Recipe: Lone Star Poblano Burger (As Seen On TV)

I created the hamburger.

Ok, I created my Lone Star Poblano Burger for Chili's and competed with it on the television show On The Menu. Chili's Head Chef Stephen Bulgarelli puts the cool in culinary. He asked us to conceptualize a burger with spicy, smoky, Southwestern flavors. Mine delivers that, but it didn't win.

Best thing about coming in 2nd? I won the right to share my recipe with you.

The flavors of Tex-Mex run through my body with the strength and constancy of the Rio Grand. I was born in Lubbock, Texas—in fact, five generations of my ancestors were born in Texas. I live in LA; but Texas roots live on in my diet.
My grandfather always told me to dance with the one that brung ya. The Lone Star Poblano Burger honors my heritage. This burger starts with a base of beef—Texas’s most proud tradition is raising cattle. The meat then meets deep, bold Southwestern spice in a layer of smoked jalapeños woven into caramelized onions. Then comes the Lone Star -- a roasted poblano pepper filled with melting, gooey cheeses, battered and fried in an homage to the great tradition of state-fair foods.

If you're afraid that my burger is complicated, I made fifty of them in an hour. On TV. If you can stand the heat -- get in the kitchen.

Rustle Up for Burgers and Peppers:
4 poblano peppers (or smaller jalapeños)
4 meat patties (beef, turkey, ostrich, veggie, invisible)
1 cup flour + 1/2 cup Flour 
2 cups club soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Monterrey Jack cheese
Salt and pepper
1 large tomato
1/3 purple onion
1/4 cup sour cream
4 leafs of iceberg lettuce
1 cup canola oil
4 buns
2 tbsp butter

You Need Two Sauces. You can buy similar condiments to the ones below; but I come from pioneer stock. We make stuff.

1. Greg's Hair Flipping Chipotle "Ketchup" (8 smoked chipotle peppers, or 1/3 cup puree, 1 white onion, EVOO) Makes 1/2 cup.

2. Greg's Mean Green Fighting Machine Tomatillo Sauce (4 tomatillos, water, 1 clove garlic, ½ white onion, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 2 tbls lime juice,  ½ teaspoon cumin and oregano, salt and pepper, dash Tabasco) Makes 1 cup. 

Serves four. Need more? If you paid better attention in math class than me, multiply accordingly. Or use Algebra; I'm not sure.

Time: 1 hour.

1. Blister Peppers.

Cool in a Ziploc bag for 10 minutes (loosens the skin). Then peel the skin off the peppers. When the Texas sun blistered me and my brothers, we'd see who could peel off the biggest piece of skin from another's back. (Not a stranger's back, that's gross.)

To stuff the peppers with cheese: carefully make a small incision around the stem, pull the stem off and the seed pod. Rinse under water to remove remaining seeds. Dry if needed.

Gently fill with cheeses. Next, put 1/2 cup flour in a bowl and lightly coat the peppers. Helps the batter stick later.

Place in fridge for 30 mins. (Can be done the day before and left in the fridge overnight)

2. Make Two Sauces.

Greg's Mean Green Fighting Machine Tomatillo Sauce:
Remove the husk from the tomatillos. Boil them whole in salted water (5-7 mins). Strain, cut in half. Put in blender with rough chopped white onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and dash of Tabasco. Blend till smooth. Place in fridge.

Greg's Hair Flipping Chipotle "Ketchup":
Dice onion, sauté in EVOO until caramelized (8-10 mins). Let cool. Remove seeds from chipotles (unless using paste). Chop the onions and peppers together into a chunky paste.

*Make yourself a margarita. If you don't drink, break a plate and blame Margarita.

3.  Slice tomato ½ inch thick, salt and pepper. Broil till softened(3 minutes)

4. Toast buns (slather with butter first). You must toast them. My grandmother pointed out that you can't make butter with a toothpick. While that's an analogy for weakness, it applies here. Toasting helps support the sauces and meat.

5. Mix tempura batter. 
In a bowl, whisk 1 cup flour into 2 cups seltzer water. Add salt and baking powder. Remove stuffed peppers from fridge, dunk into the batter and coat well. Fry in hot canola till crispy and golden. Turn only once, if needed. (4-5 mins) Remove to a tray to rest. Emeril Lagasse came into my On The Menu set/kitchen and taught me to Bam! them with salt while hot. 

(About this time, holler into the living room, No one is helping me in the kitchen! When they come running, shoo them out for being underfoot.)

6. Cook burgers. (10-15 mins)
Griddle, skillet, grill, oven roast -- just cook 'em. If you have a vegetarian in the family, first, quit hassling them about being vegetarians. We know your grandpappy lived till 101 eating bacon every day. With my burger, you can skip the meat. Slap two buns around the fried pepper. They'll be as happy as a pig -- oops -- a cucumber, in mud.

7. Assemble burgers. There’s a saying in Texas—“Big as Dallas.”
Place lettuce on the bun. Next, ease on a spoonful of sour cream. Add patty. Spread my "ketchup" on it. Place fried poblano on top.

Slather the other bun with bright tomatillo salsa. Top that with a broiled tomato. Toss on sliced purple onions. (Slice onions super-thin with a mandolin if you're fancy. Use protection so you don't chop off your fancy tea-raising pinkie.) 

Serve open-faced. If your family's more dysfunctional, clamp the burger closed.

Now get a good hold on that burger. Take a hearty bite. The beef, cheese, peppers, and spicy sauces jump on your tongue like a rodeo cowboy riding a bull. My great-grandmother lived near the rodeo grounds in Linden, Texas. I'd watch rugged men rehearse on bucking Brahmas. My first exposure to theater.

Even if they're not around, hug your family. I shake their stories out into my cooking. One year, my mother took first place in the pinto bean cooking contest at the State Fair of Texas—probably due to her spicing it up with cumin and onion.

My great-grandmother was a passionate cook. I asked her what was in her vegetable soup.

"Everything. And if you turn your head I’ll squeeze the kitchen dishrag in it," she said.

My Aunt Cathie carries a bottle of Red Devil hot sauce in her purse in case she meets a restaurant dish that needs her to doctor it up. When she was eighteen, she attended the Cordon Bleu in Paris. She came home with her Texas accent unaffected and the ability to whip up a soufflé.

Their spirits tie my apron strings and guide my spoon. My burger is as big as Texas hair.

Chili's chose a different burger to put on the menu. (Even though my burger has a chili on it!) Their slogan is "more life happens here". For me, more life happens on my plates.

The food I make and eat -- always, always, reminds me of home.

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