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When I was in college, my hometown was hit by a roof-lifting, glass-shattering, building-leveling tornado that cut right across the downtown.

What matters most is that everyone was safe, and if you took a drive through the area now, you’d never guess how much has been rebuilt. The only casualties were some of the businesses, including a feed store whose seeds, driven into the ground by the tornado, produced a lot full of sunflowers in the middle of all the construction, and one of Jeff’s favorite restaurants, Moose Creek Beer & Bait House, home of the Rattlesnake Burger.

The burger wasn’t actual rattlesnake but a spicy combination of ground chicken and andouille sausage. One night Jeff and I were talking about the tornado, and he mentioned that burger. With a tone of wistfulness and reverence. So, we picked up a pound of ground chicken and a pound of andouille and spent the next couple of hours experimenting with spice mixtures and making quarter-sized burgers.

Our Rattlesnake Sliders, more of an homage than a copycat recipe, have just enough heat to keep things interesting. During that last minute of grilling, we topped each one with a small slice of habanero cheddar and sandwiched them in grilled Hawaiian sweet rolls with shredded lettuce and sliced tomato. So far, chili sauce is the condiment of choice, but I’m thinking a little green chile mayonnaise is in order.

As for Moose Creek, owner Tom Griffin started bottling the original pepper sauces he’d created for the restaurant and now runs Moose Creek Pepper Products. Next time you’re at Whole Foods, look for the bottle with the moose head on the front. It always makes me hungry smile.

Rattlesnake Sliders

From Jeff Crump (EzraPoundCake.com)

Makes 12 small burgers

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, casings removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 tablespoon course ground pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 12 soft dinner rolls (recommended: King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls)
  • Condiments: shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, cheese, sliced onion, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, chili sauce, Chipotle Mayonnaise (recipe below)
  1. Preheat theĀ  grill to medium-high.
  2. Using a food processor, process the andouille until finely chopped.
  3. Transfer the andouille to a large bowl. Add chicken, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne. Mix gently, being careful not to overwork the mixture.
  4. Form the mixture into 12 patties, and place them on the grill. Cook until the internal temperature registers 170 degrees F, about 5 minutes per side. During the last minute of grilling, add the cheese to the tops of the burgers, and toast the rolls (cut-side down, about 30 seconds).
  5. Remove the burgers and buns from the grill. Garnish with your choice of toppings and condiments. Serve immediately.

Chipotle Mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, roughly chopped
  • Dash of salt

Place all of the ingredients into a mini food processor, and blend until smooth. (Or, mix the ingredients well by hand.) Refrigerate until ready to use.