When I used to live in the Have (rhymes with cave and rave, not with Cav or Mav), there was a great burrito guy that would sell to us Yalies who scampered about on science hill during the luncheon hour. He owned a little restaurant near Water Street and despite trying to train others to serve in his stead, 9 out of 10 times, he’d be manning his food truck every afternoon, maybe because he was a perfectionist, maybe because there were two other Mexican trucks at the intersection and he needed to hold the line.
Since then, I get a jonesing for one of the man’s creations for dinner. I was amazed by how satisfying and tasty they were considering how simple they seemed. I can still remember the assembly sequence- rice, beans, chicken, pico de gallo, cabbage, guac, sour cream and hot sauce (the final two are optional). Elizabeth isn’t a huge fan of rice in her burritos and since I’m not making these for a lunch in the middle of a hard day of labor, I don’t mind letting it go. The beans can be simply from a can, then warmed and simmered, perhaps with some nice epazote, but not too long. My vendor never sweated keeping the ingredients in some extra liquid, to keep temperatures, I suppose, and the wrapped delights were a bit saucy as a result, but this was never a bad thing. I grilled my chicken thighs on the Griddler then shredded them, but I have been known to use the remnants of a roast chicken for my burritos as well. Jack and/or cheddar is a good cheese and regarding the pico de gallo, I just use our standard salsa recipe. But that’s another post.
These are easy and these are straightforward in my eyes. The thing that makes or breaks the entire affair is the cabbage. I can’t say that I’ve perfected it yet, but that’s okay. Sometimes people substitute lettuce, but I’m told cabbage is the traditional choice because it doesn’t have such any where near the strident refrigeration needs of lettuce. I love the flavor and texture of this stuff in this outstanding roll-up. It’s obviously a slaw or nearly that, so I add some mayo and vinegar (1 and 2 tbsp per half a cabbage, respectively) to make an irresistible veggie topping. I usually make slaw out of red cabbage, and it is better for you, but here I opt for authenticity. I heap it on to keep everything moist and seasoned, but this is a matter of personal taste.
The final operation is the wrapping itself. My burrito man was able to secure a heaping mound of ingredients in a standard 12″ tortilla (warmed on a flat grill) without ever splitting a seam or tearing a hole. I am not so skilled, but I do take a page from his book and tear a square of foil, then place the tortilla on top and use it as an extra sheath to hold everything together. The best approach is to fold the back over, then the sides and leave the front open. Even with the foil, my burritos are lumpy and have a tendency to be messy. Plus, seeing your dinner wrapped in foil is kinda funny, but there are always plates and forks at hand, after all it is dinner.
While I’m not a huge fan of breakfast for dinner, lunchtime street food is okay anytime. So, look for inspiration wherever you may find it, friends and until next time, cook on!