A burger without sauce simply makes that burger less than it can be. It is no longer just lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and mustard or mayo in our house. It’s now saucy, spicy and delicious.
Look at some old-time burger places. Biff-Burger, which has a restaurant in St. Petersburg, has a much requested sauce and many readers ask for the recipe. I grew up in Texas with Jack in the Box and Jack’s secret sauce. We also had Burger Chef which also had its own sauce.
These drive-through burger restaurants were on to something. Jack still offers the burger secret sauce if patrons ask for it and the remaining Biff-Burgers still have the famous sauce.
Now, the Yeagers have a cheese sauce that makes a mean burger. I could eat this sauce just with tortillas or corn chips, it’s that good. Confession: I did.
My daughter and I were watching Rachael Ray’s morning show last week when she demonstrated a burger recipe that both Elyssa and I liked.
Ray did a bacon burger with a poblano pepper cheese sauce instead of using slices of cheese and topped with corn chips. Now, I know this is un-Southern, but bacon is not a favorite of mine. I cook with it occasionally, but give me sausage any day to a strip of bacon. I decided to improvise on Ray’s burger and omit the bacon and the corn chips on the burger and whittle down the spice.
Since Elyssa has poblanos in the garden, I knew I had the other ingredients. While I like spicy foods, I never like as much heat as Ray does. Mine did not follow her recipe to the letter, but this cheese sauce is amazing. It makes any burger, grilled chicken breast or even a steak taco the best it can be.
I charred the poblano on a stove burner, turning with tongs so it could blacken on all sides. I then remove the pepper to the cutting board to let it cool enough to handle. After it cools slightly, scrape off the char and remove the seeds from inside. Dice pepper and set aside. Then I made the poblano cheese sauce (recipe included).
I used 80-20 ground beef to make the burgers that I cooked on my stove’s griddle.
To make burgers, I add onion powder, garlic powder, Tony Chachere’s seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, a tablespoon or so of barbecue sauce and dry bread crumbs. I mix these ingredients with the ground beef and form patties about 1/4 -pound each, plop them on the griddle and let them cook until brown on one side and then flip them. I turn the burgers only once; I don’t want to lose any of the good flavor.
Toasted buns are a must. The crispy bun holds the burger together better, I think.
I pulled out the usual condiments for the burger, and Elyssa and I did our own thing. I placed the burger on the bottom part of the bun and topped it with the cheese sauce, then added lettuce, tomato and onion and the top bun, to which mustard had been added. I don’t do mayonnaise on burgers.
One bite and I knew this burger was here to stay at our house.
Note: If I had had queso Chihuahua on hand, I would have added that to the cheese sauce. I like the flavor and the smoothness. It makes a great queso on its own. Ninfa’s in Houston, Texas, served it at their restaurants; the recipe was published in “Dining in – Houston Vol. II, written by Ann Criswell, my late friend and former food editor at The Houston Chronicle.
By the way, I served corn chips on the side of my burger creation. I would rather have corn chips with a burger than french fries any day.
For something extra, I’ve included Ninfa’s famous dip recipe. Serve it slathered on flour tortillas and roll up or serve hot as a dip with tortilla chips.
Ground chorizo can be added to this, too. I cook the chorizo first and then add it to the melted queso.
Andrea Yeager, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Cook’s Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535-4567.
POBLANO CHEESE SAUCE
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup minced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1-2 tablespoons flour
1 charred, skinned poblano pepper diced
1/4-1/2 cup milk
1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup fiesta blend cheese
Melt butter in skillet. Add minced onion and garlic. Let soften. Then add flour to make a roux. Add milk a little at a time to make sauce come together. Stirring constantly. Add pepper and cheeses. Stir until cheese is melted and sauce is the desired consistency. The sauce needs to be thick enough to stay on the burger and not run off.
QUESO A LA PARRILLA
If you are unable to find queso Chihuahua in your grocery store, Monterey Jack or mozzarella may be substituted, but queso Chihuahua is the preferred cheese.
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
2 cups shredded queso Chihuahua
In pan or oval skillet, melt butter and sauté onion, bell pepper and mushrooms about 5 minutes.
Add cheese and stir until melted. Place under broiler until browned on top, but don’t let burn. Serve with flour tortillas.