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Adding sauce to your burger makes it special

By Andrea Yeager

Restaurant chefs have elevated the hamburger to a gourmet dish. Adding a sauce just takes it to a whole new level. (Mark DuFrene/Contra Costa Times/MCT)
Restaurant chefs have elevated the hamburger to a gourmet dish. Adding a sauce just takes it to a whole new level. (Mark DuFrene/Contra Costa Times/MCT) MCT

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 once was in Gulfport, had a sauce that Coastians still remember and ask for the recipe. I grew up in Texas with Jack in the Box and Jack's secret sauce. We also had Burger Chef that 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.

POBLANO CHEESE SAUCE

1/2 stick butter

1/2 cup minced onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1-2 tablespoons flour

1 poblano pepper diced

1/4- 1/2 cup milk

1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese

1 cup fiesta blend cheese (See note)

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.

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 about1/4-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, here's 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.

QUESO A LA PARRILLA

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.

Froogle's in Gulfport, Sav-A-Lot and Rouses markets normally carry queso Chihuahua. If you are unable to find it, Monterey Jack or mozzarella may be substituted, but queso Chihuahua is the preferred cheese.

Jicamas found

Kathryn Premeaux asked readers for help in finding jicama. She tried several supermarkets and came up empty.

"My granddaughter is a server at Baja Beach, and she said it is great in a salad and tastes like apples," Premeaux said. "I want to try it."

Cherry Hall knows the place.

"Kathryn Premeaux can find jicama at Froogle's in Hardy Court Shopping Center off Pass Road in Gulfport," Hall said. "I find they stock much produce that other stores do not."

Jicama is a root that is the member of the bean family. When selecting a jicama, look for firm, dry roots without blemishes, bruises or shriveling. The skin can be removed with a vegetable peeler.

This vegetable works well in salads, salsas, a stir-fry, wraps or even on a veggie tray.

You-pick farms

Calling all farmers that let folks pick their own vegetables and fruits. If you send me the information, I will do an updated listing in this column.

Andrea Yeager can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net or Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535-4567.

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