Bite into the Southwest, it won’t sting.
Burgers are the best, let’s just face it. Crispy beef patties are asking to be topped with anything in your fridge, waiting to discover the perfect blankets of flavor. The ultimate challenge is all about creating that balance of texture, spice, sweetness, and savory without it being just ridiculous. Arizona inspires this beef and chorizo burger, topped with charred nopales, creamy muenster cheese, and refreshing cilantro crema.
Local Inspiration on a Bun
The local Arizona Beef Council approached me to create a new recipe featuring beef (surprise) for National Burger Month. My life has always been in Phoenix, born and raised in the desert. Naturally, creating a burger inspired by home and local culture came to mind.
Thinking of Arizona-inspired cuisine, the obvious ideas are Mexican food. Tacos, burritos, asado, barbacoa; all the good stuff we see in shops and stands. Let’s make sure there’s some chorizo for good measure (see below).
From Tacos to Burgers
Let’s quickly break down the schematics for this savory beef and chorizo burger:
- Carne Asada – The beef burger is the star, just like the steak in this dish. Let’s pull some of those flavors together.
- Chorizo – Adding in a little chorizo adds some sweet heat, also tying in the other ingredients. The crispy bits provide some texture as well.
- Nopales – Cactus you can grill, and it’s so good. These have a great texture and earthiness when charred, resembling grilled okra or green beans. Chorizo pairs extremely well nopales.
- Muenster cheese – Choosing this cheese might surprise you, but it’s commonly used regionally for Mexican food. This cheese has a profile that reminds me of queso Oaxaca but in slice-form, holding all of the crispy bits in place. The orange comes from annatto seeds, also used in making achiote paste, adobos, and al pastor.
Layering the Flavors
Building up a burger with chorizo and nopales considers some planning. Cooking everything on a flat top, skillet, or griddle makes the entire process really simple. Charring each of the ingredients becomes less stressful if you have enough room to slide things around. Utilizing a 2-zone cooking surface is the easiest way, that’s why I’m using a 2-burner flattop. I’ll leave one side for searing, and the second for keeping the food warm:
- Char the nopales. These simply require some salt, and a hot surface. Char on medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes per side.
- Cook the chorizo. Cautiously cook the chorizo, making sure not to burn it. This usually cooks quickly, and right before it’s done you can add in the nopales slices you just cooked. Move that over to the cooler side of the griddle.
- Sear the burger. Set it down and don’t move it for a few minutes, until you form a nice crust. Flip and finish it on the second side.
- Bond the topping with the cheese. Make a small pile of the nopales and chorizo, and lay a slice of the muenster on top. This will keep the ingredients together, so you can move it on top of the burger.