Canvas for Culinary Creativity
What does it mean when we say a sandwich is a canvas for culinary creativity? Literally a sandwich can be a combination of any ingredients from any place. And, lots of places around the world have their own iconic sandwiches. There’s American standards like grilled cheese, po’ boys or peanut butter and jelly, Vietnamese Bánh Mì, Venezuelan-style Arepas, Polish Zapiekankas, French Croque Madame, Italian Panini, and Mexican Tortas. But, what happens when you combine sandwich styles? Creativity for sure. And, if you are lucky, you get a masterpiece like Eddie Hernandez’s Ham and Egg Torta.
Who is Eddie?
Over thirty years ago Eddie Hernandez came to the US from Mexico with his rock and roll band. He spoke no English, but learned fast, and along the way returned to cooking over rocking and rolling. Eddie’s philosophy can be summed up simply, “In Mexico, we eat what we like. We take shortcuts. We improvise. We adapt to whatever is around us. That’s what makes us such good cooks.” He is now the executive chef of Taqueria del Sol, a top restaurant chain in Georgia and Tennessee. Along with his partner Mike Klank, Eddie was nominated for a 2017 James Beard Outstanding Restaurateur Award.
We’ve been big fans of Taqueria del Sol for years (despite the taco versus sandwich thing).
So when we had the chance to share Eddie Hernandez’s Ham and Egg Torta as a special sneak preview at his new cookbook, we jumped. Turnip Greens & Tortillas explores the shared similarities of Southern and Mexican food. Below we can share the magic that happens when “a born-again Southern boy” combine cuisines…all in a sandwich!
The Story behind Eddie Hernandez’s Ham and Egg Torta
“The breakfast sandwich in Mexico came long before the Egg McMuffin. It starts with a really good roll. If you have some homemade bolillos, you are halfway there. A crusty French roll will work, too. I really like the combination of ham and eggs, even if it’s just pressed, packaged lunch meat—one of the few smoked meats Mexicans could afford. But by all means use some high-quality mortadella or prosciutto if you have it. Smear both sides with mayonnaise, add a slice of really ripe and juicy tomato, some avocado and onion, and a runny fried egg. The only thing I recommend is that you never eat and drive with this torta, or you will have egg yolk all over the steering wheel and your pants, though it is well worth the mess!”
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, butter, lard, or Butter Blend for frying
- 4 large eggs
- 4 bolillos (recipe follows) or French bread rolls (wrapped in foil and warmed in the oven, or split and toasted, if desired)
- Onion slices
- Tomato slices
- Avocado slices
- 4 slices smoked ham
- Pickled jalapeño slices
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the fat in a skillet over medium heat. When hot, crack the eggs one at a time into the skillet and cook until the whites are set. Flip, and cook to the desired doneness (I prefer mine runny).
- Split open a warm bolillo and spread both sides with mayonnaise. Layer the bottom half with an onion slice, tomato slice, avocado slice, ham slice, and a few pickled jalapeño slices. Top with a fried egg. Add the top bun and assemble the remaining tortas.
HAM AND EGG TORTA is excerpted from TURNIP GREENS AND TORTILLAS © 2018 by Eddie Hernandez with Susan Puckett. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Bread Makes the Tortas
“Bolillos (buh-lee-os), yeast rolls that are crispy on the outside and soft and light in the middle, are made throughout Mexico and are not unlike a large Southern dinner roll. But they are used mostly for the sandwiches called tortas. Although bolillos are traditionally shaped into ovals and slashed down the middle before baking, I prefer to roll them into rounds because this shape holds fillings better. You can also roll them into smaller appetizer sizes. I also use this recipe to make flour tortillas. Traditional flour tortillas are made with baking powder and lard, but I like the yeasty, bready flavor of these even better than the ones I used to make with my mom. These tortillas are versatile and may be fried until crispy as a base for pizza toppings, or folded over a sweet or savory filling for a deep-fried turnover.”
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the pans
- 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 2 tablespoons instant yeast
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 cups very warm (120 degrees) water
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, melted
- Coarse sea salt
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, melted
- Coarse sea salt
- Brush two large heavy-duty baking sheets, preferably nonstick, with vegetable oil. Set aside.
- To make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 5 cups of the flour, the yeast, sugar, salt, and the 2 tablespoons oil. Set the mixer on low speed and slowly add the warm water. Mix until thoroughly incorporated and the dough becomes elastic, about 5 minutes. If it's too sticky, add a little more flour. Continue mixing until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and set on a clean surface. Knead a few times to form a smooth ball. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 18 to 20 pieces, about 2 ounces each.
- Set a piece of dough on another clean surface. With the palm of your hand, roll it vigorously into a smooth ball. Set on one of the greased baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Leave 2 to 3 inches of space between each ball, then set in a warm place, uncovered, and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Brush the rolls with the butter and sprinkle with a little sea salt.
- Bake 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Remove with a spatula to a cooling rack and cool completely.
- The rolls will keep for 2 to 3 days in an airtight container or frozen, wrapped airtight, for up to 2 months.
BOLILLOS is excerpted from TURNIP GREENS AND TORTILLAS © 2018 by Eddie Hernandez with Susan Puckett. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
NOTE: Recipe Photos © 2018 Angie Mosier
EDDIE HERNANDEZ is the executive chef of Taqueria del Sol, with locations in Georgia and Tennessee. He and his business partner, Mike Klank, were nominated for a 2017 James Beard Outstanding Restaurateur Award. His recipes have appeared in Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Southern Living, and Garden & Gun. He came to the U.S. to play rock and roll with his band, has been mayor of a small town in Texas, and a member of the local fire brigade before returning to his first love: cooking.
SUSAN PUCKETT, the former food editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has written for Eating Well, National Geographic Traveler, and Atlanta Magazine. She is the author of Eat Drink Delta: A Hungry Traveler’s Journey Through the Soul of the South, and has co-authored and collaborated on many others.
Click here for more information about Eddie Hernandez’s Ham and Egg Torta and the new cookbook Turnip Greens & Tortillas.