Monday, May 28, 2012

Beef Burritos

I make this recipe once or twice a year. Yes, it's a lot of work but the results are worth it and long lasting too.

It all started when I lived in California's San Joaquin Valley.  My husband and I stopped at this little restaurant and ordered burritos.  You paid for the food at the outside window and you ate on picnic tables.  The burrito I got was the best I have ever eaten and the way they fixed them was superb!  The name of the place was Mama Leal's in Hanford.  I don't know if it is still there or not, my dining experience was in 1993.

So, let's fast forward to the present time.  My In-laws visit us once a year,  they have a motor home the size of a bus and in the summer time they just drive around the US and visit friends and relatives. Their winter home is in south Texas so when the weather gets bad, they head south. Before my in-laws retired, they lived in South Dakota and my FIL was so sick of the snow, blizzards, freezing temps that he said "When I retire, I am going to buy a motor home, put a snow blower on the back and drive south until someone said "What's that?" and that's where I will stop." He did it! 

OK, back to the original reason for the burritos. When I make them, I usually make between 50 to 60 at a time. If you cook a lot, you realize that it's as easy to make 50 as it is to make 15 if you have to assemble something. It's the same thing with the burritos. 

After we eat, I usually take the leftover burritos, wrap them individually in a product called "Kabinet Wax", put 6 of them in a freezer bag and freeze. Later in the year, it's easy to take as many out as you need and either let them thaw in the refrigerator or zap them in the microwave and you have an (almost) instant supper. Serve them with a salad and some salsa and voila! Dinner! 

Let's get started.  I'll also list the total cost of the entire endeavor as well as the "per burrito" price so you can determine whether this would be worth it for you to make.

Ingredients: (I'll list these again separately so you will know what to do & when)
3 Chuck Roasts - I had a total of 9lbs
4 large yellow onions/2.5 lbs 
Salt & Pepper
36 large flour tortillas
16 medium flour tortillas
2 large cans Re-fried beans
3 - 4 lbs shredded cheddar cheese


  • You can use Vidalia onions if you wish.  I just went with the cheapest ones and the Vidalias were cheaper than the yellow onions I usually use.
  • Look for good grocery sales for chuck roasts and throw them in the freezer when you get home.  The one's I used for this recipe had been in the freezer for a couple of months.
  • Same thing with the refried beans, you don't have to get name brand, I usually go with the cheapest I can find.

Kitchen device list (If you want the same results I got)
Large Crock pot
Crock pot liners (not absolutely necessary)
Dutch Oven or similar size large pot for the shredded beef
1 or 2 quart pot for the re-fried beans
Flat griddle or large frying pan
Plenty of large containers to store the beef & the broth
Kabnet Wax brand or similar paper to wrap finished burritos
Large freezer bags (if you want to freeze them)

Day 1
Take the chuck roasts out of the freezer to thaw, make sure you have enough onions and other ingredients.

Day 2
Gather the chuck roast, onions, salt, pepper and oregano.  Peel and slice the onions.  The onions don't have to look pretty since they will eventually disintegrate anyway, you just want the slices about 1/4 inch wide and break them up somewhat.

You see here all the ingredients for the crock pot
Sliced Onions, Salt, Pepper & Oregano

9 pounds of chuck roast
 Soon we will begin layering the ingredients in the crock pot.  You may have to cut the roast into smaller chunks to get it to fit. I also try to trim as much fat off the roast as I can.

Crock Pot - I have a large one that has lasted more than 18 years.
Start layering your ingredients.  Add layer of onions, salt, pepper and about 1 - 2 tablespoons of oregano.  Put roast on top of that.  Now the next layer - Salt, pepper, oregano & sliced onions.  (Here's where you may have to have the chuck roast cut into big chunks to get it to fit.)  Repeat with Salt, pepper, oregano, sliced onions & roast.  

You DO NOT need to add anything else.  There is no water, beef broth, taco seasoning, etc added.

My crock pot has a domed lid and thank goodness for that!  After I got done with the layer the lid still didn't fit on the crock pot unless I held it down, so I got a cast iron skillet and weighed down the lid until the onions had broken down enough for things to settle in.

Set to High for about 5 hours.

I set the crock pot to high because I still had things to do to the roast before I put it in the refrigerator and I wanted everything to cook as quick as possible in the crock pot.

For me, I can usually tell when food is ready to check, whether it's in a crock pot, oven or stove top.  If I am in another room of the house & can start smelling the food I am cooking, I take that as a signal that it's calling to me.  If it isn't ready, the food is very close to being ready.

To check and see if the roast is ready for the next step, take the lid off the crock pot and try to flake the meat with a fork.  If it flakes easily, it's ready.

Take the roast and onions out of the crock pot and put them in a large flat container.  We need to start flaking the meat and removing any visible fat.  Put the flaked beef into a container(s) and store it in the refrigerator.

