The midnight torta comes home for brunch…

I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine.

If your mouth didn’t immediately water upon seeing that picture, I’m not so sure we can ever be friends…

That was harsh I know, but it’s how I feel. It’s been more than a year since I was eating this delicious sandwich and honestly, I can’t believe it’s been 12 months since it was in my mouth. It kind of makes me want to cry, because simply put, this is one of the best (and easiest) brunch dishes I have ever eaten.

Here’s the back story to my love affair: I spotted the ‘Midnight Torta’ in an issue of Food & Wine and was immediately obsessed with it. It was constantly at the front of my “must make” stack of recipes, yet it kept being pushed aside because I never seemed to have all of the ingredients, particularly the main one — the torta rolls. And yet I couldn’t let go. I was determined to one day make this glorious-looking sandwich, especially since it is so named because it’s the perfect thing to eat after a night out drinking.

And while I can fully imagine this is true, I broke tradition and instead made this for brunch as a surprise for my husband. He has become addicted to the tortas from the taco cart by our house and after eating a few nibbles one time, I could understand why. They are seriously delicious. So again, I brought out the recipe and hung it above my stove as inspiration.

Then the perfect window of opportunity came and I knew it was time. Time for the midnight torta to come to my house.

I bought some pork belly, jalapeños, cilantro and all the other goodies that I needed. But I still didn’t have the torta bread and I honestly didn’t feel like driving to a Latino market to buy some. I was feeling lazy, but I knew that regular rolls or a baguette just wouldn’t give me the right effect. I needed that torta bread!

Then it hit me — the answer was just down the street. Freshly motivated I got up the courage to walk down to the taco cart and order one enchilada burrito (my usual) and two tortas — bread only. Now the cart is run by a family and it’s always the teenaged daughter who works the window. After I was done ordering, she looked at me like I was absolutely the craziest person she had ever met. And we live in a pretty strange neighborhood, so that’s kind of saying a lot.

She turned to ask her mother, the cook, who also turned to stare at me. Blushing I explained I was using it for a recipe. They conferred. The daughter told me slowly that the torta bread was really just bread. There wasn’t anything special about it. I reassured her I knew, I just needed it plain for something I was cooking. They conferred again.

“Two dollars each?” the daughter finally said, hesitantly, as if expected me to angrily storm away.

But, oh no, I was just grateful. Finally! The final ingredient had been procured and now it was time to make magic happen. And if anything went awry, at least I had my enchilada burrido in the fridge. Though I was confident it wouldn’t come to that.

Midnight Torta fixin’s

I started by getting all of my goodies together — sliced tomatoes, shredded cojita sharp cheddar cheese, julienned roasted jalapeños and picked cilantro. The torta bread was sliced in half and then toasted under the broiler until it was golden brown.

I cooked the pork belly, cut into strips, until it was crisp. Then in went the fresh spinach and eggs. By the way, this whole process smelled amazing. It was all I could do not to just eat it right out of the pan. It’s hard to be strong when pork belly is involved.

* A quick word here. Pork bellies are really nothing fancy — they are basically just raw uncured bacon. Same piece of pig. As a meat distributor, I get asked this all the time so I don’t mind clarifying. *

Then it was time for assembly…

Finally the top of the torta bread was layered with some homemade aioli and tomatoes while the egg mixture was topped with cheese and roasted jalapeños. As a warning, you may need to dislocate your jaw to fit this thing in your mouth.

And that is it — salvation has come and its name is torta. You are ready to have a seat, scarf this down and most likely pass out in a food coma thirty minutes later. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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