In honor of Father’s Day last week, I wanted to whip up one of my dad’s favorite meals: his “world famous” burritos. What makes these burritos world famous, you ask? Well, they’re made by my dad, of course. It’s like he had his own brand, or restaurant: Bill’s World Famous Burritos, Bill’s World Famous Chili, Bill’s World Famous “Tunadillas” — essentially anything my dad cooked for me was considered “world famous.”
When I was a little girl, my dad boasted a super secret burrito ingredient. This wasn’t just any secret, but one I would learn when I was “ready”, IE old enough. Like many of our games, my dad performed with the utmost sincerity, ordering me to close my eyes whenever he was just about to add the secret ingredient. I begged him to tell me the answer, promising I wouldn’t tell a soul. It wasn’t until I was in college and wanted to make my very first world famous burrito that I learned the secret: regular old, store-bought taco seasoning.
Though I felt a little gypped by this revelation, it made the burrito recreation that much easier. Over the years I’ve made my dad’s burritos for friends, toying a little bit with the recipe as I went. Last week I dove into the annals of my high school email to find my dad’s version of the recipe. It’s pretty cute, because he went into minute detail for every step to ensure I got it right. It was so cute, in fact, that I decided to share the entire thing with you (minus a ton of semicolons. Dad, use some restraint!).
Bill’s World Famous Burritos
Large, deep skillet (cast iron preferable)
Wooden stirring spoons
Small bowls to put the toppings in
1 packet fresh, medium-burrito-size flour tortilla’s (Guerrero’s preferred)
1 pound leanest ground beef or ground sirloin you can get
-option: add 1/2 pound ground pork and use 1.5 of other ingredients
1 can LaVictoria refried beans (traditional style)
1 packet burrito or taco seasoning mix (Durkee)
1/2 stick butter
1 large white or red onion
mild green chiles (optional), chopped (fresh is better but canned will do)
salt and pepper
cayenne pepper (optional)
Mixed Cajun spices
brick of cheese (medium cheddar and/or Monterey jack)
lettuce (Romaine preferable but iceberg will do), chopped
2-3 fresh tomatoes (diced small)
black olives (diced)
Brown the ground beef in large skillet, at medium heat, chopping the beef into small pieces with spoon and sprinkling the burrito mix in with the meat (I usually put about half the packet in and then add more later to taste); stir. Sprinkle a little salt, pepper, cayenne and Cajun spices on it (not too much at this stage); stir.
At the same time add onions and chiles (optional); keep stirring. When beef mix is browned and fully chopped, but before it is fully cooked (a little red still showing) add whole can of refried beans, smearing and stirring them into the meat to an even consistency. Add a little water to loosen up the mix (avoid making it too soupy though). Add 1/2 stick butter and stir it in until it disappears. Reduce heat to low; add more seasoning to taste, including more of the burrito mix if desired. Add a little hot sauce to taste, a little bit at a time (careful!). Simmer on low heat for at least 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, adding a little more water when it gets too thick. (This is the stage when, as Gregg says, “the ingredients get to know each other.”
While the mash is simmering start the preparation of the remainder of the stuff: grate cheese in a bowl; slice and dice lettuce, tomatoes, onions and olives (if not pre-diced); put each in separate bowl; set up a self-service area where each diner can select the amounts of toppings he or she wants on the burrito; Wash out skillet so it is clean and dry; place it on lowest heat setting and let it slowly get warm; the lower the heat, the better (take it off the heat if you think it is getting too hot); it just has to slowly warm the tortillas to the point where they rise a little, while staying soft; soft, warm and a little-puffy tortillas are critical to reproducing the world famous taste.
When you are ready to eat, ask someone to help you in the delivery of the product; You have to assemble each burrito one at a time (unless you have two or more skillets); Place tortilla on warm skillet and then turn it over after 10 seconds or so; then turn again after anther 10 seconds, etc.; turn the heat off if the skillet is hot and then turn it back on when the skillet has cooled too much; place palm on tortilla and feel the heat as you keep flipping, and take it off as soon as it feels warmed through but still soft; if you overheat it so it becomes hard, crispy or crusty, throw it away and try again with a new one. Take heated tortilla out of skillet and put it on a plate that will hold the whole thing flat.
Place a glob of the burrito mash on the first quarter of the round tortilla and spread it evenly (don’t put on so much that it will be difficult to properly fold and close up the burrito): immediately sprinkle and spread some of the grated cheese on the mix and mash it in, so it will melt into the mix. Hand the plate to the first diner and let him or her pick out the preferred toppings; the recommended order of application is: (1) sour cream, (2) lettuce, (3) tomatoes, (4) onions, (5) olives, hot sauce;
Then it is time to fold: either your diner can do it if he or she knows how or you or some other person skilled in the art can do it.*
Folding method: fold the first quarter over on the mash and compress into a tube like shape; fold over the left flap and the right flap horizontally on the center and then roll forward so the flaps close it all up;You can prepare all the burritos and place them in a very low heat oven (200 degrees or less) until ready to eat, or each person can start on theirs while the others are assembling theirs; Serve and enjoy; turn off mash mix (or keep it on very low heat). If anyone wants a second burrito; get up, turn the heat up a little, and start all over.
I made these burritos late at night for Alexei in his new apartment (hence the man hands in the first photo) and had to borrow beans and a can opener from a friend who happens to now live across the way from him. (Sorry, Shelby!) But all of that expresses the sort of burrito this is. This is a single father burrito, a late night burrito. It’s a twenty-something who wants to cook but it’s getting late and she’s feeling a little lazy kind of burrito. It’s also an insanely tasty and flavorful burrito (even if it’s a store-bought flavor), and is a fairly quick meal to whip up for your very best friends.
*Side note: I used to tease my dad for his strict burrito folding lessons, but they actually work. Even stuffed to the brim with meat, beans and cheese, my burritos almost never fall apart. Thanks, dad!