For me, eating out at a restaurant is as much a research project as it is an enjoyable hobby. I mean it in a good way—I’m constantly surveying menus for good ingredient combinations that I can try at home and thinking of ways to replicate great dishes in my own kitchen. The latest reproduce-a-restaurant-dish experiment took place just last week, and the subject was one of my favorite sandwiches in Boston: the Chile Relleno Torta from La Verdad, Ken Oringer’s Mexican outpost in Fenway.
I’ve spent considerable time at La Verdad, whether sipping on one of their margaritas before a concert at the House of Blues or grabbing dinner before taking in a game at Fenway. I had always tried to order different things on the menu—until I ate this sandwich. It’s a cheese-lover’s dream, with two types that announce their presence in every bite. But it’s also loaded with other flavorful and texturally diverse ingredients, including avocado, refried beans, tangy pickled onions and a sweet aioli, all layered between a sesame-studded torta roll from Iggy’s.
It’s got a lot of components. It requires a quick fry and has a long ingredient list, though many of the items you probably have in your cabinet or fridge already. Maybe I’d been a couple of margaritas deep when I got the idea of trying to replicate it at home. But I’m sure glad I did! Sure, this recipe looks long on paper, but it’s actually just a bunch of small, simple tasks—roasting the peppers, making pickled onions and dressed-up mayo, collecting the toppings and then assembling them—that come together to create a homemade version of one of the city’s best sandwiches.
Chile Relleno Pressed Sandwich
Makes 2 sandwiches
If you can’t find Iggy’s sesame torta rolls, buy a roll that’s chewy but not too airy, one that can stand up to being pressed. (Or you can do what I did: find a local restaurant that uses them and beg them to sell you a couple.)
2 poblano peppers
2 eggs, separated
½ cup plus ½ tablespoon all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
2 3-by-1-inch slabs of Monterey Jack cheese
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 small garlic clove, grated
1 small chipotle in adobo, minced
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 can refried beans
4 ounces fresh mozzarella
½ avocado, sliced
2 sesame-seeded torta rolls
1. For Pickled Onions: Combine onions, vinegar and sugar in small bowl. Stir to combine. Set aside and let pickle for 45 minutes.
2A. To Char Peppers with Gas Stovetop: If you have a gas stovetop, turn on a large burner. Using tongs, place one pepper over the flame until the side is black and charred, about 2 minutes. Turn pepper over and char the other side, about 2 minutes longer. Remove from burner and place in medium bowl. Repeat process with second pepper. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let steam for 15 minutes.
2B. To Char Peppers with Electric Stovetop: Adjust oven rack to top position and turn on broiler to high. Place peppers on baking sheet and broil until charred, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn peppers upside-down and broil until second side is charred, about 5 minutes longer. Remove pan from oven and, using tongs, transfer peppers to medium bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let steam for 15 minutes before peeling skin.
3. While peppers are cooling, make chipotle mayonnaise. Combine mayonnaise, garlic, chipotle, maple syrup and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Set aside.
4. In a medium bowl, use a stand mixer (or resolute endurance) to whisk the two egg whites to stiff peaks. In a small bowl, whisk together one egg yolk, ½ tablespoon flour, and ½ teaspoon salt. Add half of egg whites to yolk mixture and gently whisk to combine. Then gently fold egg yolk mixture into the remaining egg whites until incorporated.
5. On a shallow dinner plate, spread out remaining ½ cup flour and season with salt and pepper. Set aside. In Dutch oven, heat 1½ inches of vegetable oil until it registers 375 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Line dinner plate with paper towels and set aside.
6. As oil heats, remove peppers from bowl and remove blackened skin. Use a paring knife to slice an inch-long slit in side of pepper and remove seeds with small spoon. Stuff each pepper with 1 slab of Monterey Jack cheese.
7. Dredge the peppers in the seasoned flour, then coat them in the egg batter, letting excess batter drip back into bowl. Carefully place peppers in hot oil, cheese-pocket side to the side, and fry until golden-brown, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, carefully flip peppers over and fry until golden-brown, another 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain.
8. While peppers drain, heat refried beans in the microwave or on the stovetop.
9. To Assemble Sandwiches: Spread reserved mayonnaise and refried beans on both top and bottom of torta. Place pepper on bottom half. Top with avocado slices, pickled onions, cilantro, 2 ounces mozzarella, and top half of torta. To press sandwiches, heat pan over medium heat, place sandwiches in pan, and weigh down with Dutch oven until bottom of sandwich is lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Turn sandwich over and repeat. Transfer sandwich to cutting board, slice in half, and serve with extra napkins.