Recently Hubby did something different – he took some time off from work for a “mini vacation”. It was great – a couple of days spent puttering around the house, a trip to California’s Mother Lode, a movie in the middle of a weekday and a day trip to San Jose’s Winchester House.
Sarah Winchester was the widow of the firearm magnate, William Winchester. After her husband’s death in 1881, Sarah was told by a Boston Medium that she should leave her home in New Haven and travel west. There she must construct a home that was to be continuously under construction for the spirits of all the people who had died by Winchester Rifles. In 1884, Sarah purchased an unfinished 7-room farmhouse and began to build what would become the Winchester Mansion, with 160 rooms, doors opening to nowhere, staircases that went nowhere, secret passages, and hidden spaces. Construction was nonstop until her death in 1922.
The house was opened to the public for tours in February 1923. Since then, new rooms and secrets have been discovered, the most recent in 2016 with hidden attic space containing a pump organ, Victorian sofa, sewing machine and paintings. In 2017; Winchester House added an expanded tour that included rooms which had been sealed off since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. While the house today is three stories, prior to the 1906 disaster, it was seven stories, including a tower. Convinced that the quake had been caused by unhappy spirits, Sarah had the top floors removed and sealed up the front of the house.
Amazingly, upon her death, Sarah left the bulk of her possessions, apart from the house itself, to her niece and to her personal secretary. Sarah’s niece took from the home what she wanted, and ordered the rest to be carted off and sold at auction. It is said that it took six trucks working eight hours a day for six weeks to remove the contents of the home. As for the house, no mention was made in her will as to what should be done with it. Appraisers at the time considered the house to be worthless due to the damage caused by the 1906 quake, the unfinished design itself and the impractical nature of the house as a whole. It was sold at auction for $135,000.00.
I’m sure by now you are wondering what a Haunted House in California has to do with Texas and Quesadilla Burgers. Simple, today is National Texas Day. Texas cuisine is a blend of cowboy and Mexican. Hence the burger in a tortilla. What does that have to do with the Winchester House? Again, simple. After spending the better part of a day touring the house, the grounds, the attic and basement, we had worked up an appetite. On the drive home, we stopped at a restaurant for a bite to eat. I liked my Quesadilla Burger so much, that the following week I served them up to my family for Tijuana Tuesday. Now that it’s National Texas Day, I thought I’d share these delicious burgers with you. So there we are, full circle.
Oh, and one more thing – my guys loved the extended tour of the Mystery House. That takes you up into the attic, down into the basement and into rooms damaged by the quake. I liked the main tour, into rooms that reflected Victorian furnishings. While the house contains either reproductions or restorations of the period, it’s a good bet that the rooms are fairly accurate to what Sarah had accomplished while living in the home. I was especially excited to see the condiment caddy on her dining room table. She and I have similar styles and tastes. The set table on the left is Sarah’s. The caddy on the right is one from my ever-expanding collection.
Pico de Gallo
4 Roma Tomatoes
1/2 small Red or Spanish Purple Onions
1/8 cup Cilantro
2 Jalapeño Peppers
2 Garlic Cloves
1 Lime, juiced
Kosher Salt to taste
Cut tomato in half lengthwise, rinse out the seeds and pat dry with a paper towel. Dice tomatoes and place in a large, non-reactive bowl.
Cut half of a red onion into nice pieces. Add to bowl with tomatoes. If desired, add more onion based on your personal tastes.
Rinse a handful of cilantro including stems. Pat dry with paper towels. Chop most of the cilantro, retaining a few leaves to garnish finished dish if serving as a dip.
Cut stem-end from the Jalapeno peppers and discard. Split peppers lengthwise, exposing the membrane and seeds. Remove if mild Pico de Gallo is desired. For truly spicy salsa, keep some or all of the seeds. Dice peppers and add to the bowl.
Peel and finely mince garlic cloves. Add to the tomato bowl.
Squeeze the juice of 1 lime over the mixture. Combine all the ingredients. Let sit for at least 2 hours for natural flavors to develop. Taste and salt as needed.
Southwest Burger Seasoning
2 tablespoons New Mexican Chili Powder
2 teaspoons ground Cumin
1 tablespoons Smoked Paprika
1 tablespoon ground Coriander
1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 tablespoon dried Mexican Oregano
1 pinch Kosher Salt
Black Pepper to taste
Mix together all the seasoning ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside until ready to use.
1 1/3 lb Ground Beef
Southwest Burger Seasoning
Place beef in a larger bowl. Add the seasoning, work into the meat to distribute throughout.
Divide the meat into four equal balls, flatten into patties. Set aside for at leaste 30 minutes for the flavors to marry.
Note: If you don’t mind wasting a tortilla, use that as a guide to forming the patty. Place the seasoned meat ball in the center, flatten out to cover the entire tortilla. Remove, wrap in plastic wrap and repeat until all the patties have been formed.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Coat lightly with just a little oil. Add patties, cook to desired doneness, 5 to 8 minutes per side, depending upon heat and thickness of the patty.
Remove burgers from the skillet, wrap in foil and keep warm.
8 slice bacon, cooked
1 cup Lettuce, shredded
8 (10-inch) flour tortillas
8 tablespoons butter, softened
2 cups shredded Pepper Jack cheese
1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
Heat a griddle to medium heat. Fry bacon until crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
While the bacon cooks, shred the lettuce and set aside.
Once the griddle is empty, wipe clean. Spread about a tablespoon of soft butter over each tortilla. Place four tortillas on the griddle, butter side down and grill until golden. Remove and keep warm with the burgers.
Place remaining four tortillas on the griddle, butter side down. Divide the cheese amount the tortillas. Add a little Pico de Gallo over the cheese. Add two strips of bacon over the cheese.
Top each tortilla with a hamburger patty. Top the hamburger shredded lettuce and more Pico de Gallo, if desired. Top with the grilled tortillas. Remove from heat, flipping over so that the cheese drips down through everything.
Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the quesadillas in half and serve.
Great with fries or tater tots.
Note: In the end you will have more than enough Southwest Burger Seasoning and Pico de Gallo needed for this recipe. Store the seasoning in a labeled spice jar. As for the Pico del Gallo, this is great for so many things. Just keep covered in the refrigerator for up to five days.