July 16, 2009


Since Oliver was born and summer is in full swing I've been craving more creativity in the kitchen. Some new recipes have been tasteless flops, but this one was amazing, packed full of spicy flavor. I keep thinking about these sandwiches since I made it two weeks ago; which is a sure sign of goodness. The leftover pickled onions are chilling in my fridge calling to me to use them again.

I found this recipe through Fresh Direct, a wonderfully convenient New York City company/service where I order groceries online and have them delivered to my door. I wish I had a photo of the beautiful sandwich, but there's only so much a hungry mama with two hungry babes can do at a time. Next time!


from "Rosa's New Mexican Table" by Roberto Santibanez

This sandwich is traditionally known as Cemita Estilo. In some parts of Mexico, cemita means a type of bread, but in the city of Puebla, a cemita is a sandwich made with chicken, beef, or pork milanesa (cutlets coated with seasoned bread crumbs and fried) or simply ham and cheese. At Rosa we feature chicken milanesa in our cemita, but you can substitute plain cooked chicken. If you have pickled onions and pickled jalapeños on hand, this is a snap (and the recipe can easily be doubled). The breaded and panfried chicken is delicious on its own as a simple dinner or lunch. Traditionally cemitas are made with papalo quelite, a pungent field green that grows wild. A mixture of cilantro and watercress is a tasty alternative. Be sure to choose ripe, soft (but not brown) avocados. One of the keys to a successful cemita is an avocado that is ripe enough to spread over the bread.

Makes 2 sandwiches

For the Chicken
One 7- to 8-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt, plus a pinch
1 tablespoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon chile de árbol powder, or other pure chile powder
1 egg
1/2 cup coarse dry bread crumbs
Vegetable oil
For the Sandwiches
2 ciabatta-style rolls, about 6 by 4 1/2 inches, or 2 similar-sized sections from a long ciabatta loaf
4 teaspoons chipotle adobo puree (see note)
1 ripe Hass avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and sliced
Two 5 by 4 by 1/2-inch-thick slices queso fresco (about 6 ounces), or another mild, tangy white cheese such as feta.
1 firmly packed cup fresh cilantro sprigs (thick stems removed)
1 firmly packed cup watercress sprigs (thick stems removed)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup Pickled Red Onions (recipe follows)
2 pickled jalapeños, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
For the Pickled Red Onions
1 1/2 pounds red onions, cut in half and then into very thin (about 1/8-inch-wide) strips, about 5 cups
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, or as needed
2 habanero chile

Bread the chicken: Set the chicken breast on a cutting board. Holding a knife parallel to the board, slice through the chicken starting at the thicker long side and stopping just before the chicken is sliced in half. Open the chicken like a book and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap.
Pound with a meat mallet to a fairly even 1/4-inch thickness. Cut the chicken in half.
Spread the flour on a plate and stir in 1 tablespoon of the salt, the oregano, and chile powder until evenly distributed. Beat the egg in a wide shallow bowl with the pinch of salt until very well blended. Spread the bread crumbs on a separate plate. Turn the chicken in the seasoned flour to coat all sides evenly, and tap off any excess flour. Turn the chicken in the egg to coat evenly, then hold it over the bowl to let any excess egg drip back into the bowl. Lay the chicken on the bread crumbs and turn once or twice, patting gently so the crumbs stick, until evenly coated.
Pour 1/2 inch of vegetable oil into a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat until rippling. Add the breaded chicken and cook until the underside is deep golden brown, about 4 minutes. Flip and repeat, adjusting the heat as necessary so the chicken gives off a lively sizzle without splattering while cooking. Remove to a small paper-towel-lined baking sheet to drain. The chicken can be cooked up to 1 hour before making the sandwiches. Keep at room temperature.
Assemble the sandwiches: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
If necessary, remove the paper towel and rewarm the chicken on the baking sheet in the oven. Meanwhile, split the rolls or bread open, place on a baking sheet, and warm in the oven just until softened.
Spread the cut sides of each roll with the chipotle puree, then top both cut sides with the avocado slices and spread them evenly over the bread. Place the slices of queso fresco on the bottoms of the rolls and top with the warm chicken. Mound the cilantro and watercress over the chicken and drizzle the olive oil over the greens. Top with the pickled onions and jalapeýos, dividing them evenly. Cover with the tops of the rolls, press down lightly but firmly, and cut the sandwiches in half.
Note: To make chipotle adobo puree, scrape the contents of a can of chipotles en adobo into a blender and blend on low speed until smooth. Store any excess in a small glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
Pickled Red Onions: Toss the onions, salt, and oregano will in a mixing bowl. Pack them into a tall narrow glass or stainless steel container. Pour the vinegar over the onions, then add the lime juice. Press the onions down lightly; there should be enough juice to cover the onions. If not, add more juice. Cut a small slit in the tip of the habanero and tuck the habanero into the onions.
Weight the onions down lightly (a small heavy custard cup or ramekin works well). Refrigerate overnight. The onions can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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