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Recipe du Jour: Slow-Cooker Burrito Beef, and Baked Burritos

This entry is part of a series, RdJ»

Rump Roast

One dish that my spouse and I have fine-tuned to our tastes over the years is baked beef burritos. This past week I tried a variation in the meat preparation that we really liked. Maybe you can try something like this for your next homemade Tex-Mex beef dish…

I dragged out the slow cooker, set it for high heat, then added the following to the pot: One can (14 oz) beef broth; one can (14 oz) Hatch Enchilada Sauce, Tex-Mex Style, Medium Zesty; one can (8 oz) low-sodium tomato sauce. I stirred and covered, then turned my attention to the beef. Here’s how I scored my protein:

Salsa FixinsSince beef prices are skyrocketing upwards (at least here, in the past few months), I’ve begun to look for specials and alternatives. We like shredded or chunky beef in our burritos rather than ground beef; basically lean stew meat. Some roasts will do, though, and often they’re cheaper per-pound than the stew beef.

I was cruising through the local Sprouts Farmers Market, looking for fresh vegetable savings, when I heard this small voice calling to me from near the meat counter. “Hey! Over here!” it said, barely above a whisper. I heard it loud and clear, though, and I hurried to see what the Big Deal might be.

It was a case full of lovely, lean rump roasts. At nearly $1.50 a pound cheaper than I’d seen in quite a while. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I scooped up a four-pound specimen and slunk rolled to the cash register with the loot hidden under a big sheet of newsprint. I haggled with the cashier over a couple of items, not caring whether I got a lower price. I wanted her so distracted that she couldn’t possibly sense the misprinted price on my rump roast. My ploy worked, and she gave me my receipt with thanks. (Sprouts has the nicest staff!)

I hurried home, glancing in my rear-view mirror to be sure I wasn’t being followed and that there were no sirens and flashing lights in my vicinity. I drove five under the limit, just in case. That roast was mine, I wasn’t giving it up without a fight! (Or at least a good explanation.)

Anyway, with the slow cooker started, I rinsed and dried the roast, then removed the excess fat. The meat was so tender it was only a matter of a couple of minutes and I had that roast cut into cubes, somewhere between 3/4 and 1 inch in size. Perfect.

Tortillas

I chopped a big yellow onion and put my large, deep skillet on the range over high heat. A couple tablespoons of light olive oil went into the pan, then half the meat. As the meat seared I opened a can of Hatch Green Chiles ( 4 oz of chopped hot ones). I tossed in half of the onions after a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Then the chopped chiles went in too. I seasoned with smoked paprika, ancho and chipotle powders, cayenne, cumin and black pepper. At this point I didn’t use a commercially prepared chili mix.

Once the meat was nicely browned and the spices fragrant, I transferred the mix to the slow cooker using a slotted spoon, leaving behind as much oil as I could. Then I repeated using the remaining meat and onions, with more seasonings.

After an hour or so on high, I turned the slow cooker down to low and cooked for another 3-4 hours. At this point the meat would break apart at the touch of a fork, and I knew the mix was ready. However, the sauce was quite thin.

Since slow cookers don’t lose much water (part of their design, actually), you often need to add some thickening agent. Flour (as a wet paste or roux) works, as does cornstarch slurry. Even bread, potatoes and cassava would work, but I don’t think those would have the flavor or mouth-feel we want for the burritos.

Big Burrito

I chose cornstarch slurry, two heaping tablespoons in about four ounces of white wine. The wine actually adds a sweet touch. Not enough to be very noticeable, but a subtle addition to the sauce. I stirred that slurry in and let the cooker go for another 15-20 minutes.

A final bit of seasoning, including some chili powder, and the meat stuffing was ready for our burritos! At this point we could have cooled and stored the meat for later. We were hungry, though, so we prepared our burritos right away…

We set the oven to 375° F while we built dinner. We sprayed a 9 x 13 inch, clear Corning baking dish with non-stick spray and then laid a burrito-sized flour tortilla in one end. A layer of meat and sauce, then refried black beans, then cheese went in. We rolled the burrito tightly into the end of the casserole and built another. The way we make these things, we get exactly five burritos in the dish. Then we topped with more of the meat sauce and popped them into the oven for 15 minutes.

At that point they’re not quite done. We topped with plenty of grated cheese and some diced onion. Back into the oven for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese was melted, smooth and bubbly. Then we let them stand for about 10 minutes while we prepared the table for dining.

Baked Burritos

With a friend over for dinner, we managed to eat about half the burritos. That means great leftovers for lunch, or for dinner later in the week! These tasty tubes reheat easily in the oven or the microwave. With the tasty beef inside, they don’t lose a thing on flavor.

Did we save any money this way? Here’s the cost breakdown. The meat was just over $10. The onion and tortillas, about $1.50. Canned products came to about $2, and then there’s spices and such. Call it $14 or a tad over. Then there’s whatever else we ate and drank at the table; I had a glass of wine, for instance, and some taco sauce and sliced green olives. Certainly the whole thing was under $20, and we got two meals out of it. AND fed a hungry friend too. You know anywhere else you can get gourmet burritos for five, with the trimmings and drinks, for under $20? I sure don’t.

Besides, there’s the fun in fixing good food. I don’t know about you, but it sure does wonders for my stress levels…

Enjoy the (Zesty Baked Burritos) Heat!

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