My neighbor the Scot joined me for dinner this evening. It was decidedly un-Mexican outside, with epic rain, but we crowded up to the grill and toasted off some meats to enjoy in some righteous little burritos.
Having recently endured several rounds of sub-par restaurant “gourmet Mexican”, I felt that I had to remind myself of just how good simple fresh burritos can be when prepared with love and attention. Here’s the run-down:
- 2 cheap thin-cut beef steaks. Seriously cheap (I paid $2 each for mine). Fork ’em good, and soak (overnight) in:
- 1 lime, juiced and pulped
- 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
- 4 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp dried or minced fresh cilantro
- 1/tsp ground cumin
Now break out the beans. I completely cheated and used:
- 1 can refried black beans “with a touch of Jalapeno!”
- dash of Tabasco
- shake of salt, grind of pepper
If you can make the Pico de Gallo a little in advance, it’ll only help it to sit and stew in its own lovely funk awhile. I find that the most dead-simple, few-ingredient, off-the-cuff version is best:
- 1 small yellow onion, fine diced
- 2 roma tomatos, fine diced
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- 1 shake chili
- 1 pinch dried or minced fresh cilantro
- 1 weak shake salt
- 1 mellow grind pepper
Just two more keys to the party-time that is about to get fired up in your mouth:
- 1 lump real honest Queso Fresco. Not always easy to find for everybody, but worth it.
- 1 pack of real honest masa de harina corn tortillas. Again, not easy to find for everybody, but worth it.
As luck would have it, there’s a bizarre catch-all five-and-dime a block from my place that keeps both these gems in a cooler back beyond the no-name canned cat-food and racks of plastic flyswatters.
Fire up a HOT grill (even if it’s raining). Warm up the beans, using whatever method pleases you (I nuked ’em). Warm up the tortillas as well; I wrapped them in a barely-moistened tea-towel and nuked them as well. Once the grill is smoking, pull the flat steaks out of the marinade and drop directly onto the grill. Flip once or twice, but stand-by; they’ll overcook in an instant!
Once the meats are done, let them rest on the block until cool enough to handle bare-handed, then slice across the grain into narrow strips. Toss the strips in a bowl with any meaty-juicy-runoff, another quick dust of cayenne, and another pinch of cilantro.
Assemble just so: a tortilla, a smear of beans, a hearty crumble of queso, a few meat-strips, a tsp of pico, roll and sloppily consume. Compared to the gallons of salsa, oversized flour tortillas, and mounds of shredded lettuce and cheddar you’ll find down at the “gourmet”, it almost seems to be too small, too simple, too unsophisticated. That’s the point: cheap, direct, simple, flavour-packed, and awesome.