Think of them as Italian bruschetta’s distant Mexican cousin. Molletes—a simple dish consisting of toasted bread, refried beans and cheese, topped with a fresh tomato salsa—make quick, easy meals or snacks and, in Mexico, can be found at just about any coffee shop or casual restaurant, as well as street food stalls.
In the U.S., molletes are, like most Mexican food, now growing in popularity. I’ve seen them at the smallest hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop cafes as well as upscale restaurants. They’re even at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, where award-winning chef, author and television host Rick Bayless (chef of Chicago’s Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and Xoco) operates a Mexican eatery, called Tortas Frontera, which serves them for breakfast and lunch. They make great on-the-go meals for people jetting off to another city.
The molletes roots stretch back to Andalucia, Spain, where a rustic oval-shaped bread is actually called molletes, and where they’ve been a breakfast staple for hundreds of years. In Spain, however, they’re served simpler, typically featuring olive oil, tomato, garlic and, sometimes, Serrano ham.
Today, I’m sharing my mollete recipe, which I recently posted on my blog, theothersideofthetortilla.com, and which, much to my surprise, became an instant hit among my readers. Though the recipe on my site features step-by-step instructions, don’t worry about using exact proportions. And if you don’t have typical Mexican melting cheeses, such as Chihuahua or Oaxaca, you can easily substitute with common American cheeses such as Monterrey Jack, gouda or mozzarella. Day-old bolillo rolls are best, but you can use fresh bread just fine if you toast it well.
For each mollete, you’ll need:
One bolillo roll, or a section of French bread
A little bit of butter or margarine
A few tablespoons of refried beans
Fresh salsa Mexicana (recipe below)
1. Cut the bread open lengthwise. Toast the bread under the broiler or in a toaster oven until the edges turn golden. Lightly butter the toasted bread.
2. Spread a few tablespoons of beans onto each piece of bread.
3. Add shredded cheese over the top of the beans and place under the broiler or in a toaster oven until the cheese melts.
4. Add salsa Mexicana (or any other salsa you like) over the top and enjoy.
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 slice of white onion, diced
1 tablespoon of cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 a Serrano chile, finely chopped
1/2 of a lime, juiced
1 pinch of kosher salt (1/8 to 1/4 of a teaspoon, to your own taste)
Dice the tomato and onion and mix in a small bowl. Chop cilantro and chile; add to the tomato and onion mixture. Squeeze the juice of half a lime over the mixture and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt. Stir to mix well. Yields 2 servings (a total of about 1/2 cup of salsa). If you don’t eat it all immediately, it will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Maura Wall Hernandez is a Chicago-based journalist and author of the award-winning Mexican food, culture and travel blog, theothersideofthetortilla.com.