The Burrito Bowl American Dream

With the country’s 239th birthday upon us, let’s the count some of our uniquely American blessings.

  1. We never ever have to make the impossible decision between ice tea, green tea or lemonade.
  2. In the U.S.A., even candy can be reincarnated.
  3. Rather than use the metric system, our fast food brands innovate with their own magic meat math.
  4. Thanks to the #Internet, we have the freedom of choice to go out and buy these and other commercial food items, or make them in the comfort of our own kitchens (with less fluorescent light, arguably better music and a pants/bra-optional policy.)

There are plenty of meals and tastes I’ll never fully be able to recreate at home: the salty/slick mouthfeel of Olive Garden breadsticks, the gooeyness of Eleven City’s patty melt, the palpable guilt of the Cheesecake Factory’s chocolate peanut putter cookie dough cheesecake. But Chipotle, despite being surrounded by a halo of ethical good food vibes, can easily be imitated by a commoner.

If it weren’t for the introduction of Chipotle’s tofu “sofritas” option, the spark between me and America’s favorite Mexican grill would’ve fizzled out years ago. The chicken has always seemed bland, dry or otherwise underwhelming, and I’ve never been one to opt for steak in burrito form. My go-to order was always barbacoa: the zesty, juicy shredded beef that left me with more bloat than the Charlie Brown balloon floating down Sixth Avenue on Thanksgiving.

The allure of marinated red meat eventually failed to outweigh the gastrointestinal ramifications. When I was about ready to call off my already casual relationship with the chain, sofritas came around. Despite any skepticism I wanted to have, they were perfect. That braised tofu tastes every bit as hearty as well-seasoned ground beef, without the heartburn or mental self-loathing.

IMGP5112Even with this happy (menu) medium, I try to restrict my Chipotle runs to when I’m in a particularly YOLO mood. Fortunately, there are volumes of Internet tips on how to sufficiently replicate sofritas rice bowls at home. Doing it yourself does take longer than the 45 seconds you spend gliding down the restaurant line, but this way you get leftovers and eight times as much guacamole without paying an extra two bucks.

Sofritas Bowls
Adapted from Pinch of Yum; Makes ~6 servings

For the sofritas:
1 poblano pepper
Anywhere from 2-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (depending on heat preferences)
1-2 tbsp of aforementioned adobo sauce (adjust to tolerance)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 c salsa
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of sugar
16 oz extra firm tofu

For the bowls:
1.5 c cooked white or brown rice
2 limes
14 oz can of pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
Your favorite Mexican cheese (or crumbled feta if you don’t want to spend $10 on a huge block of cotija at Whole Foods)

Start by slicing the tofu block in half. Place both slices on a paper towel lined-plate, cover the tops with paper towels, and stack a few heavy books on top to drain out any excess moisture (there’s always moisture.)

Next, roast the whole poblano, either carefully over a gas range or by broiling in an oven. (If you broil, lightly coat the pepper in oil first. It should take 10-15 minutes to blister up.)

Cook the rice according to whatever package you’re using. Add the juice of both limes, a pinch of salt, and fluff with a fork.

For the sauce: combine the roasted poblano (stem definitely removed; seeds removed if you prefer), chipotle peppers, adobo, garlic, salsa, oil, salt and sugar in a blender or food processor. Obliterate until mostly smooth.

Heat a small slick of oil in a skillet over medium high heat and add the tofu. Once the exterior starts to crisp up, start scrambling the blocks into beef-like crumbles. Add the blended sauce, 1/2 water and the beans. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes; if things start to look too dry, add more water.

Assemble the rice, tofu mixture, guac and cheese in bowls (or burritos, if you’re ambitious). Go back for seconds because this is America after all.


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