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Chipotle Duck Burgers

These mildly seasoned burgers will be the hit of your next summer cookout 
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  • photo by John Hoffman, DU
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By Scott Leysath

Chipotle peppers made a big splash on the national scene several years ago, and their popularity hasn't slowed down a bit. For those who have been afraid to ask, a chipotle pepper is just an overripe jalapeño pepper that's been smoked for several days until dry. You can make your own out of fresh jalapeño peppers, but it's much easier to buy them either dried or canned. 

The canned variety is usually packed in thick adobo sauce, which is a relatively mild sauce until you add the jalapeños. Then things heat up quite a bit, so go easy on the adobo sauce until you've figured out how much you can handle. Adding additional sauce after the initial taste test is simple. Toning down a too-hot burger will require more meat to tame the heat. 

Making burgers out of trimmed, skinless duck breast fillets is easier than you might think. If you have a meat grinder, that'll do. But all you really need is a food processor—or, in a pinch, a good sharp knife. Note that this recipe calls for ground pork added to the mix. You can make the burgers without the pork, but they will be drier and more likely to fall apart. Fatty ground beef (20 percent fat) can also be substituted for the pork, but it won't taste quite as good, at least to me.

Resist the urge to make Flintstones-size burger patties. The bigger the burger, the better the chance that it'll be burned on the outside before it's medium-rare and juicy on the inside. If you must build a bigger burger, turn the heat down so that it cooks a little slower, giving the center a chance to cook before the outside is overcooked.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes  
Cooking Time: Less than 10 minutes
Makes: 6 burgers, about 8 ounces each

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (packed) skinless duck breast fillets, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/3 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 or 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced 
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/3 teaspoon table salt)
  • 6 slices pepper jack cheese
  • 6 hamburger buns
  • Lettuce, thick-sliced tomato, and sliced red onion

Directions

  1. Place cubed duck in a food processor and pulse a few times until the meat is roughly pea-sized. Be careful not to overprocess the meat. It should be a little lumpy. 
  2. In a large bowl, combine processed duck with ground pork, onion, bell pepper, garlic, chipotle peppers, breadcrumbs, black pepper, and salt. Mix together well with your hands. Form into 6 equal-size balls and press them into patties about 1-inch thick. 
  3. Place patties on a well-oiled medium-hot grill or in a skillet. Brown one side, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip patties over; cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Top each with cheese and cook until cheese is melted and burger reaches desired doneness. Serve in buns with lettuce, tomato, and red onion. 
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