Santa Fe recipes: make a tortilla burger

Lots of images come up when you mention tortilla burgers to people. In Santa Fe it’s a burger and pinto beans wrapped in a flour tortilla then smothered with red or green chile and cheese. Simple but delicious.

Al Lucero, who has owned Maria’s New Mexican Restaurant with his wife Laurie since 1985, says that Maria Lopez invented the tortilla burger one day when she ran out of hamburger buns. Lopez opened Maria’s with her husband Gilbert in 1952. It was a simple roadside stand on Cordova Road, then the outskirts of Santa Fe. The Luceros, the fifth owners, have kept Maria’s  wonderful food but added the lavish tequila and margarita list that Maria’s has become so well known for.

Santa Fe recipes

Santa Fe's tortilla burger was invented by Maria Lopez when she ran out of burger buns, courtesy Maria's Restaurant

The original tortilla burger was probably smothered in red chile because green didn’t become available year ‘round until the late 1950s. Now it’s possible to get this gut-buster smothered in red or green chile sauce. My favorite is green chile.

My introduction to the tortilla burger was at The Pantry Restaurant and every once in awhile I enjoy the indulgence at one of the many places in Santa Fe that offer them.

If you can’t get to Santa Fe, you can make these delicious burgers  at home. My favorite uses green chile sauce, adding chopped green chile along with the beans before wrapping the tortilla around the burger. Cover the tortilla with chile and cheese, put it under the broiler to melt the cheese and you are ready to go!

Santa Fe recipes

Tortilla burger with green chile the way they do it at The Pantry, photo Steve Collins

Santa Fe’s Tortilla Burger

2 ground beef patties, a half pound each, cooked to your preference
2  - 10” diameter flour tortillas
Green or red chile sauce (recipes below)
Green chiles (optional)
Pinto beans (recipe below)
Shredded cheddar cheese

To assemble the tortilla burger, lay a tortilla on a cutting board. Place two tablespoons of pinto beans in the center and spread. Put a tablespoon of chopped green chiles on top of the beans and sprinkle two tablespoons of grated cheddar cheese over the beans. Put the cooked burger in the center and fold the tortilla around the burger. Carefully turn the wrapped burger over and put on a plate of that can go in the oven. Generously spread a quarter cup green chile sauce over the tortilla and sprinkle with two of tablespoons the grated cheese. Place the plate under a preheated broiler in the oven and cook until the cheese melts (about two minutes).

Green Chile Sauce (Salsa Verde)

1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
½ medium onion, finely diced
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fresh New Mexico green chiles, roasted, cleaned of char, and diced.(or substituted frozen ones)
1 cup chicken broth or water

In a saucepan heat the oil over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the onions and garlic and cook for two minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the green chile and cook for two more minutes. Add the chicken broth, stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, stirring as needed. Put in a container with a lid and refrigerate. It will keep for five or six days in the refrigerator. It will also keep in the freezer for up to three months.

Red Chile Sauce (Salsa Roja)

1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
½ onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups water
2 pounds dried red New Mexico chile pods, cleaned of seeds and stems
2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons flour

In a saucepan heat the oil over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the onions and garlic and cook for two minutes. Add the cumin and salt and cook for another minute. Add the water and the red chiles. Stir well, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Drain the chiles, saving the water. Put the chiles in the blender with enough of the reserved water to blend to a paste. Set aside. In a saucepan heat the oil over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk into the oil to make a roux. Continue to cook until the rawness is cooked out of the flour (ABOUT 2 MINUTES). Add two cups of the reserved liquid and bring to a boil, whisking vigorously to incorporate the roux into the liquid. When the mixture comes to a boil remove from THE heat and stir in the red chile paste. Put in a container with a lid and refrigerate. It will keep for five or six days in the refrigerator. It will also keep in the freezer for up to three months.

Ranch Style Pinto Beans

2 Cups Pinto beans, soaked overnight
Enough water to cover

2 TBS vegetable oil, or lard
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ CUP Onion, finely chopped
2 Fresh jalapeno peppers, stem removed, sliced ½-inch thick
1 tsp. cumin
Salt
Pepper
1 TBS dried New Mexico red chile, in powder form

Put the beans in a cooking pot with enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until soft (approximately two hours). While the beans are simmering, heat the oil or lard in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and jalapeño, and cook until soft, about five minutes. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, oregano and dried chile powder. Add mixture to the beans for the last half hour of cooking.

 Note: You can use canned pinto beans instead of soaking and cooking the beans. Prepare the seasoning mixture as directed above, add it directly to the beans and simmer to heat throughout, mixing well.

Whether you live in Santa Fe or not you can enjoy a tortilla burger anytime. Do you have a favorite place in Santa Fe to enjoy one?

What are your favorite Santa Fe recipes? We’d love to hear about them.

For more places to get green chile cheeseburgers and tortilla burgers in Santa Fe and New Mexico, check out the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail. Another good NM dining resource is the New Mexico Culinary Treasure Trail.

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2 Responses to “Santa Fe recipes: make a tortilla burger”

  1. Traveling Ted
    February 28, 2019 at 7:25 am #

    Looks delicious. I like the southwest spin on the burger.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Asa Wright Nature Center proves Trinidad is the Land of the HummingbirdMy Profile

    • Steve Collins
      February 28, 2019 at 8:29 am #

      They’re great! Glad you like it.

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