These chipotle sliders are garnished with a colorful lettuce slaw and blue cheese dressing. (Associated Press)

These chipotle sliders are garnished with a colorful lettuce slaw and blue cheese dressing. (Associated Press)

These mini-burgers are delectable, adorable and inhalable

And they might just be perfect if you’re hosting a gathering to watch the college basketball tournament on TV.

  • By Katie Workman Associated Press
  • Friday, March 22, 2024 1:30am
  • Food & Drink

Game day is one of my favorite times to entertain. I don’t know why foods associated with watching sports on TV are happy-making. But they are.

The food is pretty much what I would categorize as bar food — things you would order with a group of friends with a round of cold beers. Foods that might not (cough) be categorized as health food, but which are meant for sharing, are comforting and delicious, and have a nostalgic vibe. And often involve cheese.

To ramp up a NCAA hoops tournament viewing party, sliders are a great candidate. Sliders are simply small burgers, though some people use the term to describe any small sandwich on a mini bun.

White Castle is usually credited with creating the slider in the 1920s, and they are certainly well known for their mini burgers (distinctive still for their square shape). But now sliders appear at fast-food chains and high-end restaurants alike.

Their appeal is fairly clear. Most sliders are made with about 2 ounces of meat. Easier to eat, less of a commitment than a full-size burger, adorable and inhalable. Some say sliders are so named because they slide down your throat in a couple of bites.

Robbie Gillin, owner of The Supply House on the Upper East Side of New York City, is an expert in bar food. He offers two types of sliders: cheeseburger sliders and Nana’s Meatball Sliders, which are topped with mozzarella and “Sunday” marinara.

Sliders are most popular as a happy hour food, Gillin says, and the biggest draw is their shareability — “perfect for passing and grabbing.” For special events, The Supply House also whips up buffalo chicken sliders, chicken Parmesan sliders and veggie burger sliders.

If you’re making sliders at home, look for the same qualities as your would full-size burgers — crusty exterior, juicy meat inside. So you’ll need to cook these mini burgers fairly quickly at high heat.

Some people feel it’s not a slider unless there are onions mixed into the meat, and this recipe for chipotle mini burgers fulfills that criteria.

These sliders also have a bit of kick from pureed chipotles in adobo, and a couple of show-offy toppings for a sophisticated twist.

There’s also a recipe below for salad-like slaw as a topper; if you make a bigger batch, you could serve it as side.

Tips for perfect sliders

First, make sure you’ve got small, slider-size buns. A mini burger on a full-size bun is going to be a disappointment. Also, toast the buns for added texture and flavor.

Form the patties a touch wider than the buns, as they will shrink when cooking. Make a small indentation in the middle of the patty. The burgers will swell a bit as they cook and the indentation will fill, so you’ll end up with flat sliders rather than bulging ones.

Refrigerate the patties for about 30 minutes before cooking. It makes them easier to handle when cooking, and helps keep the inside nice and pink while the outside gets browned.

Chipotle beef sliders

Chipotles are jalapeños that have been dried and smoked. The canned ones you’ll find in the market have been cooked and packaged with adobo, a sauce made with vinegar, chilies and herbs. They add heat and smokiness to all kinds of dishes.

Buy a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, dump the whole thing into a food processor and purée. The sauce will keep in a tightly covered container in the fridge for about 2 months at least. Stir it into soups and stews, and add a bit to chicken salad or the dressing for pasta salad.

1 pound ground beef (80/20%)

2 teaspoons pureed chipotles in adobo (see note above)

1 tablespoon minced shallots or onions

Kosher salt to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons fresh orange juice

½ teaspoon honey

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard (preferably grainy)

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)

¼ head radicchio, very thinly sliced

¼ head baby escarole, very thinly sliced

½ small head frisee lettuce, very thinly sliced

¼ red onion, very thinly sliced

½ cup blue cheese dip (store-bought or homemade)

8 to 10 slider rolls, toasted

Make the Sliders:

In a large bowl, combine the beef, pureed chipotles in adobo, salt and onion. Hands are best for this.

Then, ¼ cup at a time, form the mixture into small patties. Refrigerate the patties for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the slaw:

In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, orange juice, honey, mustard, salt and pepper. Add the radicchio, escarole, frisee and onion. Toss to combine.

Heat a skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. Pan-grill the burgers for about 3 minutes on each side until they are done to your liking.

Serve the sliders on the toasted buns with the slaw and some blue cheese dip on top.

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