We have many brilliant writers all over the country and the world who have contributed to The Takeout’s Acquired Tastes section, and while I’m grateful for all that these fine essays have taught me about unfamiliar foods, I’m also left seething with jealousy that I don’t get to eat these things immediately after reading about them. It’s just like watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives: sure, everything looks amazing, but when am I ever going to find myself at any of these restaurants? I’m probably never going to find myself at a gas station in Idaho chowing down on a plate of celebrity-chef-endorsed nachos. That whole show is nothing but 22 minutes of broken dreams.
But sometimes when I read about a particularly tantalizing item on The Takeout, I head into the kitchen to figure out how to make it for myself. While I can’t recreate everything (apologies to afficionados of California barbecue), I’ve had success with with my recipe for sorrel, I’ve had my mind blown by the homemade version of Springfield cashew chicken, and I can’t wait for Christmastime so that I can teach you guys how to make a proper Scandinavian kringle. Right now, with grilling season in full swing, I decided to turn my attention to Colorado’s Pueblo Slopper, which Takeout contributor Ken Wheaton so alluringly described as “a cheeseburger placed into a bowl and completely covered with green chili, more cheese, then raw white onions.” It looks disgusting, sounds delicious, and for those of us outside Colorado it’s not exactly a no-brainer to put together.
Here’s the issue: The key ingredient in this slopper is Pueblo chiles, which seemingly don’t exist in Baltimore where my kitchen is. I thought about ordering some directly from Colorado—and if nothing less than the precisely “authentic” slopper experience will satisfy, then sure, order them online—but I wanted this recipe to cater to my same-day slopper craving, no shipping and handling required. So I committed chile pepper heresy and bought “hot long green peppers” at my local market. I can’t tell you how well they compare to the real thing, but I can tell you that the chili I made was absolutely brutal in the best possible way.
If you’re not a fan of heat, then the pound of peppers can be a mixture of whatever kinds you like (mild cubanelles are an excellent choice). Some thin chili peppers don’t shed their skins easily when roasted, and if that’s the case you can just leave them on like I did. While your chili won’t be vibrantly green like it is in Pueblo, the charred flavor will be worth the even sloppier look of your homemade slopper.
Makes 4 burgers, with 2 quarts of fiery chili
For the chili:
- 1 lb. green chiles (see headnote)
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1 large onion, diced
- 6 fat cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 2 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 1 quart chicken or pork stock
For the burgers:
- 4 large burger buns, or a hefty bread, like kaiser rolls
- 4 burger patties, 6-8 oz. each
- Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving
- Diced white onions, for serving
- Chopped cilantro, for serving
Preheat the broiler to high; rub the chiles all over with a bit of oil, then place in a pan and broil for 20 minutes, flipping with tongs halfway, until the skins are blackened. Put the chiles in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap; set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes. Remove the stems, seeds, and blackened skins—if the skins don’t come off, don’t worry about it, and if you like your chili brutally spicy, leave the seeds. Use a food processor or blender to puree the chiles with a cup of the chicken stock.
Coat the bottom of a Dutch oven with a little oil and place over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the ground pork and begin breaking it up with a wooden spoon into small pieces. Spread the pork across the bottom of the pan and allow to cook undisturbed for 3 minutes so it can properly brown, then give it a stir and continue cooking until fully brown. Add the onions and garlic with a big pinch of salt and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until soft—if anything begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, deglaze with with a little bit of the chicken stock. Add the oregano, cumin, and coriander and cook for a minute to toast, then add the tomatoes, pureed chilis, and the rest of the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for one hour. At this point taste the chili for seasoning, add salt/pepper/spices as desired*, and continue simmering as you make the burgers.
Preheat your grill over high heat. Split the buns in half and toast; place in the bottoms of four bowls and sprinkle with a little cheese. Season the burgers on both sides with a little salt and pepper and grill to your liking. Put the burgers on the buns, top with chili and white onions, then more cheese and chopped cilantro. Serve with extra chili on the side, and a big glass of milk.
*If the chili is too spicy for your tastes, right before serving, mix your portion with a few spoonfuls of sour cream before pouring all over your burger. The compound that causes heat in chile peppers, capsaicin, is fat-soluble, and will bind to the fat in sour cream, keeping it from sticking to your tongue and burning your face off.