Cheese Burgers for the Holidays (Dec-2021)
With crazy Texas weather, it can be short sleeve warm or insulated parka cold in late November and December. If warm weather presents itself during the holiday season, backyard grilling can be fun. Steaks, chicken, ribs, salmon, shrimp, sausage, and, of course, burgers are all targets for grill treatment. While hosting Texas Wine Collective Texas Cheese and Wine Experience pairings, discussions often relate to foods that use the delicious Texas cheeses offered. My favorite is Mac and Cheese, and this recipe has been posted in previous Carl’s Corner editions (see reference below). However, another topic that often arises is how to prepare a delicious cheeseburger on the grill. So, here is a discussion of my favorite method, along with some side dishes that also work well on the grill.
A brief preface to this post is a personal story about my family enjoying grilled burgers on Christmas Day, regardless of the weather. My parents were married on 23-Dec and took a brief honeymoon trip. At that time, very few businesses, especially restaurants, were open. My Mom and Dad found themselves in a small town with only one place open to eat, a truck stop café next to the motel where they stayed. The only food available was flat-top fried hamburgers. So, they ordered burgers and made that do for their Christmas day meal. Years later, when my sisters and I heard that story, we insisted on burgers for Christmas, and for over 40 years my Dad grilled delicious burgers for his family.
A simple approach to delicious grilled burgers involves the primary components of meat, cheese, spices, and sauce. Each of these are discussed in more detail, but let’s start with the meat. Beef is, of course, the most common and popular ground meat for burgers. However, there are other options. My standard burger mix includes a half-and-half blend of ground beef (85-15 or 80-20), and ground turkey (usually 90-10, lean vs fat), often combined with Jimmy Dean Sage breakfast sausage. Adding in ground pork, lamb, or chicken will change the characteristics of a burger, and may suit your taste better than beef alone.
The next ingredient to consider is cheese, in this case, grated or shredded. The idea is to add the cheese to the meat and mix together so that flavors integrate while cooking on the grill. Besides, mixing cheese into the burger can eliminate that aggravating problem of having a slice of cheese slide off the burger patty as it melts. Veldhuizen Jalapeno Cheddar adds a just-right spicy component to the burger. Other cheeses that work well are sharp cheddar (yellow or white), pepper jack, Swiss, Muenster, Manchego, and Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Creamery Granbury Gold Cheddar. Just choose a cheese you like and you can’t go wrong.
Spices to flavor the meat are an important part of a good burger. I normally use simple flavorings like a good season-all salt, McCormicks or TexJoy steak seasoning, some freshly ground pepper, plus onion and/or garlic powder. Spicier Creole seasonings like Tony Chachere’s or Zatarain’s, or maybe red pepper flakes add some zest. There are so many herb seasonings to consider, either dried or fresh. Some from my cabinet include rosemary, basil, thyme, sage, tarragon, oregano, cumin seeds, chives, etc. And don’t forget mustard, dry ground, or prepared yellow or coarse versions. Here in Texas, the addition of finely chopped peppers, like jalapeno or Hatch chiles, is popular. More unusual additives like allspice or nutmeg can give your burgers an interesting twist of flavor. Get creative and figure out what works best for you.
The final component in this burger recipe is sauce. My unequivocal favorite is Fischer and Wieser’s Blackberry Chipotle Sauce that adds subtle spice notes along with a hint of fruit. There are many Fischer and Wieser products, including their flagship Raspberry Chipotle Sauce, that work well in these burgers, ranging from fruity and marginally sweet, all the way to very spicy - bordering on just plain hot. Traditional sauces like A-1 Steak, Worcestershire, Soy, etc., are good choices. Barbecue sauces of many types are available, and I prefer a Texas original like Stubb’s regular. Again, be creative and find what works best for you.
The recipe you ask, well for two pounds of ground meat the suggestion is 12-16 ounces of grated or shredded cheese, 1 cup (or less) of sauce, depending on texture and flavor, plus the spices that one prefers. Mix it all up in a large bowl, press out burger patties the size and thickness desired, and get them on the grill. Yum!
To accompany grilled burgers, vegetables that can be cooked alongside the meat include slices of regular or sweet potato, asparagus, corn on the cob, strips of zucchini or squash, thick slices of tomato, etc. Just brush with olive oil or melted butter, season, and grill until tender.
Finally, what do you drink with these burgers? Traditional choices in Texas include sweet tea, Dr. Pepper, or cold beer. However, my suggestion is a good wine like one of the following available from Texas Wine Collective: Lost Oak Winery Holiday Red, Merlot, or Viognier Reserve; McPherson Cellars EVS Windblown Red, La Herencia Red, or Roussanne Reserve; and Brennan Vineyards Tempranillo, Super Nero (Nero d’Avola blend), or Viognier. Merry Christmas, y’all. Bon Appetit!
Mac & Cheese – Comfort Food Extraordinaire, Carl’s Corner, 3-Mar-2021