor. After 20 minutes, taste for salt and spice and correct as needed. Set the beans aside–they don’t need to be warm for the sandwiches, just room temperature.
To make the chipotle mayo, combine the mayo, chipotle, and adobo sauce together in a mini food processor and pulse to break up the chili and distribute evenly. This can be done up to a week in advance and kept refrigerated.
Combine all the ingredients for the cabbage crunch in a medium bowl. Cover and allow to sit for at least an hour at room temperature, or longer in the frige. Taste and add more salt, sugar, or vinegar as needed.
For the chicken, preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brunch it with oil. In a medium bowl, combine the cumin, coriander, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. A few pieces at a time, toss the chicken in the spices, then arrange on the baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through (you can tell either by cutting into a piece and looking, or by pricking one and making sure the juice runs clear). Take the pan out of the oven and distribute the cheese evenly over the pieces. Return to the oven for 3-4 minutes, until the cheese melts.
To assemble the sandwiches, pull out a bit of the doughy part from the inside of the top piece of the roll. Spread the bottom with a layer of refried beans and the top with chipotle mayo. Cut a chicken thigh to fit the size of the roll–if you’re using mini rolls, you may have to trim the chicken; if kaiser rolls, you may have to use one and a half. Reserve the scraps for fitting onto other sandwiches. Top the chicken with a tablespoon or two of red cabbage crunch and close the sandwich. Fasten with a toothpick if you like.