“Tio Mario’s Famous Chile Con Carne Colorado-Style Burritos” for Cook the Books

Welcome to the latest round of Cook the Books.  Claudia is hosting Where I Come From: Life Lessons from a Latino Chef by Aarón Sánchez.   You can read the announcement post here.    (For more about Cook the Books, see the bottom of this post.)


About the Book (Publisher’s Blurb):

America’s most prominent Latino chef shares the story behind his food, his family, and his professional journey.  Before Chef Aarón Sánchez rose to fame on shows like MasterChef and Chopped, he was a restless Mexican-American son, raised by a fiercely determined and talented woman who was a successful chef and restaurateur in her own right–she is credited with bringing Mexican cuisine to the New York City dining scene. In many ways, Sánchez, who lost his father at a young age, was destined to follow in his mother Zarela’s footsteps. He spent nights as a child in his family’s dining room surrounded by some of the most influential chefs and restaurateurs in New York. At 16, needing direction, he was sent by his mother to work for renowned chef Paul Prudhomme in New Orleans. In this memoir, Sánchez delves into his formative years with remarkable candor, injecting his story with adrenaline and revealing how he fell in love with cooking and started a career in the fast-paced culinary world. Sánchez shares the invaluable lessons he learned from his upbringing and his training–both inside and outside the kitchen–and offers an intimate look into the chaotic and untraditional life of a professional chef and television personality. This memoir is Sánchez’s highly personal account of a fatherless Latino kid whose talent and passion took him to the top of his profession.

More about the author:

 Aarón Sánchez is an award-winning chef, TV personality, cookbook author and philanthropist. He is the chef/owner of Mexican restaurant Johnny Sánchez in New Orleans, and a judge on FOX’s hit culinary competition series MASTERCHEF. He co-starred on Food Network’s Chopped and Chopped Junior, and is the author of two cookbooks. An active philanthropist, Sánchez launched the Aarón Sánchez Scholarship Fund, an initiative empowering aspiring chefs from the Latin community to follow their dreams and attend culinary school. One of the world’s most distinguished Latin chefs, Aarón is also passionate about preserving his family’s legacy through food and encouraging diversity in the kitchen.

What I thought….

I was most familiar with Sánchez from Chopped and I did not know that he was a host and personality from the very early days of the Food Network.  It was interesting to read about those no-frill days when he had to schlepp his own ingredients and equipment to the studio and prep his own dishes before filming.

Sánchez was born into a foodie family and I was struck how he did have a lot of advantages when it came to choosing and persevering in his chosen profession.  His mother, Zarela (with a NYC restaurant of the same name), was a stern figure…definitely no nonsense.   She started him on his culinary path.

During those angst-ridden teenage years, she shipped him off to the legendary Paul Prudhomme and K-Paul’s in New Orleans to toughen up and learn the trade.   It seemed like his next stop would be to apprentice with Tom Colicchio and I thought, “Good grief, he’s hitting the culinary tri-fecta here.”   His mother set up an interview for him with Colicchio but on his way, he happened into Daniel Rodriquez’s kitchen.   Really, the rest is history.

Sánchez  doesn’t romanticize the trials and tribulations of working in and owning restaurants or his Food Network celebrity rise.  In fact, he attributes the financial fluidity of some of his restaurants to the extra income coming in from his FN gigs.

I also appreciated his honest narration.  Not pulling any punches he lays it all out there—failed restaurants and failed relationships alike.   I could just hear him narrating this memoir and I loved the use of “dude.”   Sánchez is honest about his cooking, his choices, and his personal life (and relationship with mother).

The Food:

There’s no way to list all the food in this memoir so I’m not even going to attempt it.   I usually read all the CTB selections with a pen and paper close by to write every single food references.   Let’s just say I enjoyed the flow of the book so much I decided to forego this process.    Besides, Sánchez includes recipes like Pineapple-Ginger Chicken Wings, Colorado Style Burritos, Shellfish Étouffée, Ceviche Negro, Pumpkin Ravioli, Bacalao-Stuffed Sweet Plantains, Seafood Stew, Sautéed Hominy, Seared Salmon with Pumpkin Mole, Caldo Gallegos, Brussels Sprouts Salad, and Tequila-Battered Cauliflower Tacos.  There was plenty of inspiration.

Any of these dishes would be worthy and doable.   (Sánchez’s directions are spot on and not like some chef recipes I’ve seen out there.)   I had to make Uncle Tio’s Famous Chile Con Carne Colorado-Style Burritos (54).  Uncle Tio’s recipe uses three kinds of dried chiles (Arbol, Guajillo, and Ancho) and uses a slow braising process.  I learned something from Sánchez’s recipe: only seer the meat on one side to help it stay more tender in the braise.  Did not know that.

Chile Con Carne:  The beef is braised in the chile sauce along with onions, carrots, and and red pepper. This process takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Sánchez includes a rice recipe with onions, garlic and tomatoes that is used as part of the burrito filling.

The meat from the chile con carne is rolled up with rice and cheese.

Colorado-style burritos are smothered so to finish the dish, ladle a bit of the chile sauce in the bottom of a baking dish, place burritos (seam side down) on the sauce, ladle a bit more on top and sprinkle some cheese over it all.  Bake at 400F until bubbly (about 15 minutes).   Remove and garnish with Cotija crumbles and radishes.

These were delicious.  Even though it was an afternoon process, it’s worth it.

I’m sure someone smarter than I can adapt this recipe for an instant pot to speed it up a bit.   I only made a dish for two but with leftover rice and chile con carne in the fridge, we will be revisiting this recipe all week!

Once the meat and rice are made, these burritos are very quick to whip up.  I think we got about three burrito meals (of two) out of this recipe plus enough meat to make a large quesadilla.    I’m saving this recipe for the time when the whole family is here.  I’m thinking this recipe might make enough for us all (with two hungry nephews).  The meat mixture for the filling can definitely be stretched with more rice.  (And, his rice recipe is a delicious side on it’s own.)

I’m not posting the recipe, but you can find it on Sanchez’s website (or in the book).

Thanks to Claudia for hosting this round.   Check out the Cook the Books website at the beginning of April for the round up.

I’m hosting the April/May edition with  the novel Honeysuckle Season by Mary Ellen Taylor (September 2020).   Look for the announcement post at Cook the Books around April 1.  (If you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free.  The ebook is $4.99 the last I checked.)Hope you can join in!    Cook the Books is open to anyone, just grab a copy of the selection, read and get foodie-inspired.  (For more information, check out our guidelines.)


I’m linking up with Foodies Read

…and Novel Food #41.

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