San Joaquin Valley Burgers with Tomatillo Salsa

Pairs well with:


Bright and full-bodied, this Zinfandel wine is a curious contradiction in tastes.

Growing up in central California, I was influenced equally by the fresh produce as well as the predominant flavors of our south-of-the border friends.”Sal’s,” our favorite local restaurant, introduced me to the wonderful flavors of tomatillos, roasted chiles, and spicy Chorizo. I used these flavors to create an incredible-tasting burger, taking the local foods of my childhood and adding delicious, fresh California produce. In the past, these ethnic flavors were only enjoyed in the southern border states but have now spread throughout the country, making this a dynamite American burger.


Tomatillo Salsa
10 fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered
1/2 cup fresh corn (cut from the cob)
1/2 cup cilantro
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2/3 cup mayonnaise

4 Anaheim chiles or 1 4-ounce can diced roasted chiles
2 pounds ground chuck
3 ounces spicy Chorizo, casing removed
3 tablespoons sundried tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill grid and rack

Sweet Hot Avocado
2 tablespoons lemon juice, preferably Meyer
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 small firm ripe Hass avocados, peeled, pitted, and sliced

6 potato hamburger buns, split
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, thinly sliced
6 thin mild onion slices, separated into rings


Prepare a medium fire in a grill with a cover, or prepare a gas grill to medium.

To make the salsa, place the tomatillos, corn, cilantro, garlic, and salt in a food processor bowl and purée. Heat a fire-proof nonstick skillet on the grill. Add tomatillo purée and simmer, stirring, until thickened, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool. When cool, stir in the mayonnaise and season with salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill.

If using fresh chiles, place the chiles on the grill while the tomatillos are cooking and char on all sides. Wrap the chiles in damp paper towels until cool enough to handle. When cool, peel, seed, and dice enough chiles to measure 1/2 cup.

To make the patties, combine the chiles, chuck, chorizo, sun-dried tomato paste, and salt in a large bowl, handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it. Form into 6 patties to fit the bun size.

Pour the lemon juice, oil, agave, hot sauce, and salt into a small jar or container with a lid; cover and shake well. Heat a nonstick grill grid on the grill and brush with oil. Place the avocado slices on the grid and grill 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the avocado to a large bowl, drizzle with the lemon mixture, and toss gently. Cover to keep warm.

Brush the grill rack with oil. Place the patties on the rack over direct heat, cover, and cook 3 to 4 minutes until browned on the bottom. Turn the patties over and grill until done to preference, about 5 minutes for medium. During the last few minutes of cooking, place the rolls cut sides down on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly.

To assemble the burgers, spread the salsa liberally over the cut sides of the bun tops. Place a patty on each bun bottom and add equal portions of the tomato, avocado, and onion rings. Add the bun tops and serve.