Sunday, March 17, 2013

Green Chile Cheeseburgers ala "The Owl Cafe and Golden West Cafe"

Ruth and I went to Albuquerque, New Mexico many years ago to exhibit our BBQ sauce at the Fiery Foods Show in Albuquerque.  The locals told us that we absolutely had to try a green chile cheeseburger while we were there, and that The Owl Café was the place to go, so we set out to find the place on Route 66.

We ordered their signature burger and it was a juicy, thick patty of fresh ground beef grilled over an open flame, blanketed in molten cheddar cheese, and topped off with a generous portion of diced roasted New Mexican green chiles - what could be more glorious?  Here in Baltimore, we actually have a restaurant that makes green chile cheeseburgers that rival, if not surpasses the burgers from New Mexico at The Golden West Café on 36th Street in Hampden.

Golden West makes their burgers with fresh house-ground beef and also make their special green chile sauce daily. The burgers are served with delicious fries, laced with fresh minced garlic, YUM!  I set out to duplicate the taste of these burgers and if you use the techniques outlined below, you will be rewarded with a real Southwestern taste treat that rivals the restaurant burgers.

For the Chile Sauce:


2 lbs roasted New Mexican or Poblano chiles
3 Tbs vegetable oil
1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 Tbs flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 Tbp fresh cilantro, chopped fine


Roast the chiles on an outdoor grill, turning frequently until the outer skin is well blackened.

They should look burnt – if the skins are still pretty green, then they won’t peel properly.  Immediately place the blackened chiles in a 1 gallon size resealable bag and seal tightly.  The steam created will loosen the chile skins so they can be easily removed by washing the charred chiles or gently scraping with a knife.  After removing the skins, cut open the roasted chiles,  remove the seeds, then dice them finely with a knife, then place in a food processor and pulse a few times.

If you don’t want to take the time to prepare the chiles as shown, you can use canned ones that are fire roasted and already diced.

In a heavy saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until well softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and saute for an additional minute.  Add the flour and continue cooking for another 1 or 2 minutes, stirring continuously to incorporate it and avoiding any lumps. Mix in the chopped green chile, the stock and add the cilantro. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for about 15 minutes until thickened.  Remove from the heat and let cool.  Keeps in the fridge about a week or freezes well.

For the Burgers:

Now this is more about the correct method of making the burger, and came from food writer David Rosengarten in his “Rosengarten Report.” It is spot on!  The ingredients for a great burger are really simple and few; meat, salt, pepper and a bun. According to Rosengarten, probably the most important detail in making a great hamburger is that when you take ground meat out of the package, preserve the “noodles” (the wavy looking strands of beef created by the store’s meat grinder.)

Treat the ground meat like eggs that might crack! Any undue pressure will lead to a tight, tough, “hockey puck”  hamburger. Gently take about a five ounce chunk meat from the package.  Place the meat on the counter or cutting board in its still unformed state, making sure that it’s a little wider than the finished size you want.  Lightly sprinkle the meat with some Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, but do not roughly compress it into a patty!  Gently push the outsides into the middle until you have something resembling a burger. At this point, keep the meat loose and pat it gently with your hands to round it out.  Use only salt and pepper to season the meat so you taste the beef without a lot of competing flavors.

The essentials to burger cooking are listed below.  Here are the six rules that Rosengarten spoke of, whether you’re going to grill or pan fry the burgers:

• Burgers are best cooked over very high heat (is a cast iron pan or on the grill.)
• Start with cold meat to retard cooking the inside while the outside gets brown.
• Allow the meat to get a nice crust on one side before flipping to the other side.
• DO NOT, under any circumstances, press on your burger with a spatula!
• Once the burger has a nice crust on both sides, red juices on the surface of the patty indicate a rare burger.  If the juices are clear, the burger is medium-well to well done.
• Now the big secret: Just before you remove the burger from the pan or grill, place a small pat of salted butter onto the burger and let it gently melt into the meat.  Add a slice of cheddar cheese, some tomato, onion and a generous portion of green chile sauce over that and

Use a nice fresh soft bun! A lightly grilled bun brushed with homemade garlic butter and some grill marks is a wonderful thing. Remember though, it’s all about the burger so don’t use oversized, overly crusty rolls.

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