Tue Sep 28, 2010
For all the reasons I love living in NYC, there's times when it can be a total disappointment. I've been vocal about the sorry state of Southwest and Tex-Mex cuisine here, which happens to be up there next to barbecue as my favorite. Although barbecue has be righted to some extent in the past 5 or so years, my other true food love continues to get little to no respect. So I'm left to my own devices to pick-up the slack, but the city doesn't make it easy with inferior or non-existent ingredients that are required to replicate the real deal. One of these large holes is Hatch chiles—one seriously awesome pepper.
Hatches come from their namesake, Hatch, New Mexico, where the perfect mixture of soil, climate, and dedicated farmers combine together to form a superior chile. There are many different varieties grown in Hatch, where work never ceases to improve the peppers, but the long, green medium spicy pods is what usually first comes to mind when "Hatch chiles" are mentioned. At the right time of year, these chiles abound at well-stocked supermarkets throughout the Southwest, and seeing the abundance there just depresses me here, in my Hatch-less North Eastern wasteland. Word around the campfire is that Whole Foods does get a shipment of Hatches in at least once during the summer, but I've gone years without seeing any trace of them.
So why all the fuss over Hatches anyway? They're the main ingredient to a mighty fine Southwest creation, the green chile cheeseburger, where Hatch chiles are roasted, peeled, and then topped on a burger and covered with cheese. Despite my inability to get Hatch chiles, I'm pretty certain my life will end if I don't get this burger at least a couple times a year, which has led me to devise my own version that can be cobbled together with the more common offerings of the city.
I start by switching the Hatch for poblanos, which fall a little lower on the scoville scale, and are way down on my awesomeness scale, but they get the job done never-the-less. The chiles are roasted and peeled, then chopped together with grilled onion slices to form the topping.
Then I do my normal double grind—that's once through the large die and then back through using the small die—on a fatty piece of chuck. Here I like to add chili powder and cumin either into the meat mixture or as a seasoning sprinkled on along with the usual salt and pepper. The patties are then grilled and topped with a nice big slice of pepper jack cheese.
To finish the assembly, the patty is added to a grilled bun, piled with the chile and onion mixture, and then immediately downed. Is this a true green chile burger? No. Can it satisfy a craving for one in a pinch? Sure can! The chiles and onions are juicy and spicy, and the pepper jack kicks it up just a notch to put together a tasty bastardization of the original. At the time of eating this, I was one happy camper, but as I finish up this post, I'm overcome with a sadness again over my city's shortcomings that require such "hacks" just to get a fix of something I feel no one should ever be deprived of.
Green Chile Cheeseburger
3 medium poblano chiles
1 half-inch thick slice of a large onion, skewered through the middle horizontally
1 lb ground chuck, at least 20 percent fat
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 slices Pepper Jack cheese
3 hamburger buns
1. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grate. Lightly oil the the cut sides of the onion and place them on the grill along with the poblanos. Cook over high heat until poblanos are blackened on all sides and the onions are charred and slightly softened. Place the poblanos in a ziploc bag and seal, set the onion to the side. When chiles are cool enough to handle, about 5-10 minutes, remove from the bag, peel of the charred skin, and seed. Coarsely chop the chiles and onion together and set aside.
2.Mix the ground beef with the chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Form into 3 1/3-lb patties and use your thumb to make a dimple in the middle of each one. Place the patties on the grill and cook over high heat until desired doneness. About 2 minutes before the burgers are done, top each with a slice of pepper jack cheese and allow to melt.
3.Quickly grill hamburger buns, cut side down, until nicely browned, about 30 seconds. To serve, place the burger on the bun and top with the chile and onion mixture.