Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Where's My Burrito? Where's My Burrito?"*

I've never really understood how some beans, cheese, and sometimes meat rolled up in a tortilla came to be called a burrito. If my rusty Spanish is correct, burrito means 'little donkey'. It just makes no sense. However, as fascinating as a discussion about the origins of this moniker would be, it is not the focus of this post.

Today's post is all about how to make homemade frozen burritos. I wasn't sure if I'd call this post a pre-made vs. homemade one, simply because I haven't done much research on store-bought burritos. I've seen them at Costco and other grocery stores, but I've never given them much thought or attention. However, I'm fairly positive that a good majority of the frozen, pre-made burritos at the supermarket are loaded with unpronounceable chemicals and concoctions, not to mention weird preservatives and colors. Correct me if I'm wrong.

And then there's the ultimate reason I'm writing about this: these homemade burritos are, most likely, less expensive than the majority of pre-packaged frozen burritos. You can easily make a batch of burritos, around 8-10 (depending on the size of your tortillas), inexpensively. My estimated cost for the entire batch I made is around five dollars, making them cost a little less than a dollar each. Sure, you can find some frozen burritos for under a dollar and skip the process I'm about to outline, but I'm not sure how tasty or healthy they'll be.

These burritos, once made and frozen, are just as convenient as any frozen burrito. And then there's the extra savings: these make great lunches - you can save money by packing a lunch and not eating out. Some mornings, if I'm feeling too lazy to make a lunch for my husband before he leaves for work, I'll just mumble from under the covers, "Why don't you just take a burrito for lunch?" Not only do I get a few more minutes of blissful slumber, but my husband still gets a homemade lunch.

Okay, enough talk. Here's how I make them (with some help from a recipe I got from an Everyday Food magazine a few years ago):
3/4 cup rice (you can use brown or white)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeno chile, chopped (remove the ribs and seeds if you want it milder)
3 15-oz. cans of beans (the original recipe called for pinto, but I always use black)
1 1/2 cups of frozen corn kernels
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste (I'm a HUGE fan of the tomato paste that comes in a tube)
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
8 burrito-size flour tortillas (This is what the original recipe calls for, but I think I used smaller tortillas and it worked pretty well.)
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I've also used cheddar in the past, but I like Monterey Jack better in this.)
Cook the rice according to package directions (or in a rice cooker, like I do); set aside once cooked.

As the rice is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onions, garlic, jalapeno, and the cumin; season with a little salt and pepper. Cook until golden, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook for another minute.

Next, add the beans and 1 1/2 cups of water; bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and let it thicken, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add corn and cook until heated through (just a couple minutes or so). Remove from heat, stir in green onions.

Heat the tortillas in the microwave according to package directions (for some of my burritos, I used the uncooked tortillas. I cooked them right before I was going to assemble the burritos and they worked out better than the other ones, the ready-to-eat kind, did.). Fill with the bean mixture, rice, and cheese. I don't follow any specific amounts of each ingredient - I just eyeball it and roll as much as I can before it gushes out the sides.

I wish this was a better picture of how to roll a burrito, but it's kind of hard to roll it and take a picture at the same time. But, having worked in a Mexican restaurant for a number of years in college, I happen to be well-versed in the art of burrito wrapping. Keep your mixture, rice, and beans on one edge of the tortilla. Then, tuck in the sides and roll. Like I said on the ingredient list, I used smaller tortillas than the recipe called for and they worked, but, really, the bigger the tortilla, the easier it is to wrap.

Put your burritos on a plate or cookie sheet and stick them in the freezer - not for too long, but just long enough that they firm up and hold their shape. This will make wrapping them in plastic easier. Once they've been in the freezer a little while, wrap each burrito in plastic wrap. These burritos will store in the freezer for a few months.

When you're ready to eat one of these burritos, unwrap it from the plastic, wrap it in a damp paper towel (my husband says this makes all the difference), and microwave for three minutes. Buen provecho! You've got yourself one tasty -- and healthy -- bargain burrito!

*Title asterisk: Gotta love random Simpsons quotes. I can tie just about anything to an old Simpsons episode (and by old, I mean any episode from the 90s). Just thought I'd include an explanation.

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