In my neck of the woods, things started warming up this week. Being a seasoned (meaning getting old) individual, I also know the pattern. You get this blast of spring-like weather only to be shocked into
wintery submission by a late season storm.
Regardless, it drove me to fire up the charcoal grill, so as far as I am concerned, the grilling and barbecue season has officially been launched.
Today's column doesn't deal with barbecue. Instead, it covers one of the most basic of all grilled foods, the hamburger. But, we put a twist on it with a bleu cheese spread that will absolutely rock your world. The main downfall to preparing this burger is that all grilled burgers for the remainder of the grilling season will be compared to it, and that's a problem.
Some basics on burgers. First, get some good ground chuck. Go to your butcher or your supermarket and buy ground beef that is 80 percent lean and 20 percent fat. Don't get all health freaky when buying ground beef for burgers. The fat holds the burger together and provides moistness and flavor.
Indulge a little.
When making your patties, form a ball the size of a baseball, then begin flattening. Make sure the middle of the patty is thinner than the outside of the patty. That's a little secret. It will prevent your hamburger from mounding up into a poorly shaped meat ball during the grilling process.
With this bleu cheese burger the flavor comes from the spread, so all you need is kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper on both sides of the patty to season the beef. Allow the patties to come to room
temperature (very important) and then it's time to throw them on the grill.
For grilling burgers, I am just as happy on a gas grill or on charcoal. When fluids start percolating to the top of the burger, they are ready to be turned. With other cuts of beef I love medium rare. However, with ground beef, I would suggest cooking it to medium or medium-well, which is 150 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Ground beef has been handled a few more times, and the grinding process can introduce elements that...um...let's just say....aren't to be eaten cold.
In terms of the buns, I have now switched away from the traditional buns and have gone to the thin sandwich buns which are now easy to find in your supermarket. We prefer the whole wheat, and we toast them, which adds texture. I truly like them better than the normal ones.
Spread the bleu cheese spread on both toasted buns, top and bottom. We added spring lettuce and sauteed mushrooms.
So good. As I said, the only downfall to this recipe is that you will compare all burgers against this burger for the rest of the grilling season, which really isn't fair to the other burgers.
You can view an instructional video at http://www.youtube.com/BBQMyWay
Bleu Cheese Spread
3 to 4 oz of Bleu Cheese, depending on how much you like it
½ lb of soft cream cheese
1 Tbsp of cognac
¼ cup of chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp of minced onion
salt and pepper to taste
Mix everything together until evenly distributed.
This recipe will provide enough spread for four 1/3 lb burgers
Dave Lobeck is a barbecue chef from Sellersburg, Ind., who writes a weekly column for CNHI News Service. Visit his website at www.BBQMyWay.com.