Savory, moist & delicious, these Mexican Burgers taste like a fiesta! Top 'em with a zesty Chipotle Sauce for a southewest-inspired flavour pairing. (Skip to recipe.)
I thought spring had sprung, but it's howling and snowing outside again, so I'm thinking of warmer climes. Something nice and spicy and sunny. Mexico comes to mind.
And since I can't get there right now, I did the next best thing - I called on my good friend and Mexican food adviser, Christine. German by heritage, Mexican by birth and marriage, and Canadian by residence, she is a fellow food lover and my go-to for information on many food-related topics.
I was gifted a small bag of smoky ground chipotle pepper today, by another friend (thanks, Linda), and she told me how her family likes to stir it into mayonnaise and dip sweet potato fries into it. Well, I couldn't get sweet potato fries out of my head, and since I was in the city anyway, picked up a bag of frozen ones from Costco. They really are quite good (and gluten free to boot!). I knew I wouldn't have time to make my own fries from scratch, and sometimes a girl's gotta cheat a little - for sanity's sake, right?
As I was driving home from Edmonton in the blowing snow on icy roads (-again! Old Man Winter has kidnapped Spring and is holding her ransom), I was thinking of those warm spicy Mexican breezes and that warm spicy chipotle pepper powder in my purse.
I needed to make a burger to match.
My brain zeroed in on pine nuts and cumin. I gave Christine a quick call, and she told me that in Mexican cooking, pine nuts go with capers - it's the Spanish influence. Hmmm. Now we were on to something!
(Interesting little bit of trivia she also passed on - the name Mexico is derived from the word mexica which means a person of half Spanish and half Aztec origin.)
Back to the topic at hand - I needed to get supper on the table in half an hour, and I wanted to eat those sweet potato fries and Mexican burgers. I had capers in the fridge and pine nuts in the freezer, and it all came together quickly to make a warm meal the family loved. If we didn't look out the windows at the swirling snow, we might think we were on our own little tropical vacation.
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Kitchen Frau notes: I find that a mixture of beef and pork makes nicely-textured and flavoured hamburger patties, but use all beef if you prefer. The pork tends to hold the burgers together nicely and it doesn't need an egg to bind it, though I think a bit of water is needed to loosen the mixture.
If you have the small, non pareilles capers, leave them whole. If your capers are larger, chop them roughly.
To make the sauce dairy free, just use all mayonnaise instead of yogurt, thinned with a splash of lemon or lime juice.
If your family is not a raw-onion type of family, you can omit it from the sauce altogether, and if you want speed and simplicity, just stir some chipotle powder into mayonnaise and call it chipotle mayonnaise! But I like the tang the yogurt adds and the fresh zip of the onion.
- 2 lbs (900gms) lean ground meat (half beef and half pork, or all beef)
- half a medium onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup pine nuts (60ml)
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) capers, drained
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- up to 4 tablespoons (¼ cup/60mls) water
- about 1 tablespoon olive oil, for sauteing
- ⅓ cup (80ml) good quality mayonnaise
- ⅓ cup (80ml) plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons grated onion
- ½ teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
- a squeeze of fresh lime juice to taste (optional)
Make the Mexican burgers:
Grate the onion on a cheese grater with medium-sized holes. You should have about ½ cup (120ml). Crush the garlic cloves in a garlic press or grate them on a microplane grater (or mince them finely).
In a medium bowl, combine the ground meat, grated onion and garlic, pine nuts, capers and seasonings. Mix lightly with your hands until all is combined. Add enough water, up to 4 tablespoons, to loosen the mixture if it is too dense.
Divide the meat mixture into quarters, then divide each quarter into 3 parts, to get 12 equal-sized portions. Shape them into small patties, about 3 inches (7.5cm) in diameter. Tuck any loose pine nuts deeper into the patties to keep them from falling out.
Heat the oil in a non-stick (I love my new ceramic non-stick) skillet over medium heat. Saute the patties until both sides are toasty brown and the insides are cooked through - about 5 minutes per side.
Meanwhile, prepare the Chipotle Sauce:
Grate the onion, and combine it with the rest of the ingredients. Let sit for a few minutes to soften the onion flavours and release the chipotle flavours.
Serve the Mexican Burgers with baked sweet potato fries and something green - either steamed veggies or a fresh salad. Use the Chipotle Sauce to drizzle over the burger patties and to dip the fries into.
(Leftover sauce is great on sandwiches, or drizzled over fried, poached or scrambled eggs.)
Makes 12 small burger patties - enough to serve 6 people (or 4, if one of them is a hungry teenager!)
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