Spiciness is in the palate of the taster: One person’s fiery dish is another’s too-mild disappointment. For the home cook, navigating heat levels can be tricky. One diner wants extra habaneros stirred into a dish, while the other can’t stand much more than a pinch of cayenne.
These simple burgers are flavored with heat-producing elements of chipotle and jalapeno chilies, and you can set the level of fire. Both peppers are jalapenos, actually – the chipotle is made by smoking the fresh pepper. Although available dried, the chipotle peppers here are canned in adobo sauce. (Look for them among the Mexican ingredients at the supermarket; extras freeze well.) The chipotle adds a smoky heat, while the raw jalapeno contributes fresh sharpness. Adjust the burgers’ heat by using more or fewer of each pepper. Tasting a tiny bit of the jalapeno before mixing it in will help you control the level you want. More heat and smoke? Stir a tablespoon or more of the adobo sauce into the ground beef.
Tip: Mincing the fresh jalapeno very finely will distribute its heat evenly in the burger. Try this trick: Stem, seed and remove the ribs from the pepper, quartering it lengthwise. Drop the pieces into a running food processor. The spinning blade keeps the pieces moving, preventing big pieces from falling out of reach.