I’ve been eating a lot of burritos lately. And most faithful readers will know I’ve posted about this Tex-Mex fave previously. But I’ve just been advised, there are actually burrito rules…
A classically-constructed burrito: Stick to the rules and you can’t go wrong!
For the longest time, I thought you could wrap up anything you wanted to in a flour tortilla, give it a buzz in the microwave or a tan in the sandwich press, and call it a burrito. Apparently not…
In fact, most so-called burritos out there are not authentic burritos, according to the rules. Keep in mind: To be legit, your burrito must start with a bed of rice or another appropriate starch, continue with a filling of signature meat or veg, segue to supporting ingredients such as sweet corn kernels, beans or whatever, and finish with finely diced or slivered crispy salad.
Anything else, with just a homogenized mish-mash of stuffing ingredients, or a big layer of scrambled eggs (eg.- breakfast burrito) is really just a wrap…
You must have a theme or signature filling. Beans, Carnitas, Shrimp, Pulled Pork, BBQed/grilled Beef or Chicken, plain Veggie (with lots of peppers and onions), or whatever. Diners must know what they’re eating, and the signature filling must not only stand out as the leading Flavour but dictate appropriate inside sides.
NO SAUCES! Except what may come on the fillings. And then, just enough to cover the filling. Don’t swim any ingredients in sauce! If a sauce is a feature of the signature filling, no more than it takes to add a fair hint of the flavour to your starch without any liquid pooling against the burrito wrapper anywhere and making it soggy. Sauces have their place but it is not inside the burrito
There are several different names by which they call the companion veggies that usually go into a burrito. I kind of like ‘salad’. The burrito was originally a spin-off from the taco, and as such, so the veggies should be fresh, crispy, julienned or fairly finely diced. as the ingredient suggests. Always raw, not cooked.
Of course, you should always wash your veggies before you use them in any salad. But be sure to dry them well before stuffing them into a burrito. As we said about sauces. You must take care not to soak the tortilla, as it will go mushy or just fall apart.
Condiments or Toppings should always be applied externally, after you’ve pressed or broiled it, in spite of what you may see even at some of the fanciest burrito joints. This goes for everything you want to use, including sauces. Where applicable, sauces should never be poured over burritos, but served in appropriate-sized bowls on the side for dipping.
Exceptions to this rule is grated cheese, which may be stuffed inside or sprinkled on top of your burrito. And the jury is still out on how Guacamole fits properly into the burrito picture. Maybe both inside or outside, as the signature ingredient dictates.
Your burrito should always be heated in an appropriate manner before serving. Condiments and toppings should be applied after heating. Except for grated cheese, which should be generously applied before heating, and broiled or microwaved until it starts to gently bubble and brown. Use a sandwich press, a broiler or a microwave as appropriate to the kind of burrito and toppings you’re using.
Which brings us to…
All burritos need a starch appropriate to the signature ingredient. The original rule was use white rice with everything and let the flavour of the signature ingredient shine through. That’s always been my policy, although some say Mexican (Spicy) rice or even Fried Rice are now okay.
However, I’ve recently tasted a burrito using Couscous as the base ‘starch’ (even though Couscous is technically a pasta). And I think Angel Hair pasta (just barely al dente in texture, thoroughly drained and cooled to room temperature) or small Orzo would also be nice, in certain applications.
Be aware that pasta always has some flavour of its own and should only be substituted for plain white Rice when the flavour will complement flavour of the signature ingredient.
And… I say stay away from sauced pasta as your base starch. Folks have suggested Kraft Mac and Cheese, for instance. Also, anything ‘Alfredo’. All too wet. And remember, those dishes are supposed to be featured ingredients from the grande Italian repertoire, anyway; not supporting actors from Tex-Mex or any other cuisine.
Above all, make sure your burritos are nicely warmed – but not too hot to hold comfortably in your hand.
Make sure your burritos are not so moist or saucy that the flour tortillas get soaked through and fall apart.
Make sure your burritos are properly folded and plumped. Good, tight end seals are essential!
Be careful that your signature and supporting ingredient, and condiment flavours are complimentary to one another and that none overwhelms the others. Muddy flavour, or a single flavour that overwhelms all or most of the others will ruin your burrito experience faster than anything else!
A final word…
All of which is not to say, “don’t experiment.” Feel free to pick and poke, and be creative with your signature ingredients. Just stick to the rules when dressing out your signature flavours and textures, and you’ll never be disappointed!
~ Maggie J.