Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's in the Perfect Burrito?

We all love a good quest. Some have searched for Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, even Mr. Snuffleupagus. But, what's the plan once you find them? The first two are extremely dangerous and Snuffleupagus isn't much of a conversationalist.

Well then, how about a quest for the most elusive food on the planet, the perfect burrito? Luckily for you, the FoodPair staff has been working on this one for years. Though we can still fight endlessly as to where to buy the best burrito in California or Mexico or Antarctica, we were able to settle our differences as to what makes the best burrito. So, without further ado, here's what you need to know:

1. What Makes a Burrito?

In short, a burrito is the greatest hits of Mexico wrapped in a tortilla. Inside the tortilla, you'll need meat, beans, rice (controversy solved below), cheese, salsa, avocado (or guacamole), sour cream, onions and cilantro.

As with all food besides the Twinkie, everything should be as fresh as possible. The better each ingredient tastes, the better your burrito will be. And, if you've had a burrito lately, you know that a great one is worth more than the sum of its parts.

2. The Tortilla

Since most of us will be buying rather than making our tortilla, it's best to use a flour tortilla that's fresh. So, instead of reaching for the major brands, find one that's made locally.

Next, the tortilla should be grilled or heated in a pan. It should not be steamed! Those steamers make the tortilla chewy and gummy. Just like toasting bread, grilling a tortilla adds flavor and imparts an ideal flakiness.

While you're grilling the tortilla, toss on a handful of shredded cheese. That way, the cheese will be melted and gooey on the inner wall of the burrito.

3. The Rice Debate

Some people love rice in their burritos and some people hate it. In California, rice has created a North-South feud: in San Francisco rice comes standard, but in Los Angeles and San Diego it's usually left out.

Our answer: if you like rice keep it in; if you don't, just say no. But, if you do like rice, it should be well-seasoned and flavorful Mexican rice. Make sure it has garlic, onion and tomato. Also, make sure not to add too much. A good rule of thumb is that the rice & beans (combined) shouldn't be more than 1/3 of the burrito.

4. The Meat, Beans and Avocado

You have a lot of choices when it comes to the meat or protein: Steak, Chicken, Pork or Tofu. Choose your favorite protein, but make sure it's well-seasoned and definitely not overcooked!

As for the beans, we reach for whole pinto beans, but whole black beans are great as well. For another take, check out BurritoEater where refried beans are the filling of choice. Try one with each and pick your favorite.

We prefer sliced avocado in our burritos, but others prefer guacamole. As with the rice, choose whichever you prefer.

5. The Key Elements

We're not done yet! There are a couple more key elements to a perfect burrito. First, it should be hot, no questions asked. Second, the ingredients should be well mixed. We want a delicious burrito, not an archeology project with a layer of rice, then beans, then meat. That's not OK. Third, it should be spicy, as spicy as you can handle! We make our salsa hotter for burritos than for dipping chips because it's spread across a large area and has to compete with the other ingredients.

Now wrap everything up and it's ready to go!

Any other favorite ingredients or dishes you'd like us to highlight? Post them in the comments section or on our Facebook page! And while you're at it, "Like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to get helpful updates in your news feed.

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