Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Beef Chimichangas

     Flour tortilla Chimichangas originated in Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex cuisine.  Corn tortilla Chimichanga versions were part of Mexican cuisine long before Tex-Mex cuisine came to be, but the Mexican corn tortilla versions were not called Chimichangas.
     Chimichangas are fried burritos that are stuffed with meat.  Chimichangas are usually finished by topping them with cheese and baking them in an oven.  No melted cheese topping on a Chimichanga is correct too.  Chimichangas are rarely served with sauces or salsas on the plate.  Salsas are usually offered on the side.

     There is a large selection of fillings for chimichangas.  The most popular fillings are beef and pork.  The chimichanga filling for this recipe is beef that is slowly simmered with a variety of dried chiles.  Some chefs call this cooking style adobo.
     Mexican adobo style has a few loose definitions, but the chief components are chile peppers with a small amount of vinegar.  Asado style involves marinating and grilling, but the grilled meat can then be slow simmered like adobo if the cut of meat is tough.  The beef is simmered for so long, that it easily breaks into shredded chunks.  The deep dried chile flavor is thoroughly infused with the beef.

     Today's shredded beef and dried red chile adobo recipe is one that I learned when I was a kid at a great Southern California Mexican restaurant that my step grandfather managed.  I often tagged along with my step grandfather when he did his rounds.  The beef and red chile burrito was what I ate every time on each visit.  One day, My grandfather laughed and said "You eat those things every time you come in here!  You need to see how they are made!"
     The Mexican chef showed me the stuff that he used to make the beef filling.  Shredded beef was preferred over ground beef in the old days.  I had a thing for hot chile peppers even when I was a kid, so remembering the mixture of chiles was easy!
     I grew up in the kitchen of one of the most famous Southern California Mexican restaurants of them all and that was where my interest in being a chef began.  Blame it all on the red chile beef burritos!
     Beef Chimichanga Filling:
     This recipe yields enough for 2 medium size Chimichangas.  
     This recipe is medium high on the the spicy heat scale, but the chile pepper heat can be toned down where noted in the recipe.  If extra spicy hot is preferred, add 1 crushed seeded ghost pepper.
     Top Round Steaks can be notoriously tough, so they are perfect for adobo style cooking.
     Step 1:  Heat wide sauce pot over medium heat.  (The pot should be just a little wider than the beef steak.)
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of lard or vegetable olive oil.
     Add a 10 ounce beef top round steak that is about 1" thick.
     Sear the beef, till it becomes thoroughly browned on both sides.
     Step 2:  Remove the beef from the pot and place and drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the the excess grease.
     Step 3:  Place the pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 chopped garlic clove.
     Add 1/3 cup of chopped onion.
     Sauté till the garlic is aromatic.
     Step 4:  Return the seared beef to the pot.
     Add enough water to cover the steak with 1" of extra liquid.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground anatto.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin.
     Add 5 crushed dried crushed chile pequin.  (Optional for a spicy hot flavor.)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of pasilla chile powder.
     Add 1 chopped seeded dried guajillo chile.
     Add 1 chopped seeded dried chipotle chile.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ancho chile powder.
     Add 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar.
     Step 5:  Bring the liquid to a boil over medium high heat.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Cover the sauce pot with a lid.
     Slowly simmer the beef and chiles for at least 2 hours.  Add water as necessary to keep the beef covered with liquid.
     Step 6:  After the beef is cooked tender enough to easily shred, remove the from the pot and set it aside in a bowl to cool.
     Use a blending wand, blender or food processor to coarsely puree the chile pepper broth.
     Place the puree broth back in the sauce pot.  
     Shred the beef into coarse small pieces.
     Step 7:  Add the shredded beef to the puree chile broth in the pot.
     Add 1/4 cup of coarsely chopped cilantro.
     Place the pot over low heat.  (Do not place a lid on the pot.)
     Simmer and reduce till almost all of the liquid has evaporated.  The beef should be moist, but not wet.  Stir the pot occasionally, so the ingredients do not scorch.
     Remove the pot from the heat.
     Keep the beef chimichanga filling warm on a stove top.
     Beef Chimichangas:
     Step 1:  Place 2 large flour tortillas on a cutting board.  (10"- 12" diameter tortillas yield medium size chimichangas.)
     Place equal amounts of the beef chimichanga filling on each of the tortillas.
     Fold the side edges of the tortilla over the meat filling.
     Roll and fold the tortillas so the filling is completely enclosed within the tortilla.  The chimichangas should be look rectangular flattened cylinder shape.
     Step 2:  Place enough vegetable frying oil or lard in a deep braising pan or deep cast iron skillet, so the oil is 1/2" deep.
     Heat the oil to to 360º.
     Use tongs to grasp a chimichanga, so the tongs pinch the open seam shut on the chimichanga.
     Set the chimpichangas in the pan with the open seam facing down in the pan.
     Fry the seam side of the chimichanga, till it becomes stiff and it will not unravel.
     Use tongs to flip the chimichanga over.
     Pan fry each chimichanga on both sides, till it becomes a light golden brown color and till the tortilla becomes crisp.
     Step 3:  Place the 2 chimichangas on a baking pan.
     Place a generous amount of grated Mexican melting cheese on top of each chimichanga.  (About 2 ounces.  Queso Chihuahua, Queso Asadero and Queso Oaxaca are good choices.)
     Bake the chimichangas in a 325º oven, till the cheese melts.  (Do not let the cheese brown!  For Mexican cuisine, cheese is only melted.)
     Chimichangas can be served plain with sauce on the side or with beans and garnishes.
     Use a spatula to place the chimichangas on a plate.
     Place some black beans or refritos on the plate.
     Place a dollop of sour cream on the plate.
     Garnish the plate with:
     - lettuce leaf
     - yellow sunburst tomatoes
     - black olives
     - thin sliced green onion
     - green serrano pepper slices
     - lime slices.
     Garnish the chimichangas with a couple of cilantro sprigs.
     Serve with hot sauce or salsa verde on the side.

     Viola!  Old fashioned robust tasting Beef Chimichangas!

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