Joy of Cooking: Classic Bean Burritos

My first recipe for the Cookbook Challenge is from Joy of Cooking, The Classic Bean Burrito. I love Mexican food. I love Tex-Mex food. I love anything spicy.  This was right up my alley.

The only change that I made to this recipe was that I reduced the quantity a little bit.

The first step in making these burritos is preparing the refried beans. The Classic Bean Burrito recipe directed me to another recipe in the book for Refried Beans. The book calls for 4 cups of cooked black beans including their cooking liquid. Earlier in the day I had cooked a pot of black beans but ended up with only 3 cups of beans and liquid. So I cut the recipe by about a quarter. That will effect the number of burritos that we end up with.

3 Cups of Cooked Black Beans – Still warm from the crock pot

To make the refried beans, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add one medium white onion and saute until it is a deep brown. I a gigantic white onion, so I used about half of it.

Onions Sauteing – Not yet deep brown

When the onion is browned add 3 cloves of garlic. Cook for another minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.

It is easier to mash the beans if they are warm. My black beans were still warm from the cooking process. Into the onion mixture, stir in, one cup at a time of beans. Mash each addition as you go using a potato masher making the puree as coarse or as smooth as you like. When all the beans are added and mashed, add 3/4 cup of cooking liquid or water.

Cook over medium low heat until the beans are just a little soupier than you like them. They will thicken up as they cool a bit. Be careful to keep the heat low and stir often. The mashed beans have a tendency to plop and splatter.

Refried Black Beans

Apologies – there is just no way to photograph black beans and make them look appealing!

Now we can make the Classic Bean Burritos:

The recipe calls for 8 flour tortillas. But I had cut the bean recipe by a quarter, so I only needed 6 flour tortillas. I bought the burrito sized tortillas at my store. I looked for whole wheat, but sadly my store was out of those. They have the advantage of whole grain and they provide a little more fiber.  Wrap the tortillas in foil and put them in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

Grate 1 and 1/2 cups of Monterrey Jack Cheese and 1/2 cup of Cheddar Cheese. Mince 1/2 cup onions. Mince jalapeno or other pepper according to your taste. You can test a little bit of the pepper on your tongue to see how hot it is. I have found that jalapenos  vary greatly in their heat.

I set up an assembly line of burrito ingredients.

Bean Burrito Assembly Line – beans, cheese, onions and peppers

Working with one warm tortilla at a time, spoon about a half cup of the Refried Beans, sprinkle with cheese, onions and peppers. Roll into a burrito…tuck the sides as you roll from the bottom. It takes a little bit of practice to get that just right. Lay the rolled burrito on a foil lined baking sheet.

Burritos rolled and ready for the oven

Pop the burritos into a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes or until they look slightly browned. This will melt the cheese. I sprayed my burritos with a little bit of olive oil. The recipe didn’t call for this but my tortillas were slightly past fresh. I wanted to make sure that they wouldn’t crack or split during the cooking process.

Cooked Burritos – slightly browner, but warm and melty inside

Serve with sour cream and minced chives. I also served some good fresh salsa. Some guacamole would have been nice too.

We ate two of these Classic Bean Burritos for our dinner. I decided that I would freeze the rest. I had got that idea from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. I wrapped the burritos individually in plastic wrap. When your are ready to eat them, remove from wrap and pop them into the microwave. Having those it the freezer is really great. Whenever I need a quick meal or snack, I’m ready to go. According to Martha, they will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

The Verdict –  The Classic Bean Burrito is delicious! The refried beans were wonderful; much better than anything you would get from a can. The texture and flavor was superior. The burritos were a snap to make. In fact, the refried beans were the most time consuming part of the process. The burritos tasted great. They were fun to eat. It’s a winner.

The tortillas that I purchased were not as fresh as I think they should have been. But that was my fault – not the recipe. So that is an important take away – get really fresh tortillas!

Also, I think it would be better to warm the tortillas in the microwave rather than in the oven. My experience is that they dry out less that way. Just wrap tortillas in a clean kitchen towel, microwave on high for 15 – 20 seconds per tortilla (or until the are pliable but not tough). I would work in groups of one or two tortillas so as not overcook them.

If I made these again, I would use a little less cheese and I might use more Cheddar than Monterry Jack. That’s just a personal preference.

I was making every effort to follow the recipe exactly but I think that this recipe easily lends itself to lots of variations. Pinto beans would be a great option. You could layer some grilled vegetables in the burrito. Meat eaters could add some cooked chicken or beef. You could top the burritos with red or green chili sauce as you would eat them in New Mexico. There are lots of opportunities to make this recipe your own.

I will definitely make this recipe again. Joy of Cooking really came through on this one!

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