Though the traditional torta comes in an almost infinite number of shapes and varieties, it's hard to find one that tops the adobo-braised pulled pork sandwich at Nopalito, San Francisco's popular restaurant dedicated to Mexican cuisine. The braised pork, or chilorio, is the star of chef Gonzalo Guzman's sandwich and fried in adobo sauce before being layered on a toasted telera roll with refried beans, avocado, crunchy cabbage slaw and a bright jalapeño salsa.
The chilorio for this torta can easily be made a few days in advance—just be sure to reheat in a sauté pan or griddle, as Guzman notes this particular sandwich is one that's "always eaten hot."
Tortas de Chilorio
Reprinted with permission from 'Nopalito' copyright 2017, by Gonzalo Guzman with Stacy Adimando. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Yield: 6 sandwiches
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
For the Chilorio:
1¼ pounds boneless pork shoulder (pork butt), cut into 4 equal pieces
½ white onion, divided
2 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
¼ medium green cabbage, shaved into thin strips
½ cup crema or sour cream
6 teleras or French rolls
1½ cups (12 ounces) shredded Jack cheese
1½ cups (12 ounces) frijoles pinquitos refritos or store-bought refried pinto beans, warmed
For the Adobo for the Chilorio:
3 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 dried pasilla chile, stemmed and seeded
2 dried mulato chiles, stemmed and seeded
¾ cup white vinegar
Leaves from ½ bunch flat-leaf parsley
5 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
¼ cup lard, rice bran oil, or canola oil
For the Salsa Jalapeño:
1 to 2 jalapeños, stemmed and coarsely chopped
2 large or 4 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Make the pork: Season the pork all over with salt. Place the pork in a small pot and add enough water just to cover; season the water with salt and add half of the onion, the garlic, and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook until the meat is very tender, about 1 hour. Drain the meat and discard the liquid. Shred the meat into thin pieces (you will have about 3 cups). The pork can be made in advance and refrigerated up to 2 days.
2. Meanwhile, make the adobo. In a small heatproof bowl, cover all of the dried chiles with boiling water; let sit until softened, about 20 minutes. Remove the chiles (reserve the soaking water) and add to a blender with the vinegar, parsley, garlic, oregano, cumin, and a generous pinch of salt; blend until a very smooth paste forms, adding a little of the soaking water only if needed to help blend.
3. In a small pot, heat the lard until hot, then stir in the adobo (be careful, as it may splatter). Turn the heat down to very low and let cook, stirring occasionally, until darkened and aromatic, about 10 minutes. Stir in the shredded pork and cook for 5 minutes more to heat through. Taste and adjust the salt as needed (you can also add a little water or some of the soaking water if needed to slightly thin the consistency).
4. In a small blender or molcajete, quickly make the salsa jalapeño: Add the jalapeños, tomatillos, and salt and blend or grind until relatively smooth.
5. Thinly slice the remaining piece of white onion. In a medium bowl, mix the sliced onions and shaved cabbage with the crema and a pinch of salt, and toss to coat.
6. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the rolls in half and place cut side up on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the top half of each roll with ¼ cup (2 ounces) of the Jack cheese, then bake the rolls until the cheese is melted and the bottoms are toasted, 6 to 8 minutes.
7. Cut the avocados into quarters, then thinly slice. Spread ¼ cup of the refried beans on the bottom half of each roll. Divide the pork among the rolls (about ½ cup each), then drizzle each with some of the salsa jalapeño to taste. Top with the sliced avocado and the cabbage slaw and serve.