Amanda writes: I’ve become so burrito-obsessed lately that I’ve decided to start making them for the family (easier, cheaper, more fun – right??). Got any recipe ideas?
Tony’s take: I’m burrito obsessed, too, Amanda. Like, a lot. I frequent Chipotle and other local burrito spots often and I also make them myself every now and then. The preparation is a good fit for a busy week. You won’t necessarily save loads of money, but you can cook up big batches of varied, vibrant fillings and then graze on them for the next day or two (rice and beans reheat fine). Look, burritos are not fine dining, but beans, vegetables, and lean protein offer balance and nutrition and they’re good eating. I’ll take them over meatloaf every weeknight of the week. Since burritos are all about the fillings, here are 4 mini recipes for the essentials as well as a basic gameplan to roll.
Spicy Pinto Beans with Chipotle and Bacon: Purists favor dried beans (and so do I; they’re great), but canned beans are perfectly fine here and far more manageable. Bacon offers a little richness while a handful of spices impart depth. Yields 3 cups.
Recipe: Cook 2 slices bacon (about 2 oz., cut into thin strips) with 1 Tbs. olive oil in a heavy-based pot over medium heat, stirring, until the bacon renders its fat and starts to brown, about 5 minutes; transfer to a plate lined with paper towel. Spoon off all but 1 Tbs. of the bacon grease. Still over medium heat, add 2 smashed garlic cloves and cook until the garlic starts to brown lightly, about 1 min. Add 2 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. chile power, 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried oregano), and 1/4 tsp. chipotle powder. Cook, stirring, until the spices become fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 2 15-oz cans pinto beans (rinse and drain the beans first), 1 canned chipotle chile (finely choppy), 2 Tbs. tomato paste and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors mix and meld, 15 to 20 minutes. Add a splash of water if the mixture dries out. Season with salt and lime juice to taste and serve sprinkled with the bacon; or let cool and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
Grill-Marinated Chicken: If you have the time, marinate the chicken up to a couple of days ahead (with the oil, garlic, and spices) so the flavors soak in. Boneless chicken thighs have a little fat which keeps them juicy on the grill. If you want to make this with beef, try flank or skirt steak, chewy cuts with big flavor. Serves 4 to 6.
Recipe: In a food processor, pulse 1 garlic clove (coarsely chopped) with 1/4 cup olive oil until it’s minced to a paste (you may need to scrape down the sides of the work bowl). Add 2 tsp. ground cumin, 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp. chile powder, 1 tsp. granualted sugar and 1/4 tsp. chipotle powder and pulse. Spread this spice paste over 1 1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts). Transfer to a large zip-top bag and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days. To cook: grill (or broil) the chicken over medium-high heat until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Let cool for 5 minutes, then chop and serve.
Spicy Summer Corn Salsa: Canned corn has its merits, but not in a salsa. Not now, when summer corn is sweet and in season. Grill up fresh cobs or use leftover grilled or boiled ears. Yields 3 cups salsa.
Recipe: Drizzle 2 ears corn with 1 Tbs. olive oil and sprinkle with S+P. Grill over a medium fire, flipping every minute or two, until the corn browns lightly, about 8 min total. Transfer to a cutting board to cool, then remove the kernels from the cob (use a paring knife). In a medium bowl, toss the corn kernels (about 1 1/2 cups) with 2 plum tomatoes (cut in 1/2-inch dice), 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 1/2 red onion (finely diced), the juice of 1 lime (about 2 Tbs.), 1 jalapeno (seeded and finely diced) and salt to taste (about 1 1/2 tsp.).
Cilantro-Lime Rice: This recipe is little more than steamed rice with flavorings: use Jasmine rice, steam it with a touch of oil so the grains don’t stick, and then toss with the lime and cilantro. Yields 4 cups rice.
Recipe: Bring 3 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and 1 Tbs. olive oil and then 2 cups Jasmine rice. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring once or twice, until the rice absorbs most all of the liquid. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes without disturbing so the rice steams and finishes cooking. Transfer to a large bowl and fluff/toss with the juice of 1 lime (about 2 Tbs.) and 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro. Season with more lime juice and salt to taste.
Gameplan: Big burritos demand big tortillas. Restaurants generally use 12+ inch tortillas. In the supermarket, it’s hard to find anything much bigger than 10 inches (these will be labeled “burrito-size”). Measure out your fillings accordingly – nothing worse than a busted burrito. Add in guacamole, grated cheddar, or sour cream if you like. To assemble: spread some rice in the center of a warmed tortilla (heat in a skillet or the microwave), top with the beans, chopped chicken, some corn salsa, and a couple shakes of hot sauce (try El Yucateco for big-boy heat). Then roll: fold the side closest to you over the filling (over and away from you), fold the sides in to the center and roll away (check this video from Porkyland for decent folding technique). Serve and enjoy.