When I was reviewing recipes and stories for my pambazo sandwich post, I came across a version called Guajolote (a Mexican colloquial name for turkey; the bird, not the country). There are slightly different versions, mostly from the Mexican states of Querétaro, and its neighbour, Hidalgo. What I liked about a specific version from the town of Tulancingo, HIdalgo was that the origin story, plus or minus a few details, is mostly un-contested; I also liked that the ingredients are simple, and unique at the same time. This is a Christmas story, but since it involves turkey, and American Thanksgiving is fast approaching, I thought it would be fine to post it now. The story of the Tulancingo guajolote (pronounced wha-ho-lot-eh) places the birth of this torta (Mexican sandwich) sometime in the first half of the 1900s, telling the story of a group of engineers being hungry after a long shift, working on an electricity system for the town, on Christmas Eve. There was only a humble enchilada stand open on that special day and at such advanced hour of the night; the customers asked the lady at the stand if she was going to serve them a pavo (turkey, in standard Spanish). Other than her enchilada ingredients, the lady only had a few buns, so she put together some enchiladas, and stuffed each bun with two of them, plus whatever she had at hand. After their meal, the customers, playing with words, said that it had not had the finesse of a pavo (the formal word), perhaps just a humble guajolote (the colloquialism), but that it was still very good, and certainly very filling … and Tulancingo’s “el guajolote” torta, was born that Christmas Eve.
This is one of those infamous Mexican tortas with extra carbs inside, “pa’ que se llene” – “to fill you up”; another example is the “double T” torta de tamal, sometimes called guajolota (turkey hen) when a couple of tamales are fried before being stuffed in a large bun; I would understand if any readers were cringing at this point! I am not sure about fried tamales in a bun, but I wanted to try the classic guajolote from Tulancingo. The original recipe also calls for hard boiled egg and refried beans, so I thought a large torta with those ingredients plus not one, but two enchiladas inside would be not only quite filling, but a little too much; I had to modify it from a full-size torta, to a snack-size sandwich, and reduce the fat from frying. I gave my version the name “Guajolotito” (wha-ho-lot-ee-toh), which means “little turkey”, which is also suitable for vegetarian or vegan diets.
Tulancingo Style Guajolotito –
Guajolotito estilo Tulancingo
Dinner rolls or other small buns
Refried Beans (try my homemade recipe, or canned)
Tomatillo green salsa (try my cooked green sauce, or bottled)
Hard boiled eggs (optional); peeled and sliced
Corn tortillas; warmed, as directed on the package
Fresh cheese, such as Cotija, panela, light feta, or vegan; crumbled
Vegetable oil (or olive oil)
Pour enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of a frying pan, and place it on the stove, over medium heat. Slice warm tortillas into quarters and the buns lengthwise, in half. Spread refried beans on one side of the buns; place one bun and two pieces of tortilla in the pan, frying and flipping until just slightly crisp on both sides (photo below, left); remove to a dry skillet over low heat, to keep it warm and let the excess oil get drained (photo below, right):
Spread some green salsa on the beans, then arrange the tortilla quarters on top, and cover with more green salsa, cheese and onions. Place two slices of hard boiled egg on top (if using), and finish with another scoop of salsa:
Close the mini-torta with the other half of bread, and it is ready to serve:
Transfer to a plate, or move to the side of the skillet to keep warm; repeat procedure with the rest of the buns and tortillas. These guajolotitos are vegetarian, or vegan without the egg; to please meat lovers, other variations go the other way, with the addition of either bacon, ham, chorizo, carnitas, cooked chicken … or all of them!
For a more party-friendly version, and probably healthier since there is no frying involved, drizzle baguette slices with olive oil, and toast in the oven until golden brown. Spread refried beans on each slice, then layer with: green salsa, a store-bought corn chip, another dollop of refried beans to keep the chip in place, and a quarter of a hard-boiled egg; finally, sprinkle with onions and cheese. The vegan version is also an option, or add a cute face with whole peppercorns and slices of red pepper:
This little appetizers were my favourite; I think the crunchy toast was a tasty canvas for the explosion of flavours on top, and the smaller size was even more manageable.