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~ Ahogada Sauce for Mexican Drowned Sandwiches ~

IMG_7356In Spanish, "ahogada" means "drowned", "drenched" or "drunk".  Culinarily it refers to a super-spicy, tawny-red sauce that gets poured over Mexican-style chopped, sliced or shredded, beef, pork, chicken or shrimp "tortas" ("sandwiches").  The working-mans-lunch is served on a semi-firm bolillo roll, in a bowl, "bien ahogada", "well drowned" (immersed end-to-end).  It has the reputation of curing the common cold or a bad hangover, and, is believed to be a way to sweat-out an infection too.  For those who can't handle the heat, the sandwich can be ordered "media" ("medium"), with a higher ratio of tomato sauce added to tame the peppery sauce.

Any sandwich that gets drowned or dunked in sauce...

The drowned sandwich (ahogada torta) was invented in Guadalajara in the early 1900's.  It was literally a mistake, a "slip-of-the-hand", so to speak.  Don Ignacio "Nacho" Saldaña, was a thirty year old who just started working for one of the city's largest vendors, Luis De La Torre, at his central plaza location, which was managed by De La Torre's father. As per Saldaña, a customer requested extra sauce on his pork sandwich, and, senior De La Torre accidentally dropped the sandwich in the container.  "It's drowned", the customer cried, but, after eating it and declaring how good it was, the son began selling torta ahogadas in all of his eateries.  Saldaña eventually saved enough money to open his own restaurant at the corner of Madero and Indepence Streets, where, now, five decades later and well into his 80's, he's still selling the iconic sandwiches.

IMG_7354... is a sandwich dependent on a great sauce.

By simple word-of-mouth this humble, mess-of-a-pork and lightly-grilled- or raw-onion sandwich quickly grew in popularity.  Before long, vendors all across the city were touting their versions, by tweaking recipes for the marinade and/or the sauce -- just enough to call them their own. Variations on the presentation followed, with some serving the sauce in a bowl to the side, while others began slathering the roll with condiments like refried beans or guacamole prior to drowning.  Still others, they took it one step further, by offering marinated beef, chicken or shrimp options as a substitute for pork.  My all-purpose recipe for ahogada sauce, which is made with vegetable stock, is hot-but-not-too-hot and pairs perfectly with any protein you choose to use.   

My all-purpose American-girl's version of the signature sauce:

IMG_71272  tablespoons achiote-vegetable oil, or plain vegetable oil

2  tablespoons Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce & Gravy flour (or unbleached, all-purpose flour)

1  tablespoon ground cumin

1  tablespoon Mexican-style chili powder

1  tablespoon Mexican-style oregano leaves

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  teaspoon onion powder

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1  teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2  cups high-quality unsalted vegetable stock

2  tablespoons lime juice, fresh or high-quality bottled not from concentrate

2  tablespoons white vinegar

1  15 1/2-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

1  15-ounce can tomato sauce, to taste, add more for less heat

1  4 1/2-ounce can green chiles, undrained

3  chipotle canned chiles in adobo, add more for more heat

1  tablespoon adobo sauce, from canned chipotles in adobo, add more for more heat 

IMG_7135 IMG_7135 IMG_7135 IMG_7135~Step 1.  In a small bowl, measure and place all of the dried herbs and spices as listed.  In a 4-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the flour.  Whisking vigorously and constantly, cook until the roux is very thick, smooth and bubbly, 1-1 1/2 full minutes.

IMG_7146 IMG_7146 IMG_7146 IMG_7146~Step 2.   Thoroughly whisk in the dried herbs and spices.  The mixture will be grainy, lumpy and bumpy.  Slowly and in a thin stream, whisk in the stock, followed by the lime juice and vinegar.

IMG_7166 IMG_7166 IMG_7166 IMG_7166~Step 3.  Add and stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, green chiles, chiles in adobo, and adobo sauce.  Using a large spoon (lose the whisk), give the mixture a thorough stir, adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer, and, continue to simmer, stirring frequently for 10-12 minutes.  Turn the heat off.  Partially-cover the pot and allow to steep, to allow flavors to marry, 30-60 minutes.

IMG_7200 IMG_7200 IMG_7200 IMG_7200~Step 4.  Once the sauce has cooled a bit, using a hand-held immersion blender, or a food processor, or, a blender, process the sauce to desired consistency, smaller bits and pieces, or smooth, about 2 minutes.  That said, if you prefer chunky sauce, more like salsa, feel free to skip this step.  If you've followed my recipe, you will have a little over 5 1/2 cups.  There's more.  This sauce, freezes well.  I portion it into 2 cup containers, each enough to sauce 2-3 sandwiches.

5 1/2 cups, which freezes well = 4 meals of 2-3 sandwiches each. 

IMG_7217Sink or Swim:  Mexican Drowned-Beef Sandwiches. 

IMG_7307And the traditional:  Torta Ahogada Drowned-Pork Sandwich

IMG_7575Ahogada for Mexican Drowned-Style Sandwiches:  Recipe yields 5 1/2 cups sauce, enough to drown 8-12 hearty sandwiches/8-12 servings.

Special Equipment List: 4-quart saucepan w/lid; 2- cup measuring container; whisk; large spoon; hand-held immersion blender, or food processor, or blender (your choice)

IMG_7122Cook's Note:  In the food world, in every cuisine, the layering of flavors, or continuity of flavor throughout the dish being served, is extremely important.  In the case of Mexican-style torta ahogadas, the process begins with a marinade.  Check out my recipe for ~ A Basic Mexican Marinade for Beef, Poultry or Pork ~.  It can be made,  along with the sauce a day ahead, which renders sandwich-making-day a breeze.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018.


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