Also, we want to save the juices left in the crock pot, so you will need to strain that into a container that can be stored in the refrigerator overnight.  The things (onions, bits of beef, etc) that are strained out of the juices can be added to the shredded beef containers.

Day 3 - Let the fun begin!
About 3 hours before you want to eat:

Take out the beef & juices.  The juice container should have a layer of hardened fat, remove & discard it.

In a large dutch oven (or similar pot) put the beef and juices from yesterday.  Turn the burner on high.  We want to reduce the juices in the pot to intensify the flavor of the beef.  So get the beef & juices boiling with the lid off.  Keep an eye on it, you may have to give it a stir a few times.

Meanwhile, open the 2 refried bean cans and put them on simmer in another pot, stir them occasionally so they don't stick to the bottom of the pot.

Re-fried beans & shredded chuck roast

Close up of the shredded beef
Get your shredded cheese and tortillas out too.  For me, it's easier if I put the shredded cheese in an open container as you see below.  It's easier to grab the cheese without fighting the bag it came in

2 pounds of shredded cheddar cheese
 You may also want to get out the tortillas now, I heat them in the microwave so they are more flexible. (More information on that below)
Medium (left) & Large tortillas

Large (Grande) tortillas

Medium (Burrito size?) tortillas

 Assemble the pans for frying the burritos, I have a griddle for frying and the round pan you see is just for stacking the fried burritos.
Griddle pan that covers 2 burners on the stove
put the burners on medium to medium low heat.

OK, now everything is ready to go.  You have the reduced shredded beef, the refried beans, shredded cheese and tortillas.

Open the tortilla bag, but leave the tortillas in the bag and put them in the microwave and heat on high for 2 minutes.  I have an older one that is 1000 watts, so you may have to adjust accordingly.  

Take the tortillas (bag & all) out of the microwave and place on the counter.  Since I throw the bag away anyway, I cut open the bag.  Take scissors and cut the bottom of the bag (opposite the opening) and then cut right up the top of the bag in the middle.  You can see how I did it below.

Take about 1/4 cup of refried beans and put it on the tortilla as seen below.  DO NOT put this in the middle of the tortilla, I usually place it half way between the middle and bottom of the tortilla. (as seen below)

Tortilla & Refried beans
 Next we want to add the beef.  I usually eyeball everything, so I am guessing this will be about 1 - 2 oz beef here.
Tortilla, refried beans & Beef
 Add the cheese, it's probably about 1/2 oz to 1 oz, you don't need much.
Tortilla, refried beans, beef & cheese
 Roll it up!  I have take pictures of the step by step process for this.  First you fold up from the bottom and fold the tortilla over enough to cover your ingredients.
Roll up from the bottom
 Now we are going to fold in the sides.  Remember, the tortilla is hot from the microwave and is very flexible.
Fold in each side
 Start rolling the tortilla away from you, the first roll looks like this.
Roll it away from you

Side view of the first roll
 Just keep rolling until you don't have any more tortilla sticking out.
Taa Daa!  A burrito!
 At this point you could be done, but I take it another step.  Every stove is different and you may have to adjust the heat, but the next step is to "dry fry" the burrito.  I don't add anything to the griddle here.  All I want to do is brown both sides of the burrito.  I start on the seam side and browning it will seal the burrito.
Put the burrito seam side down on the griddle
 Flip it over and brown the other side.  This will also help melt the cheese that's on the inside.  You are only minutes away from burrito heaven.
I didn't have the seal right in the middle of the
burrito, but you get the idea.  Here it is getting brown

Here's the other side
 When I make burritos I usually don't stop until I run out of ingredients.  This time I ended up with 4 burritos that just had beef & cheese.  Other times I have ended up with some that were only refried beans & cheese.  You get the idea though.

I serve them with salsa on the side and usually not a word is spoken because everyone is too busy eating.
Stack of burritos

Letting them cool for wrapping later.
 OK, now we are done eating, and it's time to wrap them for freezing.  As I said, I use Kabnet Wax, wrap up the burritos, and put them in freezer bags.  That way it's easier to take 1 or 2 out of the freezer, heat them up and enjoy.

Kabinet Wax and wrapped, bagged burritos
I can usually get about 8 or 9 burritos in each
gallon freezer bag.  YMMV

Ingredient cost

$28.57 for 3 Chuck Roasts/9lbs
$01.81 for 4 large onions/2.5 lbs
$00.00 for dried Oregano since I already had it on hand
$00.00 for Salt & Pepper
$11.10 for 36 large flour tortillas/6 per pack
$06.30 for 16 medium flour tortillas/8 per pack
$06.06 for 2 large cans Re-fried beans
$13.98 for 4 lbs shredded cheese
$67.81 Total

52 burritos at $1.30 per burrito

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