Hamburger We Americans have been making burgers for years and yet we continue to search for perfection – from “gourmet” to the local greasy spoon. I personally lean toward old fashioned greasy spoons over burgers stuffed with things like truffles – but that’s just me.

I’m also partial to green chile cheese burgers, for what should be obvious reasons! 😉 You can make ’em fancy, like Bobby Flay or simply add some good green chile to your cheese burger.

Over at Epicurious, they’ve listed some tips for perfection, from Steven Raichlen, host of Barbecue University on PBS, and Chris Schlesinger, coauthor of The Thrill of the Grill and How To Cook Meat. Here’s a couple of basics to keep in mind:

1. Type of meat. Both Schlesinger and Raichlen recommend staying in the middle of the spectrum. “I like equal parts chuck and sirloin — the former for flavor, the latter for finesse,” says Raichlen. If you’re buying preground beef, remember that fat can be trimmed or added during the grinding process — always check the percentage on the label: 15 to 20 percent fat is ideal.

2. Forming patties. “Cold meat and cold, wet hands,” says Raichlen. “Chill your hands under cold running water, then work as gently and quickly as possible so as not to bruise or heat the meat.” Handling the meat delicately prevents the burgers from getting too dense and firm, and keeping it cold prevents the fat from melting, which would also make the burgers tougher. Both Schlesinger and Raichlen favor thick patties — at least one inch thick — so they can develop a seared crust on the outside while still staying pink on the inside.

They also advise salting and peppering liberally just before grilling – helps the flavor and makes for a great crust.

Here’s a “gourmet” recipe for you (from our June e-letter):

Blue Cheese and Red Hots Burgers

2 pounds ground beef chuck
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces blue cheese
1/2 cup Cannon’s Red Hots, drained
4 large hamburger or kaiser buns, split in half
8 slices bacon, cooked crisp and drained (optional)
Desired condiments, such as sliced tomatoes, Romaine lettuce, sliced onions, mayonnaise, mustard

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill. (Alternately, cook the patties in a large skillet over medium-high heat.)

In a bowl, combine the beef, garlic, salt, and pepper, and mix gently but thoroughly. Divide
into 4 equal balls.

In a separate bowl, combine crumbled cheese and Red Hots.

Form hollow in each ball of hamburger, fill with cheese/Red Hots mixture. Roll back into a ball and carefully flatten (so that cheese and chiles are completely sealed.)

Place the stuffed patties on the grill and cook to desired temperature, about 2 to 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. (Alternately, cook the patties in a large skillet over medium-high heat.)

Place the buns on the grill, inside down, until just warmed through, about 30 seconds. Remove the patties and buns from the grill.

Place the buns on serving plates and top with desired condiments. Arrange 1 patty on each bottom bun and top with 2 strips of bacon (if desired). Place the top buns on each burger and serve immediately, with leftover cheese and Red Hots on the side (we like to add even more on top of the burger!) Makes 4 servings

Note: You can substitute pretty much any type of cheese. A smoked cheddar is also terrific. We like Grafton Village smoked cheddar (applewood or hickory).

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Sunday Supper Memories

June 7, 2006

quesadilla When I was a kid (a long, long time ago), we used to have Sunday dinner at around 2 p.m. Mom used to fix a roast or ham or fry a chicken. We’d have salad, vegetables and usually some type of pie for dessert. For dinner, better known as the Evening Meal, we’d have leftovers. That was what we did. The food was good, we played hard and all was well. Today, I want more. I want different BUT I also want quick. I want good BUT I also want easy. We live in New Mexico. Enter the quesadilla.

This past Sunday morning, we helped a friend move into her new house. We ate Sweet Hots for lunch along with a little Tecate and then we all went home and took a nap.

All at once it was 5 p.m. and my tummy and that of my spouse were calling for food. Since this is not my mother’s house, there had been no ham at 2 p.m. and no homemade cherry pie for dessert. However, I did have tortillas and cheese. BUT, it was Sunday. We needed something a bit special. As I stood in front of the refrigerator, I saw cheese, tortillas, a leftover piece of rib eye steak, several mushrooms, a shallot, a clove of garlic. My cooking gene began to percolate and here is what we had for Sunday supper.

The basic quesadilla is a tortilla filled with cheese, heated until the cheese melts. They are usually served with salsa, sour cream and guacamole. Great if you have 30 minutes to run home from the office and fix a “home-cooked” lunch. BUT QUESADILLAS ARE SO MUCH MORE….Here’s what I did with old fashioned leftovers.

First, I finely diced one clove of garlic, one shallot and 3-4 mushrooms. Then I took the remaining piece of rib eye and cut it into small, bite-size pieces. Then I heated 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil with a smidge of butter for flavor and sautéed the garlic, shallot, mushrooms and steak just until the steak was heated through. I added salt and pepper to taste. Then I set this mix aside.

I preheated a 10 inch skillet, lightly buttered one side of an 8 inch tortilla, placed it in the skillet butter side down and while the tortilla was beginning to brown, I placed cheddar cheese slices on it, several Tablespoons of the steak mix, another and layer of cheese and then a second tortilla, also buttered on the outer side. When the cheese began to melt and the bottom of the tortilla was lightly browned (yes, I peeked), then I very carefully flipped the quesadilla, allowing the other side to also brown. Then I took a pizza cutter, cut the quesadilla into four pieces and served it with tossed green salad. (I’ll cover the hazards and hilarities of quesadilla flipping another time.)

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Red & Green ChileVisitors are often perplexed by the waiter’s question, “Red or Green – or both?” They’re asking what kind of chile. “Both” is called “Christmas” here in New Mexico. That means 1/2 red and 1/2 green (hence Xmas) when ordering our chile toppings.

But why are red and green the prevalent Christmas colors? Well, it appears the tradition started with holly, which was an early Christmas decoration. Or from the AD325 council of Nicaea, which laid down guidelines for symbolism in church art. Red meant sacrifice, divine love, courage, & martyrdom. Green stood for hope, earth growth, spring, safety, rest youth, & victory.

Oh, and be sure and ask about the heat level. Depending on the chile (and the cook) they can range from very mild to scorching, in either color!

Read More: Red or Green? Chile That is! (The Santa Fe Site)

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