I have written before about the recipe books that I inherited from my mom after she died. I cannot emphasize what a gift this is. It’s a walk through the kitchen of my youth plus a lot (and I mean A LOT) of recipes she never got around to making. But in those recipes she never made, I see my mom clearly. I see what she loved to eat, who she was friends with, who she worked with, what she was reading, what caught her eye, or what she envisioned to make for people when they came over and received arguably the most exceptional hospitality for which one could ask. She decked out the table whenever someone came for a meal not to impress, but simply because she was a lady, and in her generation, that’s what ladies do for guests.
The recipe books themselves are a marvel from the past. They contain her own original recipes, some typed (not word processed) and some hand written in the uniform Catholic school-taught cursive of the 40’s and 50’s. There are recipes from the neighbors that we had on our block that bring me back to the Fourth of July parties at the end of our cul de sac. There are obsolete notecards with the “Recipe of the Month” on them from the local realtors who dropped by to chat or just to leave their information. There are pages meticulously cut from Bon Appetit or Sunset or Better Homes and Gardens. There are recipes that one would never see at a restaurant or house, but perhaps were the “in thing” 30 years ago. Lastly, there are some recipes that are missing.
When I got the recipe book, my mom’s sister, my aunt Charlotte, who is just like my mom in the entertaining and lady department, said that I need to find her burrito recipe. Indeed, my mom’s burritos are legendary. Since she had three boys and a husband from the old country, she knew how to feed large appetites and large amounts of people, especially considering that each one of our friends knew about my mom’s cooking by the time we each turned 12. Her burritos went a long way, and you can’t eat just one. They just didn’t last long at our house, and when you make them, you’ll understand why.
So I set about trying to find this recipe in those books and, lo and behold, there isn’t one. My mom probably made these so many times and so often that she didn’t even think to write it down. She told me once, but that was years ago and I have since forgotten the specifics.
So, my brother Chris saved the day with this one since he got the recipe some years back, and thus he gave it to me in a voice mail, which is how my mom would have done it too, come to think of it. I thought about sprucing it up for the photos for this blog post with some sort of swirly sour creamy sort of thing, but if I did, they wouldn’t be her burritos any longer. These photos, this is what they look like, pure and simple. Still, mine are not exactly like my mom’s, but even if I had the recipe in her own hand, they never would be unless she made them for us.
Makes about 10 burritos
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp. oil
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1 16 oz. can refried beans
1 4 oz. can diced green chilies
1/4 cup vegetable oil
10 burritos-size flour tortillas
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the onion. Cook them until they’re soft, about 5 minutes. Add in the ground beef and get it brown, making sure to break it apart as it browns. Once it’s brown, drain off the fat. Add the paprika, cumin, salt,, and chili powder. Mix it well.
Add in the refried beans and the chilies. Mix this well and warm it through. Remove it from the heat and set aside.
To make the burritos, take a tortilla and put about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the filling at one end of the tortilla. fold the sides in and roll it up, making sure that the ends stay closed. Repeat this until you run out of filling (you might make more or less burritos depending on how heavy your hand is with the filling).
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until a drop of water pops back at you (that’s when it’s ready). Carefully put in two burritos and fry them, turning them once or twice to get them a golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. They’ll cook faster as you make them, so be careful to watch the coloring of the tortillas so as not to burn them.
Drain them on paper towels and serve either alone or with some hot sauce or salsa or sour cream or whatever. These taste even better cold, in my opinion.
I might suggest doubling this if you have more than three or four people because they’ll get devoured quickly. Thanks Carol!
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.
©Jon Marino 2013