When I was a kid, one of my favorites places to go with my Mom was to what was known as “The Burrito.” Her sister bought that business from her, and she would go visit and chat, and if I wasn’t in school, I went along. Almost every memory I have of my Aunt is of her sitting on one of those folding step stools, with a large tray of warm corn tortillas and another of cooked pork in front of her, dutifully rolling taquitos. Every once in a while, she would reach over and hand me a freshly rolled but un-fried taquito to eat while I watched the employees in the front serve customers. It was a busy place. Located on a busy intersection in East Los Angeles, it was widely regarded as the best Mexican food around. So, I always asked for a Red Burrito, which consisted of pork simmered in red chile sauce and refried beans. The menu there was large, but simple. Red and green burritos were the most popular items, followed by the taquitos, enchiladas, and tacos.
That restaurant thrived for 25 years. After I left the area, in fact, the State, if I was even close to Los Angeles I would make it a point to go back and eat there. Even as an adult, the smells wafting out of the kitchen were familiar and comforting. The taste never changed, not one bit. The building is not even there, anymore, sometime in the 80’s it was razed and something else went up on that location, but I can’t remember what.
Now, I have had Chile Colorado all over the U.S. and Mexico, and the closest I ever found to my Aunt’s was in Albuquerque, and I used to eat it for breakfast almost every day. Red chile with chunks of pork ladled over scrambled eggs, accompanied by fried potatoes and warm corn tortillas will start your day, and your metabolism off right. I was never healthier than when I lived in New Mexico. 325 days of sunshine, red chile every day, dry, cool climate. I was 175 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal. In fact, it was then and there that I met my life partner. I will always love New Mexico. But I digress.
Yesterday, after years of searching, I found (believe or not) a canned chile Colorado sauce that is damn close to what I ate as a child. I bought a large pork loin, and cut off around 14 chops, then I cubed the rest and placed it in a bag of flour and kosher salt, pepper, and oregano. Then I placed it all in a large fry pan of heated olive oil, infused with onions and garlic and, once it had browned thoroughly, covered it with Las Palmas Chile Colorado Sauce and put the lid on and let it simmer an hour or so. In the meantime, I made rice with chicken broth and tomato bullion. (earlier in the day I had prepared a pot of fresh pintos that was simmering as well) .
What a meal fit for an afternoon of football! My kids are used to me trying to perfect the dishes of my childhood, and they were eager to dig in. My boy, who usually eats like a bird, wolfed down a 2 pound burrito and two helpings of rice. My girl, who eats like Albert Haynesworth anyway, ate more than I did.
If you ever want to try this dish but don’t have the time or the access to fresh red chiles, go to your local grocer and look for the brand I mentioned above. Make enough for company, then invite people you love. The children of your village will sing songs about you. I promise.