Chances are, if you’ve been anywhere from Texas to Southern California, you’ve at least heard of a green chile burger. It’s a thing in the Southwest, and I am thankful for it. This is a green chile elk burger, and I used elk largely because, well, I have it. Use any ground venison or beef, lamb or turkey if you’d rather.
What makes them so special? The green chiles, of course.
I use Hatch green chiles from New Mexico, and that is the standard.
A Hatch chile is a long, light green, reasonably hot chile with a very thick skin that you need to char off to really enjoy the pepper. September is the season for fresh ones, and if you are a chile head as I am, you too will buy crates of them, roast your own and either pickle or freeze them in batches for the rest of the year.
Of course, you can always find them canned, too. And there’s no reason other than authenticity not to use some other green chile, or even a red one if you wanted to made red chile elk burgers or somesuch. In fact, I really like using my smoked, roasted jalapenos for this when I run out of Hatch chiles. Poblanos are a good supermarket substitute.
Now, the burger itself. Some of you know I am a stickler for burgers. I grind my own, with a fair bit of fat; 15 percent in this case. Fat = flavor. If you are one of those mutants who loves burgers made with ground venison with no fat in it, well, I can’t help you. You’re not making burgers. You’re making weird patties mixed with breadcrumbs or fruit or whatever.
No, a burger is meat and fat. Period. That’s it. Rarely do I violate this iron rule. So an elk burger is just elk, fat (mostly pork) and salt. And the salt is added after I make the patties.
Why so strict? Because a burger, with or without cheese, is one of the great American foods. And as such ought to be respected.
Look, I like sausage patty sandwiches as much as the next guy, and when you mix all sorts of things into your “burger” patty that’s what you’ve just made. But a burger should should hold together loosely, and not be a dense, bound mass that is sausage.
And above all, a burger is about the meat. Elk, in this case. Arguably the finest venison in the world. Do you really want to hide that flavor?
I didn’t think so. Which is why a green chile burger is so simple. A good patty, some roasted green chiles, a slice of good tomato. some lettuce, and, if you’d like, some cheese to hold down the green chiles. And yes, I know that makes this technically a green chile elk cheeseburger.
Keep it simple. Use great ingredients. You won’t be sorry.
Green Chile Elk Burgers
- 4 to 8 green chiles, such as Hatch, Poblano or Anaheim
- 1 1/4 pounds ground elk or other meat
- 4 large slices of tomato
- 4 to 8 lettuce leaves
- 4 burger buns
- 2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
- 4 slices cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
- Roast the chiles, peel the skins off, remove the seeds, salt them and set aside. You can either keep them in fairly large pieces if they are well-roasted, or chop them roughly. Your call.
- Make four burger patties. I prefer one-third pound burgers, but you can make them any size you want. Pro tip: Press the weighed out ground meat into a large circle mold for more even patties. Press a dimple about the diameter of a walnut in the center of each patty - this prevents them from balling up when cooked. Salt your patties well.
- Get your grill hot. Scrape down the grates well, and grill your burgers with the grill cover open. Leave them on the grates for at least 3 or 4 minutes so you get grill marks and a good crust. Flip and cook to order. Typically a medium burger will need another 3 minutes.
- When you flip your burgers, lay the chiles over them, then cover with a slice of cheese. Close the grill cover to melt the cheese.
- Paint your burger buns with the butter or oil and set them on the grill to get some char. I like this, but if you don't, keep an eye on the buns so they don't burn. Set aside once browned to your liking.
- Build your burgers. I like to go bun, lettuce, tomato slice, patty, bun. But do whatever you like best. Enjoy!