Today, we are headed to Mexico for a hearty sandwich recipe from the city and region of Puebla. This traditional Mexican favorite comes with a variety of meat fillings. Is is known as cemita poblana, which refers to its city and region of origin and also to the bread roll.
Breads in Mexico
The basis for the sandwich is the bread roll covered with seeds, called cemita. The Mexican bread making habits were influenced by the European baking traditions, with the French influence being the strongest. White bread is the most consumed product. However, many types of breads are available in the country.
The names of the breads are different from region to region, and even from bakery to bakery. Those names often come from their shapes or their history. Cemita is one of the seventeen basic bread categories. It is a white bread made with eggs like the French brioche, which is a cross between a hamburger bun and a ciabatta bread. It is usually rolled but sometimes has different shapes as well.
The cemita poblana is filled with breaded chicken, pork or beef, as well as avocado, Oaxaca cheese and chipotle. It is full of flavors!
What is milanesa?
The breaded meat is called milanesa, which is the South American version of the Italian dish where the meat is breaded and fried in butter or oil. It is quite similar to the Austrian Wiener Schnitzel, which is a breaded veal cutlet and a traditional meat dish in Austria and Hungary.
The Italian breaded meat version was brought to South America by the Italian immigrants during the mass emigration period between 1860 and 1920. The name milanesa reflects the original Milanese preparation technique. A thin slice of chicken, veal, pork or beef is first seasoned with salt, then dipped into flour, then beaten eggs and finally dipped in bread crumbs. After that, the prepared meat is fried in oil, pork fat or in a mixture of butter and oil. For a healthier alternative, it can be cooked in the oven as well, but the result will be a bit different.
What is chipotle?
Another major element of the cemita poblana is the chipotle, which is a smoked and dried jalapeño chili pepper. Jalapeño has different sizes and different heat levels. The green ones are unripe, and the red ones are ripe. When the peppers are ripening, they are kept on the plant as long as possible. When they are deep red and lose their moisture, they are picked to be turned into chipotles.
During the preparation process, the pepper is put into a closed smoking grill where it is smoked for several days, until all of the moisture is removed. Chipotles are sold in many forms: powder, pods, chipotle in adobo (in brine) in a can and wet chipotle meat marinade. The most often used form is the powder, which gives a unique taste for sauces and slow-cooked meats. The whole version is used for soups and stews. For cemita poblana, you should use the canned and brined version, cut into slices.
What is pápalo or Bolivian cilantro?
For a traditional cemita poblana sandwich, you should use pápalo, which is a typical Mexican green herb. The plant has egg-shaped leaves and yellow flowers, which look like dandelion flowers. The young leaves have a milder flavor and as they gets older, the flavor gets stronger. Pápalo leaves are used to flavor soups, stews, grilled meats, beans, salsas and salads and are also used as a medicinal herb. They are often used as a substitute for cilantro in cooking.
Try this delicious and easy to make cemita poblana for a taste of Mexico!
Cemita poblana is a traditional Mexican sandwich full of flavors that is filled with breaded chicken, pork or beef, as well as avocado, Oaxaca cheese and chipotle.
- 4 eggs , beaten
- 3 cups bread crumbs
- 4 chicken cutlets
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup canola oil
- 4 cemitas (brioche rolls topped with sesame seeds)
- 2 avocados , peeled, pitted and chopped
- 10 oz. grated queso oaxaca (Mexican cheese) or grated mozzarella
- 1 red onion , sliced
- 12 leaves pápalo (Bolivian cilantro)
- 4 chipotle peppers (or pickled jalapeño), cut into thin slices
- Olive oil
Place the eggs and breadcrumbs in two shallow separate dishes.
Season the cutlets with salt and pepper.
Then dip in eggs, then breadcrumbs. Set aside.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and fry the cutlets, turning them once, until golden brown on both sides (about 4 to 5 minutes per side).
Place the cutlets on paper towels.
Slightly toast the cemitas.
Open up the cemita roll, and place 1 chicken cutlet in the bottom half of each cemita. Garnish with avocado, and a generous dose of cheese, sliced onion and slices of chipotle.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Cover with the top side of the bread.