Battle of the Burgers recipe: Mexican <i>cemita</i> burger

(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Cemitas, a popular treat from Puebla, are my favorite sandwich and this burger takes them to a whole new level. How do I know this burger is so big and bad? Well, I cooked it on national TV when the Food Network picked it as a contestant on the ‘Ultimate Recipe Showdown.’ That’s how I know it’s so bad it’s good.” --Harold Cohen, Hollywood, Fla.

Mexican cemita burger

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Total time: About 1 hour

Servings: 2

Note: From Harold Cohen of Hollywood, Fla. Papalo leaves are generally available at Latin markets; a combination of cilantro leaves and watercress can be substituted. Oaxacan cheese (quesillo) is available at Latin markets as well as the Latin sections of well-stocked supermarkets.

Chipotle crema

2 canned chipotle peppers (packed in adobo sauce), diced, and 1 tablespoon adobo sauce

1 clove garlic, grated

1/4 cup Mexican crema (can substitute crème fraîche)

1/4 cup mayonnaise

In a small mixing bowl, combine the chipotle, adobo sauce, garlic, Mexican crema, and mayonnaise. Mix until well combined. This makes about two-thirds cup chipotle crema, which will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week.

Avocado spread

1/2 cup lightly mashed avocado, preferably Hass (about 3/4 of an avocado)

Scant tablespoon lime juice

Kosher salt

In a small mixing bowl, combine avocado and lime juice. Season with one-eighth teaspoon salt, or to taste. This makes a scant one-half cup avocado spread, which will keep, tightly covered and refrigerated, up to 1 day.

Patties and assembly

3/4 pound ground beef chuck

1 canned chipotle pepper, minced with 1 tablespoon adobo sauce

Scant 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

Scant 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Canola oil for pan-frying

3 ounces Oaxacan cheese (quesillo), separated into thin strings (can substitute mozzarella)

2 sesame seed buns, toasted

Chipotle crema

5 papalo leaves, finely minced (or ¼ cup cilantro sprigs plus 2 tablespoons watercress leaves, minced)

1 cup corn tortilla chips, lightly crushed

2 very thin slices red onion

Avocado spread

1. In a large bowl, combine the beef, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, salt and pepper. Mix well to combine, but do not overmix. Divide the mixture in half and form the portions into patties to fit the buns.

2. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add enough oil to form a thin film on the bottom of the pan, about 2 tablespoons, then add the burgers to the skillet.

3. Cook the burgers until set and browned on one side, about 3 minutes, then flip. Top the burgers with the cheese, then cover the pan with aluminum foil. Cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes for medium-rare burgers, or until the burgers have reached desired doneness.

4. Assemble the burgers: Spread the chipotle crema evenly on each cut side of the toasted buns. Sprinkle the minced papalo leaves over the crema on the cut sides of the bun tops. On the bottom halves of each bun, sprinkle the crushed tortilla chips then top with a cheese-topped patty, a slice of onion and equal amounts of the avocado spread. Top the burgers with the bun tops and serve immediately.

Each burger: 1,088 calories; 54 grams protein; 72 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams fiber; 67 grams fat; 16 grams saturated fat; 129 mg cholesterol; 7 grams sugar; 3,261 mg sodium.