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Fire and Iceburger

I have made the fiery ketchup component of this recipe at harvest time for many years, and each year the list of people I make it for grows longer. There is a nice contrast between the hot of the ketchup and the cool of the fennel/mint topping, as well as contrast between the crunchiness of the topping and the smoothness of the queso fresco.


Fiery Ketchup:
1/3 cup chopped habanera peppers
½ cup cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
¼ cup merlot wine
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon salt
Icy Topping:
1 cup very thinly sliced fennel bulb
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup sour cream
2 pounds ground chuck
¼ cup merlot wine
2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon allspice
Vegetable oil for brushing on grill rack
12 ounce package queso fresco, cut into ½ inch slices
6 English muffins, split


Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high. To make the fiery ketchup, into an electric blender, put the chopped habanera peppers and add ¼ cup of the cider vinegar. Blend on high for 5 minutes. Pour mixture in a fire-proof 3 quart saucepan. Add the rest (1/4 cup), of the vinegar, ketchup, merlot, brown sugar, cocoa powder, mint, allspice, black pepper, garlic salt, and salt, stir well. Place saucepan on the pre-heated grill rack. Bring to a simmer and cook the fiery ketchup mixture on med-high for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Remove the pan from the grill and set aside to cool slightly. To make the Icy Topping, place the fennel, garlic salt, mint and sour cream into a bowl, stir until well blended. Divide into 6 equal portions. Keep chilled. To make the patties, combine the ground chuck, merlot wine and salt in a large bowl. Handling the meat as little as possible, mix well. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form the portions into patties sized to fit the English muffins. In a separate bowl place cocoa powder, pepper, garlic salt, and allspice, mix well. Pour the cocoa mixture onto plate or other flat surface. Dip both sides of each patty into the cocoa mixture, coating well on both sides. Brush the already pre-heated grill rack with vegetable oil. Place patties on the rack, grill 5 minutes on each side, for medium-rare, or longer until desired doneness. While patties are cooking, place slices of queso fresco on oiled grill. Cook for 3 minutes on each side, until grill marks become apparent, and cheese softens slightly. Divide into 6 equal portions, set aside. While patties are cooking, place English muffins on the sides of grill to toast until lightly browned on both sides. To assemble the burgers, on each English muffin bottom, place a patty, drizzle with 2 – 3 Tablespoons of fiery ketchup, top with a portion of queso fresco, and a portion of icy topping, crown with other half of English muffin and serve. Makes 6 burgers.


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