Here in the U.S., the second Monday in October is Columbus Day, which is a somewhat disputed “official” holiday here. Bank institutions, Federal Government offices, and the post office (which is an independent civilian agency of the US Government) close on Columbus Day, but many businesses remain open, and although it’s a Federal the holiday, it isn’t recognized in all states. For some, it is a celebration of Italian-Americans and their contribution to the U.S. (beginning with Columbus’ “discovery” of the “New World”); for others, it marks the beginning of the domination and attempted genocide of the Native American cultures established here at the time.
Sociological, cultural, historical, and political debate aside, I’ll be honest — especially after having worked so many weekends and late work nights recently, I just see it as an excuse for a well-deserved three-day weekend.
So anyway, while we’re still in a drought here, alas, the weather has been much more pleasant (out of the triple digits and nice, cool nights and early mornings), and we both had a hankering for grilling hamburgers. While hamburgers — or, more properly, cheeseburgers, as we always dress ours with cheese — are typically thought of as an easy main for a family or crowd, truth be told, I find them to be a lot more work than many other dishes, mainly because of the prep (seasoning and shaping the patties) and preparing/making available the assortment of condiments usually desired to dress the burgers: cheese (mayhaps a choice of cheeses, such as American, cheddar, Swiss, Pepper jack, etc.), mustard, mayo or salad dressing, ketchup, perhaps BBQ sauce or steak sauce (a hamburger with steak sauce is d-i-v-i-n-e!), sliced pickles, lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced or diced onion…if you want to get fancy (and sometimes we do!), you may also want to include sliced avocado, bacon (turkey bacon for us) for a bacon burger, sautéed mushrooms and/or green bell pepper strips, jalapeños…honestly, the variety and combo of potential dressing is almost endless…and endlessly delicious! 😉
There are several variations I do on hamburgers that hubby and I enjoy — including turkey burgers. I “healthy” this dish up by
- using lean meat — I use at least 93/7 ground beef,
- employing lean cooking methods,
- reading labels to pick out the most nutritionally advantageous bun (at least to me) that is available (my favorite is WhiteWheat buns — just 100 calories and 4 grams of fiber per bun, but those aren’t always available), and
- trying to serve nutritious sides (favorites include baked beans, pasta-bean salad, light versions of coleslaw, lightened potato salad, and/or grilled veggies, such as zucchini — ‘though we’ll sometimes bake up frozen fries or tater tots, too 😉 ).
Typically, when we make burgers, we make up a whole mess of ’em, as we say down here in the South — that gives us leftovers for another meal or two. (And BTW, a leftover hamburger can make a quick, easy, and change-of-pace protein-filled breakfast, if you’re so inclined.) You can also freeze leftover hamburger patties — and buns, too, for that matter, ‘though I would freeze them separately — and have a tasty, fresh burger ready for you the next time you want one.
While we really enjoy my basic hamburger recipe, I decided to mix things up a bit tonight and try seasoning the meat a bit differently. They were not a lot of fuss to make, came out especially juicy and flavorful, and were a whiz to mix together. In short, it was YUMMY — hubby loved ’em at first bite — and he now refers to them as Those Good Burgers. 😉 He especially enjoyed his dressed with yellow mustard, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and bread and butter pickles.
So I am posting the recipe now, while it’s fresh on my mind. 🙂
Here are a few hints about making burgers:
HINT #1 ABOUT (GRILLING) BURGERS: To help your burger “keep it together” on the grill, freeze the patties for an hour or more beforehand — that will greatly reduce the likelihood of your patty crumbling on the grill.
HINT #2 ABOUT (MAKING) BURGERS: Wear disposable gloves when shaping the patties. 🙂
We generally grill ours, but if you don’t have a grill or if the weather’s not conducive to grilling, that’s just fine — you can broil or bake them in the oven, cook them in a non-stick skillet, or — best of all! — grill them on your stovetop in a grill pan, if you have one. (A grill pan is an awesome pan to have in your pantry — when the weather’s too hot, too cold, or otherwise not conducive to grilling outdoors, a grill pan enables you to enjoy grilled food without having to put a toe outside your door.) Oh, and of course, if you have an electric grill — such as a George Foreman grill — you can cook them that way, too! 🙂
I like a nice, juicy, 1/3 pound burger (that gives me the wee extra bit of protein boost I need), so when we make up a mess of burgers, I get 3 pounds of ground beef and make up 9 burgers.
Well…sometimes I’ll reheat it and eat with steak sauce, like a hamburger steak, and eat it along with a salad and/or a half of a baked potato or some such. Another favorite thing is to use it to make a “patty melt” (think grilled cheese sandwich but with a hamburger patty).
No worries — that ninth patty gets put to good use. 🙂
A word about the cheese: A lot of folks melt the cheese onto the burger as the last step before taking it off the grill. And that’s okay, if you’re going to eat that burger right then — and if you don’t mind having some of the cheese ooze off the patty and drip into your grill…and goo onto the platter. Myself, though, I like to apply the cheese as the burger is assembled, because 1) it lets the burger-eater have freedom of choice in the type of cheese and 2) leftover patties are MUCH easier to reheat sans cheese.
Those Good Burgers! (Makes 9 patties)
- 3 pounds lean (suggest 93/7) ground beef
- 1 package dehydrated onion soup mix or onion-mushroom soup mix
- 4 to 6 (about 3 – 4 ounces) fresh mushrooms, cleaned and minced (I whiz them up in my mini food chopper)
- Worcestershire sauce to taste
- A few healthy splashes of red wine
- A few shots of your favorite steak sauce (I used a combo of a generic “A-1” kind of sauce and a generic “Heinz 57” kind of sauce)
- Coarse ground black pepper to taste
- Empty meat into a medium to large-sized bowl.
- Sprinkle onion soup mix across meat. Add in minced mushroom. Season to taste with Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce(s), and coarse ground black pepper.
- Lightly mix meat together to distribute seasonings.
- Divide mixture into 9 equal portions. (I use a food scale, but I’m a bit anal retentive and compulsive with such things. 😉 )
- Shape into patties. Depress the center of each patty a bit; this will help promote even cooking.
- IF GRILLING, place on waxed-paper lined cookie sheet or platter and place in freezer to freeze for a bit before grilling. Two (or more) layers of patties, separated by waxed paper, is just fine. They can hang out in the ‘fridge for a couple to three or four hours.
- Grill (or broil or bake or skillet/griddle fry) to desired doneness.
- If desired, grill the buns, as well: spread the “sandwich side” (the “inside”) of each bun with a bit of light margarine — I like to use calcium-enriched Shedd Spread — and grill or toast.
- Dress as desired and enjoy! Store leftovers in the ‘fridge.
Honestly, these are so yummy, you’ll find yourself disagreeing with Homer Simpson — make these burgers, and it’ll be YOU, not the aliens, who are having all the fun! 🙂