Casserole-Style Burritos: Everything.

The primary components of these burritos are: chicken and onions, Spanish rice, cheese, tortillas (using yesterday’s recipe and method), spicy sauce, and cheese sauce (covered in another post).

Burrito Filling (adapted from Don Miguel’s “Black Bean Chicken Burrito Recipe“)
1 T oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
10 oz pulled chicken in bite-sized pieces
1 C diced tomato or canned tomato
salt and pepper to taste
1 C jack cheese, shredded

1.    Lightly saute the onion in the oil until it is translucent and add the garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes. 
2.    Add the chicken and cook until heated through.
3.    Add the tomatoes and season, then heat through again.
4.    Use the chicken and cheese when assembling the burritos.

Spanish Rice (my personal recipe)
2 C white rice
1/2 diced sweet onion
2 T olive oil
1-2 t each dried oregano, dried basil, chili powder, paprika, cumin, optional red pepper flakes
1/2 C canned crushed tomatoes
2 C water

1.    Place the oil and spices in a deep saucepan or rice pot.
2.    Saute the onions in the oil and spices.
3.    Place one cup of rice in the water and add the other cup to the pot.
4.    After the rice has been heated through in the oil, add the rice, water, and tomatoes. Cook until most, but not all, of the water has boiled off, then cover and simmer over very low heat for 10-15 minutes.
5.    Use when assembling the burritos.

Note: this is a lot of rice and you will probably have some left over.

Spicy Sauce (adapted from Cooks.Com “BAKED BURRITOS WITH SPICY SAUCE“)
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1/2 C water
1/3 C canned green chilies
2 T chili powder
1 t cumin
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
2 C water

1.    Cook the onion and garlic in the 1/2 C water for about 5 minutes and add the spices.
2.    Add the chilies, tomato, and water, then simmer for about 15 minutes.
3.    Use when assembling the burritos and over top of the burritos before baking.

Final Casserole Assembly
Chicken filling and cheese
Spanish rice
Spicy and/or cheese sauce
8+ tortillas, depending on size

1.    Oil one or two pans big enough to hold all the burritos. You will want separate pans for each sauce.
2.    Place a tortilla on a large plate, then fill with chicken, cheese, rice, and a little sauce.
3.    Roll the burrito and place in a pan, then repeat for all the burritos.

4.    Top the burritos with their respective sauces, adding more cheese to the top, if desired.

5.    Bake the casserole(s) until they are heated through, then serve.

After getting fresh basil from the cafeteria because everything in the greenhouse had been picked, we ran into our first major problem. Since our knife choices were butter, steak, and 10-inch chef’s, cutting the bone out of chicken thighs was very difficult. So, rather than continuing to fight the raw chicken, Alex suggested that we bake the chicken. Baking the chicken reminded me that making the burrito filling works very well with any leftover cooked chicken; you don’t need to cook your chicken specifically for this meal.

For our sauces, we used canned tomato sauce and canned diced tomatoes. I blended the diced tomatoes a little to remove the large lumps of tomatoes and we used them in just about everything. To avoid opening more cans, I improvised some on the spicy sauce. I’m not sure how the sauce would turn out if I used the exact ingredients specified, but I think it would be good. I think both casseroles would have turned out better if they had both had the correct amount of sauce and spare space in the pan. While there was a good amount of cheese sauce, there was too much space in the pan and the spicy casserole was lacking both sauce and space.

Cheesy Sauce

Spicy Sauce

Personally, I prefer plain wrapped burritos to a casserole, but there are reasons to make one instead of the other. In significant support of the casserole is the awkward shapes of the tortillas. Since we weren’t cutting the dough after rolling it, no two tortillas were the same size or shape. Since the burrito only needs to hold together long enough to be put in the pan for a casserole, the tortilla only has to be strong, not carefully shaped. However, the casserole took a long time to bake in comparison to assembling burritos from hot ingredients and serving immediately.

Overall, both burrito casseroles were successful. Everyone in our class and other classes who came in to eat some of the burritos appeared to like them. However, in addition to getting the amount of sauce correct, Alex thought the burritos could use more chicken and I thought the burritos could use more rice. When we make more burritos, we can see how we want to do the filling ratios.

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Looking Towards a Week of Mexican Food (Now with tortillas)

Today, we will be investigating the Mexican tradition of burritos, using homemade tortillas, homemade sauce, and our very own homemade spiced chicken. Our group will focus on this for the entire week. We will be sticking with the same meat, the same tortilla, and the same rice recipes, but changing between sauces to see which fits best. This process begins today. Along with this, we are making authentic Mexican rice, using a family recipe from Thomas.

Tortillas (adapted from Hillbilly Housewife’s “Flour Tortilla“)
4 C flour
1 t salt
2 t baking powder
5 T lard, shortening, butter, or vegetable oil
1 1/2 C water

1.    Mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder, then cut or mix the fat into the flour.
2.    Mix all the water into the flour and fat in stages until the dough comes together.
3.    Split the dough into 8-16 pieces, depending on the size and thickness of tortilla desired. Some experimentation may be necessary.
4.    Lightly flour a counter and roll out the dough. The goal is to make the tortillas as thin as possible without tearing or folding the tortilla.
5.    Cook the tortillas on a hot griddle or pan without any grease. If you can roll the tortillas fast enough, you can cook and roll tortillas simultaneously. If not, you can roll a set of tortillas and layer them between pieces of waxed paper.
6.    For hard tortillas, serve immediately. To make tortillas soft for burritos or soft tacos, place the tortillas in a large sealable plastic bag and leave them there until you are ready to prepare the next dish.

It took quite a few tries to get these tortillas to turn out. Notably, you do not want to use any grease on the cooking surface because the tortillas will cook and not stick. Depending on the desired size of the tortilla, a pan might be large enough, but for burrito wrapper sized tortillas, you will need to use a very large cooking surface. Also, depending on how long the dough sits out, it may be necessary to wet the each ball before rolling it.

Figure out how step six in the above instructions worked was quite an interesting procedure. After some “quick fix” attempts using wet paper towels and a microwave or making slightly wetter dough didn’t work. Since we aren’t planning on serving the tortillas immediately (they will be burrito wrappers), the plastic bag method seems to be the most effective and useful way to soften the tortillas.

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