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Oaxaca Burgers with Manchego, Avocado and Pickled Habanero Onions

Central Mexico’s Oaxaca is home to a refined cuisine whose crowning glory is mole. Gathering the ingredients needed to prepare this rich sauce may take some effort, but the end result—smoky, earthy, with a delicate balance of fruity heat—is well worth it, says Chef Bobby Flay. Paired with nutty Manchego cheese, creamy avocado and spicy, acidic onions, this sophisticated burger hits all the right notes.

Ingredients:

For the pickled habanero onions:

  • 3/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbs. superfine sugar
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 habanero chili, seeds removed
  • 1 large red onion, halved and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh cilantro

For the mole:

  • 1/4 cup slivered raw almonds
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil
  • 1 small Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup pureed plum tomatoes
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed
  • Scant 1/4 cup pureed canned chipotle in adobo
  • 2 Tbs. ancho chili powder
  • 1 Tbs. New Mexican chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. chili de árbol powder
  • 1/4 cup chopped mango
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup crushed blue corn tortilla chips
  • 1 Tbs. clover honey
  • 1 Tbs. pure grade B maple syrup
  • 3 Tbs. molasses
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the burgers:

  • 1 1/2 lb. 80% lean ground chuck, or 90% lean ground turkey
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup grated Manchego cheese
  • 4 hamburger buns, split
  • 1 ripe Haas avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced

Directions:

To make the pickled habanero onions, in a medium nonreactive saucepan, combine the lime juice, vinegar, water, sugar, salt and habanero. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Put the red onion slices in a small bowl. Pour in the warm vinegar mixture, add the oregano and cilantro and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate, stirring the mixture a few times, for at least 4 hours or up to 48 hours.

To make the mole, put the almonds in a medium saucepan over medium heat and toast, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Increase the heat to high, pour the oil into the saucepan and heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the Spanish onion and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, broth, chipotle and chili powders. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the mango, raisins, tortilla chips and almonds and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mango is soft and the mixture is reduced by half, about 20 minutes.

Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Return the mixture to the pan and set over high heat. Add the honey, maple syrup, molasses, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and chocolate and cook until reduced to a sauce consistency, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Prepare a hot fire in a grill.

To cook the burgers, form the meat into 4 uniform, fairly flat patties, each no thicker than 3/4 inch, and then make a deep depression in the center of each with your thumb. Brush the burgers on both sides with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the burgers, turning once, until golden brown, slightly charred on both sides and cooked to medium, about 4 minutes per side. During the last minute of cooking, add the Manchego to the burgers, cover the grill and cook until the cheese has completely melted, about 1 minute.

Grill the buns, split side down, until toasted, about 20 seconds.

Transfer the burgers to the buns and top each with a large dollop of the mole sauce, some of the pickled habanero onions and the avocado. Serves 4.

Adapted from Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction, by Bobby Flay (Clarkson Potter, 2013).