In my travels along I-40 in northeast New Mexico, I pulled into a Tucumcari truckstop diner that hawked three-dollar pitchers of Coors and burritos the size of bank deposit canisters. My brother-in-law and I each ordered “the combo.” After about ten minutes my eyesight wavered and somewhere between the dusty haze on the road outside the window and the heat from the burrito, I entered a different plane of existence. The top of my head started sweating uncontrollably, and after a desperate wave with a white napkin announcing unconditional surrender, our Mexican waitress promptly stopped by and announced with a hearty laugh that they were medium-spicy. I love hot food and hell, I could barely finish it. I can’t imagine what-in-the-Bejezus their HOT version was like.
This was my first experience with authentic southwest roadside fare, and at that point, I realized I’d gotten my ass kicked.
Here is my [edible] tribute to that burrito. Use the cayenne to control the amount of heat. The beef in this recipe is slow-cooked in the oven to perfection. Finish them off in a baking dish with melted cheese on top. You can also use your slow cooker if you don’t have a dutch oven.
1-1/4 to 1-1/2 lbs. beef stew meat
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. paprika
1 tsp. salt
2 tbs. mild Chimayo chili powder
2 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp. coriander
2 tsp. cumin, ground from toasted seed
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
2 bay leaves
2 cups beef stock
2 medium Spanish onions
3 cloves garlic, mashed
1 15.4-oz. can black or pinto beans – rinsed (optional)
Large tortilla shells
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Mike’s NM Red Enchilada Sauce
Mike’s Famous Guacamole
Mike’s Fresh Tomatillo Salsa Verde
Brown the stew meat in a skillet with a small amount of olive oil. Transfer to dutch oven. Add dry spices, bay leaves and beef stock. Keep covered on low heat.
Saute the onion and garlic, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add to the dutch oven and mix well. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Slow cook the beef in the oven, covered for 4 hours. Shred the beef with a wooden spatula or two forks when tender. Simmer uncovered over medium heat to reduce the liquid. Add the rinsed beans to the pot during the last 1/2 hour.
Coat a 9 x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray. Brush 4-6 tortilla shells lightly with olive oil on one side. Remove the bay leaves from the pot. Load up the shells with the meat and some jack cheese. Wrap and place tightly in bottom of dish (olive oil side out) and top with more cheese, scallion and a small amount of salsa. Bake in oven covered for an additional 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees, or until cheese is melted and the tortillas crisp up.
Serve with guacamole, salsa….