Last year Lorrie agreed to share some of the recipes she cooks for her family. I have already posted her Baked Oatmeal and Roosevelt Beans recipes. A day or two later she sent me her recipe for Burritos Deliciosos. Here is her explanation of how she first came to make this wonderful example of Tex-Mex cuisine.
“I found this recipe in the early 2000’s, when I started to really focus on ingredients and started enjoying the cooking process. For awhile I was having a great time with vegetarian cookbooks. I’m not a vegetarian, but I found that those recipes most often used the kind of ingredients I wanted to use. My little secret was to replace tofu with meat. This recipe falls into that camp. The original called for tofu, and I subbed in chicken.”
When they first came to the region we now call Mexico, the Spanish conquistadors found a civilization with a sophisticated cuisine. The largest was the Aztec empire. Reports sent back to Spain included descriptions of native foods. Virtually all the reports mention tortillas and some describe how meat and vegetables were wrapped in tortillas.
They were corn tortillas, of course. Since wheat was not native to the Americas, these sandwiches probably resembled the tacos you find in Mexico today—soft corn tortillas wrapped around various fillings. However, things tend to dribble out the ends of my tacos even when I try to be neat. The burrito, I suspect, was invented by someone like me who said, “If I fold the ends in and roll the tortilla up tight, nothing can fall out,” (in Spanish, of course).
Having tried to make burritos with corn tortillas, I can say that the ones I used didn’t work very well. After the Spaniards brought wheat to the New World, mills were soon grinding flour, and some creative Mexican cooks discovered they could turn that flour into tortillas. Flour tortillas are more flexible than tortillas made from masa, so they lend themselves to the folding that produces a tidy sandwich—the burrito.
No one knows when the first burrito ended up in someone’s hand, but a Mexican dictionary in 1895 defined a burrito as a tortilla rolled up with meat or other ingredients in it. Burritos, therefore, have certainly been on the menu for well over a century and probably a lot longer.
The modern burrito is often considered a Tex-Mex dish blending the cooking styles and food preferences of people in Mexico and the southwestern United States. Today you can find burritos from Nome, Alaska, to Capetown, South Africa, and probably just about everywhere else in the world.
Lorrie’s version of what was originally a native American sandwich is truly delicious. The fresh lime juice mixed with the rice and black beans provides a wonderful complement to the meat and other vegetables.
12 large burrito-size tortillas
2-1/2 to 3 cups cooked Texmati rice
1 can black beans
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish or other sweet onion, diced
1 red bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
2 cups cooked chicken, diced
2 cups sweet corn, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
Start by preparing the ingredients. You can do this ahead of time and assemble the burritos just before dinner.
Cook the rice according to the instructions on the package or use this simple recipe: Put a cup of uncooked rice in a covered one quart saucepan. Add two cups of water and a quarter teaspoon of salt. Bring the pan to a boil, stirring the rice a couple of times. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan and simmer until all the water is absorbed, usually twenty-five to thirty minutes. Check at fifteen and twenty minutes to make sure that the rice is not boiling dry.
Drain and rinse the can of beans. Remove the root and stem ends and outer skin of the onion and chop it into a quarter to half inch dice. Set it aside in small bowl. Wash the pepper, remove the stem, seeds and white membrane and dice it as you did the onion. Remove the paper from the garlic and mince it. Set the pepper and garlic aside in a separate bowl. If the corn is frozen, measure two cups into another bowl and allow it to thaw while the rice is cooking.
Preheat the oven to 300º and wash and chop the cilantro.
In an ovenproof casserole dish, mix the black beans with the cooked rice, and pour the juice from one and one-half limes over the rice and beans. You should have about two tablespoons of juice. Stir well to mix. Turn off the oven, cover the dish with aluminum foil and place it in the preheated oven to heat through.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet and sauté the onions until they are soft, four or five minutes. Add the peppers and garlic, chili powder, and cumin and cook the vegetables for another five minutes, stirring often. Stir in the diced chicken, corn, salt, and black pepper. Stir well and heat the mixture. Add the chopped cilantro and remove the skillet from the heat.
Warm the tortillas and remove the rice mixture from the oven. Spread a thin coating of sour cream on each tortilla. Spoon a portion of the rice and chicken mixtures near the center of the tortilla, then fold and roll the tortillas to form each burrito.
Serve them warm at once. If you wish, garnish the burritos with slices of avocado, salsa, sour cream, and lime wedges.
NOTES: I like to use chicken thighs when recipes call simply for diced chicken. Thighs are relatively inexpensive and have more flavor than chicken breasts, at least to my taster. If you prefer white meat, use the same seasonings. Here is a simple way to create your own diced chicken.
3 chicken thighs with the skin on
1 chicken boullion cube or 1 tsp. instant boullion
1/4 tsp. salt
Grind of black pepper
1/8 tsp. thyme
1/8 tsp. oregano
Put the chicken thighs into a saucepan. Barely cover them with cold water. Add the seasonings and bring the pan to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the meat for forty-five minutes. Remove the thighs from the broth and let them cool. Discard the skin, dice the meat and set it aside until you are ready to add it to the skillet with the vegetables.
Incidentally, if you skim the fat from the broth, add some carrots and celery and any leftover rice mixture from the burritos, you can have a very nice soup from something you might have been tempted to throw away.
Texmati is an American variety of basmati rice. Either is fine for this recipe.
Lorrie’s instructions do not say to spread sour cream on the tortilla before spooning on the fillings, but I like sour cream and think that it adds to the flavor of the burrito.