RECIPES: Recipe Details

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Mexicali Burgers

This burger captures the flavors of the food from Mexicali, a town just south of the border. Esquites, a popular street food dish made of corn, gives a great texture and taste to the burger. Pumpkin seeds, a frequent component of authentic Mexican cuisine, make an appearance here in a uniquely delicious Pepita Crema. Lastly, the secret addition of cocoa and chile powder really sets this burger apart.


1/3 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds), toasted
2/3 cup thick Mexican crema or crème fraîche
1/2 tablespoon agave nectar or honey
1 clove garlic, chopped

3 ears sweet corn, husks silks removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon Mexican-style chili powder
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/3 cup crumbled cotija cheese

2 pounds ground chuck
1/3 cup finely minced red onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced finely
1/2 serrano chile, stem, seeds, and veins discarded, minced finely
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack
8 ounces queso quesadilla, queso Chihuahua, or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
6 good-quality hamburger buns, split
2 cups blue corn tortilla chips


Heat a gas grill to medium-high.

To make the crema, combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and puree.

To make the esquites, grill the corn, turning occasionally, until charred but not burned on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove to a work surface. When cool enough to handle, shave the kernels off cob.

Place a fireproof saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and chili powder and cook for 30 seconds. Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. Add the mayonnaise, lime juice, and cheese and mix well. Refrigerate until assembling the burgers; drain before using.

To make the patties, combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it, mix well. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and
form the portions into patties to fit the buns.

Brush the grill rack with oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once, just until done, 4 to 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare. During the last few minutes of cooking, top the patties with equal amounts of the cheese and place the buns, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly.

To assemble the burgers, spread a generous amount of the crema on the cut sides of buns. On each bun bottom, place a cheese-topped patty, a generous amount of the esquites, and a layer of
the chips.

Add the bun tops and serve immediately.