The first time I tasted a torta ahogada (drowned sandwich) was at Pony Up, a Denver restaurant specializing in French sandwiches. It’s Mexico’s answer to a French dip and comes from the Mexican state of Jalisco, but is especially popular in Guadalajara.
“When I lived in Los Angeles, we made regular trips to Guadalajara for this sandwich,” said Sheamus Feeley, chef and owner of Pony Up. “We loved them and had to put it on the menu. We use it as a featured article from time to time.
A torta ahogada is made with a roll called salted birote, which is different from traditional Mexican bread (“bolillo”). Birote has a sour taste and a very hard crust slightly similar to a crispy baguette or a soft sourdough. The roll is sliced lengthwise and filled with shredded, braised, melt-in-your-mouth carnitas (roasted pork). Then it is placed in a bowl and covered halfway with spicy tomato sauce. They are delicious.
When Mexican restaurant El Jalisco opened a few months ago in the old Lemongrass Bistro, I was hoping this torta would be on the menu, especially since Jalisco is near Guadalajara. When I didn’t see it there, I asked my waitress, Areli Cabral, if she knew about the sandwich.
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“Oh yes, we do,” she said, “but it’s not on the menu yet. It will be.”
The following week I went back and had my fix of torta ahogada.
Alba Arreola, Cabral’s mother-in-law and co-owner/chef of El Jalisco, slathers another layer of very spicy chili sauce on her torta ahogada.
“I asked him to step aside,” Cabral said. “It’s really spicy hot.”
She was right. A little here and there was delicious.
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Now I have a new favorite Mexican restaurant to get a very special sandwich. Here is a recipe if you want to try it. For me, I will hit El Jalisco.
It should be noted that toppings may vary. Use chicken, beef, or go vegan with mashed beans or sliced mushrooms. Optional toppings for the torta can include shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, and pickled onions. And forget about picking up the torta to eat. It’s too messy to eat as a sandwich. It’s a knife and fork treat.
Contact the author: 636-0271.
contact the author: 636-0271.