A few years ago, my sisters (who live in Maryland and Utah) were just RAVING about Cafe Rio, especially about their freshly made tortillas and their salads. Cafe Rio is a “Mexican” (notice the quotes) fast service restaurant similar to Chipotle. So, while stopping for gas when passing through Utah, I went by a Cafe Rio and ordered a shredded roast beef burrito. Mind you, I am not usually a “meat” gal. I usually opt for vegetarian dishes, but I was told that the roast beef was great. So, I tried it. It was fine, but not as amazing as everyone said. At least, that was my initial reaction. I could only eat half of my burrito (it was huge!), so I saved the rest in the cooler. When I ate it later, I realized how yummy it truly was! The roast beef was well flavored and tender, the tortilla was wonderful, and the salsas were fresh and yummy. Since then, I’ve been a Cafe Rio fan.
What’s the problem? For a very long time, there were no Cafe Rio restaurants anywhere within an hour drive of my home. I don’t know about you, but I don’t often drive an hour just to eat roast beef. It was tempting, but I couldn’t justify the gas expenditure. So I did what I often do… I turned to my friend Google and started looking for knock-off recipes. I found this one by Jill. (She has a great website full of yummy recipes. I highly recommend you take a look and poke around.)
Her recipe is a crock-pot recipe which makes it easy, right? Only when you realize it’s a crock-pot recipe before hand, and you give yourself enough time to cook it. So, there I was, in the early afternoon, ingredients assembled and ready to make dinner and not enough time to make it. I needed to stew the roast in the crock-pot for 9-10 hours. I didn’t have 9-10 hours! So, I adapted and made it on the stove. It was tender, delicious, and a big hit with EVERYONE at home! So much so that they asked me to make it again and again. I’ve made a couple of tiny adjustments to the recipe for personal taste and ease, but, for the most part, it’s the same as the recipe by Jill. Here’s my slightly altered version.
Cafe Rio Beef
Adapted from Jill’s recipe found here
2-3 pound Chuck Roast (or Chuck Tender Roast, my favorite)
2 small cans green enchilada sauce (I use Old El Paso.)
1 tub of Knorr Beef Homestyle Stock concentrate mixed with 2 cups of warm water
2 8-ounce cans of tomato sauce (to taste)
1 tablespoon cumin
1 small onion, halfed and sliced
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
salt and pepper to taste
Oil for browning roast
Remove roast from packaging and lightly salt and pepper. Use a very light hand! Preheat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy stockpot, then add the roast. Brown on all sides. If the roast is too large, cut it in half and brown the halves separately. Do not rush or skip this stage! It adds a fabulous flavor that you will miss if you don’t brown the meat.
When the roast is almost done browning, add the onions to the pan and let cook for a minute or two. Next, add the garlic and let cook for a minute. If you let it go too long, the garlic will get bitter, so better to under cook it than overcook it. After a minute, add the sauces, stock mixture, and cumin to the pan. Stir to combine, then put a lid on the pan and let the meat cook until tender (2-3 hours), stirring occasionally. Once the meat is tender, remove it from the pot, shred it with a fork, and return the shredded meat to the pan, mixing it in with the sauce.
Serve with rice, in burritos, quesadillas, tacos, etc.
It’s a super easy recipe, and it tastes great! You can do it in the crock-pot if you desire, but I highly recommend browning the meat first. It adds a lovely flavor. How does that flavor rate in a head-to-head test with Cafe Rio? For similarity in taste, this recipe gets a B. For overall flavor, I give this recipe an A+. I think it’s even better than Cafe Rio!
When I made it last week, I fully intended to follow the instructions above, but life got crazy, and I realized I didn’t even have 2-3 hours to stew the meat. So I used my trusty pressure cooker and had this super tender and flavorful beef ready in about an hour. (If this makes you want a pressure cooker, check out this pressure cooker on Amazon.) Watch how in my photo step-by-step.
Dinner also included Cafe Rio black beans, cilantro-lime rice, and a tomato-corn salsa. I’ll share those recipes with you soon.
We make this pretty regularly, because as much as I love Cafe Rio, it costs us over $40 for 4 of us to eat their delicious food. We can’t do that every day or even every week. This lovely meal cost about $17. For that $17, we got several meals out of it: dinner for 5 the first night (with most people eating 2 servings); 2 lunches each for my hubby, me, and my youngest son; and at least 4 “midnight snacks” for my other two boys. So that makes 19 hearty meals/snacks for $17 which everyone LOVED. Not too shabby, huh?
What do you think? How about that for easy?
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