Steak Burrito Woes
Our fair city of Norfolk, Virginia, has recently been baptised with a wonderful new Mexican and South American themed restaurant. We are all excited about it, and it has opened to rave reviews.
I recently ate there and sampled their gourmet steak burrito. It is large enough to cover an oversized plate. Inside a large soft burrito of a soft orange color are a myriad of delicious ingredients--including fine chopped scallions, several varieties of fresh chiles, rice, creamy black beans, sour cream, several spices, and, of course, the steak pieces prepared in bite sized chunks.
Delicious! Absolutely delicious! Except for one thing The steak chunks inside the burriot were the "typical well done" that is descriptive of most Mexican and South American restaurants I have sampled. Whereas everything else about the burrito was absolutely delicious, the steak chunks were overcooked, dry, and did not impart a taste of high quality beef.
This is a concern that I have had for some time about other "steak burrioto" type entrees that I have sampled in many Mexican themed restaurants nationwide.
It seems that whenever it comes to meat, they tend to opt out for the cheapest cuts possible and cook them to death. The meat chunks in these burritos usually have the taste and consistency of "stew beef."
I would just love.....just love......to go to a Mexican style restaurant someday......where they offer a "steak burrito"......and when I order it........hear them ask me: "How do you want that cooked?"
This really shouldn't be that much more trouble, shouldn't it?
Do any of you know of any restaurant.....anywhere.....that offers a steak burrito on the menu.....and offers to cook the meat to your personal specifications?
Your posting got me to thinking. With few exceptions all the beef I've had in authentic Mexican restaurants has been well done--usually sliced fairly thin and marinated as well. I suspect such culinary traditions arise from using cattle that have never seen the inside of a feed lot. Most steers available to early Mexican cooks in the North of Mexico would have been tough stringy range cattle, hardly the meat for tender, rare steaks.
I have had decent, properly prepared steaks at steak houses in Mexico--but even they seemed tougher than comparable cuts of U.S. beef, and I suspect such steak houses are more for the gringo tourists than for locals. One dish, tapequina (sp?), that is fairly authentic, comes with steak and a combination of traditional Mexican foods. Yet even it is often served with thinly sliced, well done pieces of marinated beef.
Over on the Southwest message board there has been a discussion of "proper" Sonoran food. Sometimes I think there can be a conflict between tastiness and tradition. Often traditional cooks did not have available the range of ingredients that any of us can buy today, so that sometimes real authentic food may not be the best food. On the other hand, we've all been forced to wade through a multicultural mishmash where some geek is trying to cook sortof Mexican (or French or Chinese etc) and sortof standard American at the same time and ending up with something neither authentic nor tasty. In other words, when you finally find the steak in the burrito done perfectly, maybe the rest of the burrito won't be so good.
About the best cut of meat your going to find in a Mexican rest. is flank steak. If you ask for a carne asada burrito, going with medium is about as rare as you would want it or else you better have some mighty fine cutting teeth. The other option is no meat whatsoever. A bean and cheese burrito can be a beautiful thing. Just remeber Kinky Freidmans great line "Never eat anything bigger than your head."
Rare flank steak sliced thinly on the bias and against the grain is as tender as the August night. And I've been eating rare (and raw) meat all my life, and have never been sick once. The only food poisoning I ever got was (1) bad snails in Chinatown; and (2) a piece of smoked tuna at an upscale restaurant (that was the worst).
Chowhounds need to have digestive systems as intrepid and curious as their palates. And from what I've been reading here over the months, most of us really do!