The Washington Post

Simple is good. These Mexican sandwiches are really simple ... and really great.

- Ann Maloney

This time of year, I’m on the prowl for dinner in the fewest minutes possible.

That’s because I am not only super busy at work planning for holiday food stories, but I’m also cooking for my own gatherings and festive meals.

So, when I stumbled across molletes (moh-yeh-tehs) on cookbook author Pati Jinich’s website, I was delighted. Crispy bread. Love it. Refried beans. I’m there. Pico de gallo. Yes, please. The headline that caught my eye said: “No Way Not to Fall in Love.” Totally agree.

As Jinich pointed out, the recipe requires only three ingredient­s and can be ready in about 10 minutes. She calls the open-faced refried bean and cheese melts “one of the most comforting foods I have eaten since I can remember.” In Mexico, molletes are eaten at breakfast, lunch or dinner, and they are typically served with a side of pico de gallo.

The first night I made them — during the hectic Thanksgivi­ng week — I ate them that way, but then felt a wave of DIY freedom when I read Jinich’s note that she gathers optional toppings to make her sons “feel empowered in the kitchen, different from one another and like they are fully enforcing their free will on my territory.” (I plan to try them with crumbled bacon or crispy chorizo, as Jinich, host of the public television series “Pati’s Mexican Table” and author of three cookbooks, “Pati’s Mexican Table,” “Mexican Today” and the new “Treasures of the Mexican Table,” suggests.)

For the version shared here, because I didn’t have access to a bolillo or telera, I picked up a baguette. It’s this simple: You slice the bread in half along its 350 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Halve the bread across the equator, then remove all but about 1/4 inch of its interior. Place cut side up on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, or until lightly toasted. (If you place the bread removed from the interior on the same baking sheet, you can toast, cool and then blitz it in a food processor to make breadcrumb­s.)

In a medium bowl, combine the refried beans and scallion whites. Spread the refried bean mixture evenly inside the toasted bread. Top generously with the grated cheese. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bread is lightly toasted around the edges. (This is a good time to slice your avocado or make pico de gallo, if you choose to do so.)

Transfer the bread to a cutting board and slice crosswise into 4-inch lengths. Serve warm, topped with pico de gallo, and avocado, jalapeño, cilantro, scallions greens and lime wedges, if using, on the side.

Nutrition | Per serving (two 4-inch molletes with about 1/4 cup pico de gallo): 656 calories, 31 g protein, 81 g carbohydra­tes, 21 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 50 mg cholestero­l, 1,267 mg sodium, 9 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar

Recipe tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to equator. Add a generous portion of canned (what I used) or homemade refried beans, top with your favorite cheese that melts well — I chose a pepper jack — and bake it in the oven until the bread is crisp around the edges and the cheese is bubbly.

Chef and author Pati Jinich called molletes “one of the most comforting foods I have eaten since I can remember.”

I decided to pull some of the plush bread from the interior of the baguette and to crisp the bread in the oven before adding the beans, but that’s optional. I just like the crunch this produces. (I’ve read that some people brush the bread with a little olive oil or butter before toasting, but I didn’t find that necessary.)

Then, serve the comfort food with whatever you like, such as store-bought or homemade pico de gallo, sliced avocado, pickled jalapeño, cilantro leaves and a squeeze of lime. The more toppings, the more time this recipe takes, of course.

Biting into the warm, cheesy sandwich after a long day at work feels like a reward for my diligence. And the good news for me and mine is that we love them so much, we can eat molletes several nights in a row, jazzing them up with various salsas and cheeses. Perfect for any busy week and, especially, for the hectic, wintry weeks to come.

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