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Torta Al Carbon Burger

The torta is the second greatest sandwich on the face of the earth. By Norwegian law, I am duty-bound to say that anything wrapped in lefse is *the* greatest sandwich in the world, so second greatest is incredibly high praise indeed. How brilliant sandwich makers are in Mexico, to conceive of placing so many items between toasted, lovely, freshly-baked French bread! I mean, I admit that the first time I read a single torta description on a menu, I thought I was reading the entire menu of the restaurant. I have since come to learn that pretty much the entire menu of a restaurant CAN indeed exist on a torta, particularly the ubiquitous “Super Torta,” which tends to pop-up on the bottom of every torta restaurant’s sandwich listings and, without fail, incorporates chorizo, ham, pork butt, carne asada, tongue and chopped grilled hot dogs. Having recently (and very happily) moved to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn from Chicago, I am thrilled by the exciting new world of street carts, bodegas, restaurants from countries that I have to look-up on an atlas, reliable public transportation…the list goes on and on. But, I do miss terribly three things from Chicago: Johnny’s Italian beef sandwiches, Old Chicago pizza on 79th Street, and the City’s exceptional and diverse torta offerings. This burger is a little reminder of my old home.

Ingredients 

1 medium red onion (very thinly sliced)
½ cup Colavita Aged Red Wine Vinegar
3 teaspoons kosher or fine sea salt (1/2 tsp. for onions, reserving 1/2 tsp. for guacamole and 2 teaspoons for seasoning burger patties)
One (1) 7 oz. can chipotle in adobo, drained and finely chopped, reserving adobo sauce
Two (2) large tomatoes, cut into ½-inch slices
One (1) cup Colavita Garlicolio Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil (½ cup for toasting buns and ½ cup for basting grill)
Two (2) limes, whole (1 for grilled tomatoes and 1 for guacamole crema)
Two (2) ripe avocado (preferably California Hass)
One (1) cup Mexican crema or sour cream
Twelve (12) slices thick-cut bacon, each slice cut in half
One (1) 16-oz. can vegetarian refried pinto beans with chiles
Six (6) rolls, split (preferably sesame-topped telera rolls, but French bread or Kaiser rolls would also be good)
One (1) 12-oz. container or block of queso fresco, crumbled
One (1) bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
½ lb. Mexican pork chorizo, casing removed
1½ lbs. fresh ground chuck (preferably grass-fed)

Instructions 

INSTRUCTIONS Start your grill. Set-up your grate for direct grilling. If you are using a charcoal grill, you want to work towards a medium-hot fire. If you have a gas grill, you want to set your temperature gauge to medium-high. Pickled Onions: To marinate onions, place ½ cup red wine vinegar in a small, non-conductive bowl. Add thinly sliced red onions and ½ teaspoon of salt to the bowl and toss. Leave onions to marinate at room temperature while preparing remaining components. Grilled Tomatoes: Drain chipotle in adobo, reserving the adobo sauce in a medium bowl. Finely chop the chipotle chilies and return to the adobo sauce. Brush grill grate and baste the grill grate with olive oil. Place 2 limes on your grill. Grilled limes will render more juice and making the juicing easier. While limes are grilling (two to three minutes), slice your tomatoes into 1/2-inch slices. Remove limes from grill and carefully slice one lime in half, reserving second grilled lime for guacamole. Juice the cut lime directly into the chipotle sauce, watching for wayward seeds. Stir to combine. Add tomato slices to bowl and toss so that each tomato is coated with the chipotle-lime sauce. Re-baste your grill rack with olive oil. Place tomato slices onto grill. Grill each tomato for one minute on one side, until nicely browned, turn over, and grill for an additional 30 seconds. Remove tomatoes from grill, chop grilled tomatoes and return to the chipotle-lime sauce bowl. Stir to blend, cover and set aside. Guacamole Crema: In a small, non-conductive bowl, place ½ teaspoon salt. Cut your second grilled lime in half. Juice your grilled lime into the salt bowl, again watching for errant seeds. Pit your two ripe avocado, reserving the pits for fun windowsill growing experiments if you wish. Scoop out the avocado flesh and add to the salt-lime bowl. Using a fork, mash salt, lime and avocado mixture together until fully incorporated and the avocado has softened to a slightly chunky yet spreadable texture. Fold in entire container of crema. Set guacamole crema aside. Smokey Beans: Place bacon half-slices into your cast iron skillet and place skillet onto grill. Cook bacon until crispy. Remove bacon and place on paper towels to drain. Drain bacon fat into a large bowl, reserving approximately one tablespoon in your skillet. Add refried beans to your skillet and return to the grill. Stir your beans until they are smooth and heated through. Remove skillet from grill, cover and set aside on a trivet. Preparing Buns: Add your reserved ½ cup of olive oil to your reserved bacon fat. Take your rolls and separate the tops and bottoms. Remove a little bit of the interior from each of your top buns, being careful so that the bun does not become translucently thin. Lightly brush all sides of the buns with the olive oil/bacon fat mixture and place on grill, grilling each side until toasted and being very careful so as to not scorch the buns. You will turn each bun over once so that both the tops and bottoms of each bun half are toasted. While buns are toasting, lay out six parchment paper squares in an assembly line fashion. Remove all buns from grill and set onto your assembly line with all bottoms resting in the middle of your parchment paper squares and the tops nearby. Burgers: Remove the chorizo from its casing and place into the bowl with the remaining olive oil/bacon fat mixture. Using your hands, gently break up the chorizo into the oils. Add the ground chuck to the chorizo and gently combine. Form into six (6) equal-sized patties. Season your patties on each side with your remaining 2 teaspoons of salt and gently press salt into patties. Place patties onto grill. Grill the first side without moving the patties for approximately four minutes. Juices from the patties will begin to emerge from the top of the patties. After four minutes, turn each patty a quarter turn and let grill for two more minutes on the first side. After two minutes, flip the burgers and finish grilling on the second side to your desired doneness. Assembling Burgers: While your burgers are grilling, drain your pickled onions, discarding the brine. Return the drained onions to their bowl. Open your tub of queso fresco. If you have a block, crumble your queso into a small bowl. Coarsely chop your cilantro leaves, trying to avoid incorporating too many stems. Set aside. Spread the bottom of each burger bun with your refried beans. Next, press two of the bacon halves into the beans on each bun. Liberally dust each bun bottom with your crumbled queso fresco. Next, spread each top bun with your guacamole crema. Press your remaining two bacon halves onto the crema on each bun top. Remove the finished burger patties from the grill and place on each bun bottom. Spoon a bit of the grilled tomatoes onto the top of each patty, followed by a few pickled onions and a sprinkling of cilantro. Carefully press the top bun onto the bottom, gently pressing the halves together. Slide each finished burger to the middle of the parchment on the edge furthest from you. Pull the edge of the paper closest to you over the top of the burger, tucking it underneath. Next, fold the corners under the burger, not unlike wrapping a present. Once the burger is wrapped, take a sharp, serrated knife and, slicing through the parchment, cut your burgers in half. Servicio inmediatamente!

Comments 

TOOLS Hot pads of your choice Your favorite chopping knife Flexible cutting mat Six (6) bowls (four small non-conductive, one medium and one large) One (1) set fireproof tongs Two (2) fireproof basting brushes (silicone) One (1) fireproof spatula Medium cast-iron skillet Trivet One (1) plate (for precooked patties) Paper towels Parchment paper