Food Matters: A cheeseburger worthy of this year’s Hatch chilies


GROCERY GOODS

Putting those Hatch chilies to work in a New Mexican cheeseburger

Earlier this year, I made my first Juicy Lucy, the regional hamburger popular in the upper Midwest. It was in honor of an Iowa caucus watch party. Now that Hatch season is rolling in, it’s time for another regional burger: the New Mexican Green Chile Cheeseburger.

You can, of course, buy New Mexican green chilies year-round in Texas, especially if you turn to canned chilies. But this time of year, you can buy fresh Hatch chilies and other New Mexican green chilies at many area grocery stores. Some of them, like Whole Foods and Central Market, roast them in front of their stores as part of their Hatch chile celebrations, but many everyday grocery stores sell the unroasted kind. Both Whole Foods and Central Market will start to roll out their Hatch products and special events this week.)

If you don’t buy them pre-roasted, you can roast them in your broiler or in a hot cast-iron skillet. Many Central Texas cooks freeze extra Hatch chilies for use during the rest of the year, but in this cheeseburger, freshly roasted chiles will shine like a sunset over the vast New Mexican skyline. White cheddar is the most typical cheese for this type of burger, and take author George Motz’s advice and don’t add any other condiments. Chilies and cheese are all you need.

Green Chili Cheeseburger

3 cups roasted, peeled and chopped New Mexican green chilies

Splash of water or beef stock

2 lbs. fresh-ground 80/20 chuck

Peanut oil, or other neutral oil

Salt and black pepper

White Cheddar cheese, for serving

Sliced 6 seeded soft white buns, toasted

Add the green chilies to a small saucepan with a splash of water or beef stock (just enough to let the chilies steam slightly, but not so much it turns into soup). Cover and heat over medium heat until hot.

Remove from the heat, keep covered and set aside. Divide the beef into six portions (about 5 ounces each).

Line a clean surface or cutting board with parchment paper to prevent sticking. Gently press each portion of the beef to create a perfectly round patty. Don’t over-press — you want it to maintain a somewhat loose grind. Repeat with the remaining beef.

Add a few drops of peanut oil to a cast-iron skillet, using a spatula to spread the oil, and crank it up to medium-high heat. When the pan just starts to smoke, it’s ready.

At this point, and not before, season both sides of the patties with a liberal amount of salt and pepper. Salting too early will bind the muscle fibers together and make the burgers tough. Place the patties in the hot skillet — the beef should sizzle loudly when it hits the pan — and cook for four minutes without disturbing them. When you see red liquid start to form on the top of the patties, it’s time to flip them.

Reduce the heat to medium and cook the second side of the patties (without disturbing them) for an additional six minutes. After four minutes, add a healthy pile of the green chilies to the top of each patty followed by a slice of cheese. To help melt the cheese, cover the burgers with a metal bowl or large pot lid for the final two to three minutes of cooking.

Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the burgers to rest for one minute. The internal temperature of the burgers should be about 143 degrees for medium rare. Transfer to the toasted buns and serve immediately. Makes six burgers.

— From “Great American Burger Book: How to Make Authentic Regional Hamburgers at Home” by George Motz (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, $24.95)

TEXAS WINE INDUSTRY

New wine incubator to open on U.S. 290 later this year

The concept of winery incubators, common in the Pacific Northwest, has already begun to catch on in Texas with San Saba’s Wedding Oak Winery, which helped Old Man Scary Cellars get up and running late last year.

But there’s about to be another one in a prime location in the Hill Country — opening along U.S. 290, the road to Fredericksburg where many of Texas’ best-known wineries are located. Incubator owner Jeff Williams is now seeking four interested tenants who want to take advantage of the winery incubator concept, a business model that allows multiple small wineries to operate in one space, with equipment provided by the owner, as a way of keeping costs low until they can grow and move into their own much bigger building.

Williams and his wife, both investors in Stonewall’s Kuhlman Cellars, saw a need to offer room for smaller wineries along the 290 wine road, an expensive piece of real estate. And already, he said, he is getting interest from people aspiring to have their own winery or grow their current one.

“I’ve gotten one call from a winery that does about 1,000 cases a year but has run out of space and wants to be on 290,” he said. “I’ve gotten another call from a winemaker interested in venturing out and doing his own label. I heard from another guy who has an interest in winemaking. He doesn’t do it now, and he doesn’t want to mortgage his home to get into it. Those are exactly the kind of people we are trying to reach.”

The incubator building is located in Stonewall, the same small Texas town where Kuhlman Cellars and other well-established Hill Country wineries, like Pedernales Cellars, have set up shop. The location — at 14725 U.S. 290, the former headquarters of the Stonewall Volunteer Fire Department — is one of the biggest advantages of Williams’ winery incubator.

“One of the benefits of this arrangement is that they’ll learn from the experiences of people up and down the road,” he said. “The winemakers, the winery owners, they are amazingly cooperative when it comes to sharing information. They love to talk about their experiences, how they started, who they talked to, how they grew. That’s one of the keys to the winery incubator being successful, having access to these people.”

When the as-yet-unnamed space is up and running, hopefully by December, each of the four wineries will be able to produce up to 1,500 cases per year.

— Arianna Auber


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