By Joe Gray Chicago Tribune
Spiciness is in the palate of the taster: One person’s fiery perfection is another’s too-mild disappointment. For the home cook, navigating heat levels can be tricky.
These simple burgers are flavored with heat-producing elements of chipotle and jalapeno chilies, and you can set the level of fire. Both peppers are jalapenos, actually; the chipotle is made by smoking the fresh pepper. Although available dried, the chipotle peppers here are canned in adobo sauce.
The chipotle adds a smoky heat, while the raw jalapeno contributes fresh sharpness. Adjust the burgers’ heat by using more or fewer of each pepper. Tasting a tiny bit of the jalapeno before mixing it in will help you control the level you want. More heat and smoke? Stir a tablespoon or more of the adobo sauce into the ground beef.
Tip: Mincing fresh jalapeno very finely will distribute its heat evenly in the burger. Try this trick: Stem, seed and remove the ribs from the pepper, quartering it lengthwise. Drop the pieces into a running food processor. The spinning blade keeps the pieces moving, preventing big pieces from falling out of reach.
1 pound ground beef, 85 percent lean
1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, pith removed, finely minced
1 to 2 chipotle chilies in adobo, finely minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, roughly chopped
2 tomatillos, husked, roughly chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 or 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
4 hamburger buns or other buns, toasted
Mix the ground beef, jalapeno, chipotle and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in a large bowl. Using your hands is the most efficient method. Form into 4 patties, each about an inch thick.
For the salsa, stir the avocado, tomatillos, 2 tablespoons lime juice, cilantro and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt together in a bowl until well mixed. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt or lime juice as you like. Mashing the mixture a bit with a fork will help it hold together on the burger.
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the burger patties. Cook, flipping once, until browned on both sides and the desired doneness inside, about 4 minutes per side. Alternately, grill the burgers over medium heat.
Serve the burgers, topped with the salsa, in the buns.
Makes: 4 servings
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