By Angela Denstad Stigeler
Some of my favorite street food can be found in the pedestrian-dominated Downtown Crossing area of Boston in the form of a Chilean sandwich. A vendor there called Chacarero—named after its main menu item—hands hundreds of these heartily filled rolls out through their window to the hungry line that winds down the block. Shoppers then find a public bench or take their treasure to nearby Boston Common, and office-workers rush back to the Financial District, knowing it was worth spending most of their lunch hour in line. With no seating, this literal “hole in the wall” restaurant profits greatly by its sandwiches’ picnic-ability.
Hungry for their offering, but not able to make the trek, I wanted to recreate the flavor at home, or—even better—at a picnic or campground. It’s essentially a two-step meal: marinate and cook the meat, then build your sandwich. It’s an easy and fun alternative to the usual grilled sandwiches, but just as easy.
The traditional sandwich is served on a specialty Chilean bread, which is a kind of cross between a flatbread and a yeasted dinner roll. Although a good hoagie or hamburger roll will stand in quite well, if you’re so inclined to search for the bread recipe, you’ll want to research pan amasado, and not the charcarero itself, which is not to be confused with the chacarera, an Argentine folk dance and musical style. But no matter how you plan to picnic with it, this sandwich is worth hoofing it to downtown Boston for those in the vicinity, or tracking down the ingredients and making it in two easy steps at home. Any way you can make it, a chacarero is a great meal to be had for a mere song and dance.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
12 ounces thinly sliced beef, pork or chicken
salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
2 ripe avocados
4 large rolls (hoagies or large hamburger rolls), toasted if desired
4 deli slices Muenster cheese
1 cup cooked fresh green beans
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
hot sauce (optional)
In a shallow bowl or plastic zip-top bag, combine the olive oil, garlic, paprika, cumin, oregano and meat. Turn to coat and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, or refrigerate overnight. Heat a skillet or grill to medium heat, season the meat with salt and sear until just cooked through, a couple of minutes per side. Let rest while you assemble the other sandwich components.
In a small bowl, mash the avocadoes into a smooth paste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread the top of the rolls with the avocado and divide the meat evenly among the bottoms of the rolls. Place a slice of Muenster over the meat, then add slices of tomato and some green beans on top. Sprinkle with hot sauce to taste, place the top of the rolls on the sandwiches and serve.