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Navajo-Inspired Red Chile Burgers Atop Grilled "Fry" Bread

Entwined for all time is the history and tradition of the Native American Navajo tribe with the Southwestern United States. Here in Arizona, the influences of the Navajo can be seen almost everywhere, in art, clothing, and in particular, cuisine. In my offering of a great local American burger, I have incorporated many of the flavors of traditional Navajo cooking -- chiles, pinons, corn, beans. Even the quintessential Navajo fry bread gets a new twist -- on the grill! The four elements of this burger recipe -- the corn and black bean relish, the red chile sauce, the spiced burgers, the grilled "fry" bread -- come together deliciously bursting with flavor for a great backyard barbecue, and they come together paying tribute to a people with a rich culinary history, the Navajo.

Ingredients 

Roasted Corn and Black Bean Relish

3/4 cup pinons (pine nuts)
2 medium ears of fresh yellow corn, husked and silked
2 teaspoons Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for brushing
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground hot New Mexico red chile pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh ripe tomatoes, diced
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
3 green onions (white and light green parts only), finely chopped

Grilled "Fry" Bread

1 cup all-purpose white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2/3 to 1 cup skim milk, as needed

Red Chile Sauce

3/8 cup tomato paste
3/8 cup ketchup
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (reserving adobo sauce), chopped finely
1 1/2 tablespoons reserved adobo sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 large garlic clove, minced
3/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3/8 teaspoon ground cumin
3/8 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, roughly crumbled

Patties

1/2 of a medium yellow onion
2 pounds freshly ground chuck
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, roughly crumbled
2 teaspoons ground hot New Mexico red chile pepper
2 teaspoons reserved adobo sauce

All-purpose white flour, for rolling out the dough
3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, for brushing on the dough and on the grill rack

Instructions 

To make the relish, preheat a gas grill to low. Spread the pinons in a small foil pan. Grill over indirect low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until nuts are lightly toasted. Remove the pan from the grill and set aside. Turn the grill up to a medium-high heat. Lightly brush the corn with the olive oil. When the grill is ready, place the corn on the grill rack, cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove the corn to a platter and allow to cool. In a medium bowl, whisk together, lemon juice, lime juice, cilantro, New Mexico red chile pepper, salt, and black pepper. Add in tomatoes, black beans, and green onions. Cut the corn kernels off of the cobs, discard cobs, and add kernels to the bowl. Mix thoroughly to combine the flavors. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

To make the bread, whisk white flour, wheat flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add olive oil and skim milk (starting with 2/3 cup). Knead together just until a soft (not sticky) dough is made, adding more milk if necessary. Cover dough with a dishtowel and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

To make the sauce, combine tomato paste, ketchup, chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, garlic, black pepper, salt, cumin, and Mexican oregano in a small bowl. Stir thoroughly to combine the flavors. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

To make the patties, finely grate the onion half into a large bowl, including the onion juices. Add in the ground chuck, salt, black pepper, Mexican oregano, New Mexico red chile pepper, and adobo sauce. Mix to thoroughly combine the flavors, handling as little as possible. Divide the mixture into six equal portions and shape into patties about 5 inches in diameter. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Uncover the dough and divide into six even balls. Working on a lightly floured surface, press or roll each dough ball into a thin disk about 6 inches in diameter.

Brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once until done to preference, 5 to 7 minutes on each side for medium. During the last six minutes of grilling, brush the top of each dough disk with vegetable oil and gently place them oiled side down on the outer edges of the grill rack. Brush the top side of the dough with oil. After 2 to 3 minutes, the bread will puff slightly and become golden brown; then, turn the bread and grill the other side about 2 to 3 minutes longer.

To assemble the burgers, place the patties on the bread and spread a generous amount of the red chile sauce on top of the patties, followed by equal portions of the roasted corn and black bean relish. Sprinkle equal amounts of toasted pinons on top. Serve open-faced.

Comments 

While making your own bread may seem like a daunting task for a barbecue, nothing is difficult about the "fry" bread recipe. It is quick to mix together, and a very easy dough to work with -- within minutes you will have your dough disks done. And what could be better than a grilled burger on freshly made bread!