Cumin-Ancho Lamb Burritos

Ancho (Ahn-cho) Chile (Capsicum Annum) means Wide Chile Pepper. This chile ranges from 3 – 4 on a heat scale of 1 to 10. An Ancho is the dried form of a Poblano Pepper and often is mislabeled as a Pasilla or Mulato Pepper. Anchos have sweet fruity flavor with hints of cherry, prune, and fig. Anchos, combined with the Pasilla and Guajillo, form the Holy Trinity of chiles used to prepare the traditional mole sauces. Scoville heat units are 1,000 to 3,000.

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1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3/4 pound ground lamb
1-1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1-1/2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup canned refried beans
four 12-inch flour tortillas
6 oz. grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup of your favorite salsa
1 cup sour cream


To prepare the filling:

Preheat the oven to 450F. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet and add the ground lamb, cumin, cocoa powder, chile powder and crushed red pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring to break up the ground lamb, until the meat is cooked through, about 6 minutes. Stir in the onion and season with salt and pepper, then transfer the lamb to a bowl. Add the refried beans to the skillet and cook over moderate heat until they are hot.

To assemble the burritos:

Lay the tortillas on a work surface and spoon one-quarter of the ground lamb in a band across the center of each tortilla, leaving a 2-inch border on either side. Top each tortilla with one-quarter of the refried beans, cheese, chopped tomato, cilantro and salsa and roll up the tortillas, folding in the ends as you go. Put the rolled tortillas in a large baking dish and bake them for about 10 minutes, or until hot and bubbling. Serve the burritos at once, passing the sour cream at the table.

Recipe by Michael Roberts, from the June 2001 issue of Food & Wine magazine.