Mexican cemita burger

Time 1 hour
Yields Serves 2
Mexican cemita burger
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
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To any real fan, a hamburger is never “just a burger.” A great burger is a work of art, passionately thought out and painstakingly executed. The very extension of the grill master’s own identity.

And, of course, determining what makes a burger great can stir as much passion as trying to balance the national budget.

So with the smells of charcoal and propane beginning to perfume backyards across the country, we challenged L.A. Times burgermeisters everywhere to submit their recipes in our first Battle of the Burgers. The response was amazing. Almost 90 recipes were submitted from all over the country, with readers across the nation voting to choose their favorites.

Thousands of votes were tallied to narrow the choices to the top 20 burgers. Top recipes were then put to task in the Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen. The burgers were then judged by Food section editors and staff. It was tough, but after days of testing, exhaustive judging (and maybe a little post-burger napping), we came up with five favorites.

Chipotle crema


In a small mixing bowl, combine the chipotle, 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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.