The H-Bomb Burger

2 pounds ground beef chuck
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon seeded, chopped jalapeno pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
16 slices jalapeno bacon (available at select gourmet markets, as well as online)
1/4 cup oil
16 serrano chilies
8 hamburger buns or jalapeno-cheese hamburger buns, split horizontally
Chipotle mayonnaise (recipe follows)
8 leaf-lettuce leaves
8 large slices tomato
Habanero relish (recipe follows)
8 slices habanero jack cheese (available at select gourmet markets, as well as online)

In a large bowl, gently combine the beef chuck with the chopped onion, cilantro, Worcestershire sauce, jalapeno, salt, ground pepper and cayenne pepper. Form mixture into 8 (1/2- to 3/4-inch-thick) patties. Place patties on a baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 1 day.

Working in batches, fry the jalapeno bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until browned and crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. In another skillet, add the oil and fry the serrano chilies until softened and browned. Be careful, because oil will splatter as chilies fry. Remove chilies and drain. Peel and seed if desired, and slice chilies into strips.

Prepare barbecue or grill and heat over medium-high heat. Spray grill rack with nonstick spray. Toast the buns until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer buns, cut-sides up, to plates. Spread each bun bottom with some of the chipotle mayonnaise and top each with 1 lettuce leaf and 1 tomato slice.

Place burgers on grill and cook for 5 minutes. Flip burgers and continue to cook to desired doneness, about 5 minutes longer for medium. Shortly before burgers are done, top each with some of the caramelized onion, fried and sliced serrano chilies and a spoonful of the habanero relish. Place a slice of the habanero jack cheese on each burger and top with 2 slices jalapeno bacon. Continue cooking just until cheese melts.

Place burger patties on bun bottoms, spread each bun top with a little more chipotle mayo and place over burger. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.

HABANERO RELISH: In bowl of a food processor, combine 8 stemmed and finely chopped habanero peppers, 8 peeled and minced garlic cloves, 4 chopped tomatoes, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro and tablespoon white vinegar. Process to a smooth paste. Taste and season with salt as desired. Makes a generous 1 1/2 cups relish. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours to give flavors time to marry.

CHIPOTLE MAYONNAISE: In a food processor bowl, pulse together 1 cup mayonnaise, 2 chopped chipotle peppers (canned in adobo sauce), 1 tablespoon adobo sauce and the juice of 1/2 lime. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes about 1 cup mayonnaise, which will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week.

CARAMELIZED ONIONS: In a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, melt 3 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat, then stir in 2 1/2 pounds peeled and thinly sliced onions. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and continue to cook, stirring continuously, until onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 teaspoons sugar and continue to cook, stirring and scraping browned bits from bottom of pan, until onions are golden-brown, 20 to 30 minutes.

— Recipe from Richard Amiel, Cathedral City, Calif.


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