The characteristic of bread that is most over-looked isn’t the delicious crust or soft crumb that a good loaf will have. It also isn’t the obvious way you can slice it and use it to hold together unwieldy things.
The characteristic that is not used enough is that you can hollow out a piece of bread, fill it with a variety of delicious things, top it with cheese, and broil it. Lovers of the bread bowl know this well, but you can also fill bread with non-soup items and it is seriously amazing.
You could eat this Tex-Mex variation for any meal honestly, but I think it makes a fun brunch dish.
1) For the salsa, dice or mince all the veggies well. Be sure to remove seeds from Serrano peppers and dice small. Stir together ingredients, adding lime juice, and season with salt. Cover and store in the fridge until needed.
2) Heat broiler to high heat. In a medium pot, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted add onions and garlic and cook until veggies are soft, about 4 minutes.
3) Add drained pinto beans and stir to combine. Add 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer beans for a few minutes and then mash well. If mixture is very thick, add more stock. If it's soupy and thin, let it simmer a bit longer to thicken. The bean mixture should be pourable, but just barely.
4) Once beans are mashed together, season with salt and pepper and keep warm over low heat.
5) Split rolls in half and scoop out most of the insides. Leave about 1/4-1/2 inch of bread around the crust. Lay out rolls on a baking sheet and stick under broiler for about 1 minute until they are toasted.
6) Remove rolls and divide bean mixture between rolls. The bean mixture should be filled almost to the top of the rolls. Top rolls with grated cheese.
7) Add back to broiler and toast for another 1-2 minutes until cheese is melted and lightly browned and bread is very well toasted.
8) Remove molletes, top each with fresh salsa, and serve while hot.
Recipe adapted from a Saveur recipe.
Making the Bean Mixture
The stuffing for this sandwich is a really straightforward refried bean mixture. Classically, refried beans are cooked in lard but I wanted to keep this version vegetarian so I just used butter.
It’s pretty easy to make. Just melt the butter in a medium pot and then add the onions and garlic and cook until the veggies are soft, about 4-5 minutes.
Then you can add the drained and rinsed pinto beans and stir everything together.
Add the stock to the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer. Once it’s simmering you can start mashing the bean mixture together. It doesn’t have to be completely smooth. Actually, I think some texture is good. The mixture should end up being pourable, but just barely. If it’s very thick and paste-like, add more stock. If it’s really thin like a soup, let it simmer for a bit to thicken.
Season the bean mixture with salt and pepper and keep it warm over low heat while you work on the rest of the dish.
These little bean-stuffed sandwiches are pretty rich and so it’s nice to top them with a fresh salsa which kind of cuts through the richness of the dish.
This is about as easy as salsa gets. I just chopped up a few tomatoes, some onion, a pepper (seeded) and some cilantro and stirred it together with lime and a pinch of salt.
You can obviously make this in advance and store it in the fridge until needed.
Making the Molletes
Now let’s talk about how to mash this stuff together. You can use a variety of rolls for these, but I went with a small hoagie roll that was about 4-5 inches long. Any kind of sturdy roll will do the trick though.
Half the rolls and then scoop out all the insides of the roll. Leave some bread around the edges so it’s not too flimsy.
Stick your rolls under a broiler on high for about a minute just to lightly toast the buns. Then fill them full of the bean mixture. You should have enough bean mixture to fill four rolls.
Then top these suckers with some grated cheese. I used a soft Mexican cheese called Oaxaca which melts really well. Mozzarella or pepper jack would be great also though.
Stick these back under the broiler for a minute or two until the cheese is melted and lightly browned. The bread will also continue to crisp up as the cheese melts.
Then it comes out, top the molletes with fresh salsa and serve them immediately.
My favorite thing about these is that they are easy to make but are also pretty impressive to serve. It’s like… you stuffed bread with deliciousness!
But you can make them in under 30 minutes and there are only a few ingredients needed. If you wanted to cut some of the chopping down, you could even use a store-bought salsa instead of making one from scratch.
It’s a very good idea to try these and it’s a very good idea to leave a comment with other ideas for bread fillings.