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Venezuelan Arepa Burgers with Chorizo, Mango-Tomatillo Salsa & Guava Barbecue Glaze

This burger was inspired by an adventure we had a few years ago in Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela. We were only in town for a few hours during a cruise ship stop and instead of going to see Angel Falls, we met a local who brought us to her local, very non-touristy, road-side food stand. There we had an amazing meal of grilled meats and sausages, along with an incredible arepa and a fruit-based salsa. With beer and punch, our total bill was still less than $6/person. And it was the most memorable part of our whole trip. This burger is my tribute to that adventure.

Ingredients 

1/2 cup of fire-roasted salsa verde, medium heat
1/2 cup of chopped fresh mango
2/3 cup butter
3 cups whole milk
2 cups yellow arepa flour (also called precooked corn flour or Harina PAN)
3 tsp kosher salt (1 tsp for arepas and 2 tsp for patties0
1 Tbsp sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup guava jelly
1/2 cup bottled chipotle barbecue sauce
3 Tbsp freshly minced garlic
4 Tbsp freshly chopped cilantro
10 Serrano chilies, seeded and minced
7 oz smoked chorizo, finely chopped
2 pounds ground chuck
*Olive oil, for brushing the grill rack
6 oz crumbled queso fresco

Instructions 

Preheat a gas grill to low heat. Set a double-wide cast iron or heavy-duty griddle on the grill to preheat. To make the mango-tomatillo salsa, combine the mango and salsa verde. Cover and keep at room temperature until ready to use, up to three hours. (If refrigerated, may be made up to one week in advance. Extra salsa can be made for grilled fish.) To make the arepas, put the butter grill-safe sauce pan and set on the grill. When the butter has melted, add the milk and continue to heat until the butter and milk are hot (they do not need to boil). Put the arepa flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and combine using the paddle attachment at the lowest speed. Add the hot butter and milk and mix at low speed just until combined. Let dough rest for 2 minutes. While the dough is resting, whisk the eggs. After the dough has rested, turn the mixer back on to low speed and pour in the eggs. Once the eggs have been incorporated, increase the mixer speed to medium and blend until the mix resembles cookie dough and is only slightly sticky, about 2 to 3 minutes. Test the dough by scooping out about a tablespoon of it onto a piece of wax paper. Use the wax paper to make a small patty. If small cracks form on the edges when the dough is pressed, it is too dry and needs more hot milk. If the dough sticks to the wax paper, it is too wet or may need to be mixed more. Continue to blend the dough for another minute or too. If it is still too wet, add more arepa flour. Divide the dough in to six balls and use wax paper to shape each into a round patty, about 3/4” thick. Cook the arepas on the griddle for about 5 to 10 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Move the arepas to the upper rack of the grill and continue to cook there for about 15 to 20 minutes more, or until they sound hollow when tapped. Move the arepas to a covered pan and set aside. Increase the gas grill to high heat. To make the guava barbecue glaze, put the guava jelly and barbecue sauce in a grill-safe sauce pan and set on the grill. Stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, heat until the jelly begins to liquefy. Stir until the sauce and jelly are thoroughly combined and then remove from heat. Set aside. To make the patties, combine garlic, cilantro, chilies, chorizo, and salt in a large bowl. Add the ground chuck. To avoid transferring too much heat to the meat, wear disposable gloves and gently mix the beef into the rest of the ingredients. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and gently form into patties about 3/4" in diameter. Brush the grill rack with oil. Gently place the patties on to the grill and cook for 2 minutes. Flip the patties over and generously brush tops the patties with the guava barbecue glaze. (Do not glaze an uncooked side with the sauce at any point.) Cook until the bottom sides of the patties are browned, about 2 minutes more. Flip the patties again and generously brush the tops with more of the glaze. Put 1 ounce of queso on each patty, close the grill lid, and turn off the heat. While the cheese is getting soft, split each arepa like a hamburger bun. Brush the bun bottoms lightly with the remaining barbecue glaze. Set the bun bottoms onto the burger and remove from the grill (this holds the cheese in place and the result should be that the cheese is below the burger). Divide the mango-tomatillo salsa over the six burgers. Add the bun tops and serve immediately. Makes six burgers.