Molletes are common lunch fare, found in mercados and street stalls, but so easy to make at home. They are Mexico’s grilled cheese sandwiches, but heartier with refried beans and salsa fresca, fresh salsa that Russ and I still call pico de gallo — beak of the rooster — because that’s the name we learned when we first encountered it on our early trips to Mexico.
Bolillos, the crusty yeast rolls found everywhere in Mexico, are the base for molletes. During these covid days (months), my neighbor Maria and I take turns going into Mascota to pick up our pre-ordered groceries from Pepe’s. When I ordered bolillos, I got round, soft rolls. Not what I wanted. The next time it was my turn to go in, I pointed to the pointy rolls in the glass case in front of the store, not knowing what to call them, because to Pepe they weren’t bolillos. But they were! The grocery receipt itemized them as bolillos telera grande, a full 8″ (20 cm) long. We had molletes muy grande! If you can’t get bolillos or teleras by any name, crusty French bread makes a fine substitution.
Molletes ~ serves 4-6
- 3 bolillos, or French bread cut into 6 4-6″ lengths
- 4 tablespoons soft butter
- 2 cups refried black beans, hot
- 9 ounces grated manchego or Oaxaca cheese
- 6 tablespoons cotija cheese, crumbled, optional garnish
- 2 cups fresh salsa (recipe below)
- Cut bolillos in half lengthwise. Using a fork, pull out much of the doughy interior. Lightly butter cut side of bolillos and toast under a broiler until light brown.
- Heat oven to 400ºF (180ºC).
- Spread about 1/ 3 cup of refried beans across toasted side, filling cavity.
- Sprinkle cheese over beans and return to oven until cheese is melted.
- Spoon salsa generously over melted cheese, topping with optional cotija cheese. Serve immediately. Good with pickled onion, cebolla encurtida.
Salsa Fresca or Pico de Gallo ~ about 2 cups
- 2 Roma tomatoes, about 10 ounces (283 g), finely chopped
- 1/2 cup (2.4 oz/68 g) minced red onion, finely chopped
- 1 – 2 jalapeño or serrano chiles, seeded and finely minced
- 1/2 cup (.7 oz/20g) cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Mix all ingredients. Adjust salt
~ For breakfast, serve molletes with a fried egg on the side. Russ wanted his with a scrambled egg on top (pictured below). And additional salsa verde, just because. I don’t know if Mexicans add eggs to molletes, but it worked for us.
~ On one of our trips to Mexico, before we made it our home, we came across a panedería with a wood-fired oven in the little town of Ciudad Fernández, in the state of San Luis Potosí. Such crusty bolillos, with a hint of wood smoke. Twenty-some years later, those bolillos remain a delicious memory.
~ The double “l” in mollete is pronounced as a “y” sound. Mo-YEH-tay. Bolillo is pronounced bo-LEE-yoh.
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