Eat: Have it Your Way for Labor Day

HAVE IT YOUR WAY FOR LABOR DAY by Virginia Willis

Burgers on the grill are as All-American as baseball and apple pie. And, even as our summer is ending, we love celebrating Labor Day with cookouts on the grill. Our attraction to the scent of meat cooking on fire is basic; the wafting gray smoke seems to awaken some sort of primordial urge buried deep in the recesses of our carnivorous brains. According to National Eating Trends research, it’s estimated that when one out of every five times Americans fire up the grill, it’s to cook a burger.

HAVE IT YOUR WAY FOR LABOR DAY by Virginia Willis

But, burgers aren’t just for backyards anymore. Chefs have flipped those patties into the world of haute cuisine. Perhaps one of the most famous burgers of recent memory was the DB Burger created by the renowned chef Daniel Boulud in New York City. The DB Burger set the stage a decade ago and quickly took primal burger urges to a whole new level.

No worries, you don’t have to go to Manhattan or spend a fortune to find a great burger. You can make one at home. Building a better beef hamburger starts with the beef. Ground meat is not all the same. Ground chuck, ground sirloin, or a combination of the two produces a flavorful moist hamburger. Ground chuck is from the shoulder, an area that gets enough exercise to provide hearty flavor, but contains enough fat to make it juicy, and not so much that the patty shrinks down to nothing when cooked. Although the USDA now recommends all beef be cooked to 160º or at least medium doneness, many chefs and gourmands choose flavor over safety and cook hamburgers to rare or medium-rare.

HAVE IT YOUR WAY FOR LABOR DAY by Virginia Willis

You can also build a better burger from other meats than beef. Fish, especially tuna and salmon, both make a great burger. (Make sure you follow Seafood Watch guidelines for best choices.) Lamb burgers are meaty and rich and on the lighter side, chicken and turkey make great burgers, too.

For your Labor Day Weekend, I am sharing 5 different burger recipes!

Please let Ty and me know what you think! If you post a photo of your burger to on Ty’s Facebook page and tag my Facebook page, too you will enter a drawing to win a signed copy of my latest cookbook, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all!  All pics need to be up before Wednesday September 4, 2013. All names will be put in a hat and the winner will be chosen at random. US only, please. Let’s get those grills going!

HAVE IT YOUR WAY FOR LABOR DAY by Virginia Willis

Grass-Fed Bleu Burgers – Serves 4

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck, round, or sirloin grass-fed beef
  • ¼ cup minced sweet onion
  • 4 teaspoons BBQ Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons bleu cheese
  • canola oil, for oiling grill rack
  • 4 toasted buns, for serving
  • Sliced tomatoes, romaine lettuce, sliced sweet onion, for serving
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
1. Ignite about 6 quarts (1 large chimney or about 6 pounds) charcoal and burn until coals are completely covered with thin coating of light gray ash, 20 to 30 minutes. Spread coals evenly over grill bottom, position grill rack above the coals, and heat until medium-hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill surface for no longer than 3 or 4 seconds). Or, for a gas grill, turn all burners on gas grill to high, close lid, and heat until very hot, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Combine the beef, onion, BBQ Sauce, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Taste the mixture as described above. Once the seasoning is right take 1/4 of the mixture and shape into a flat patty, make a depression in the center of patty and place 1 tablespoon bleu cheese in the center of the meat.  Form meat around the cheese to enclose it.

3. Scrape hot grill rack clean with wire brush. Lightly dip wadded paper towels in canola oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe grill rack. Grill patties, uncovered, without pressing down on them, until well seared on first side, about 2 1/2 minutes. Flip burgers with metal barbecue spatula; continue grilling about 2 minutes for rare, 2 1/2 minutes for medium-rare, or 3 minutes for medium.

4. Serve on a toasted bun with thinly sliced tomato, lettuce, and onion.

HAVE IT YOUR WAY FOR LABOR DAY by Virginia Willis

Pan Seared Fish Burger – Serves 4

  • 1 1/2 pounds small-dice sushi quality wild salmon or yellow fin tuna
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup minced shallots
  • ¼ cup freshly chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped green onion
  • canola oil, for oiling grill rack
  • 4 toasted brioche or challah buns
  • Romaine lettuce, sliced avocado, for serving

Directions
1. Combine in a large bowl the fish, egg, shallots, cilantro, parsley, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and green onion. Season with salt and pepper. Taste the mixture as described above. Once the seasoning is right Divide the mixture into 4 equal patties. Gently press center of patty down creating a slight depression in each patty; repeat with remaining portions of meat. This will prevent the burger from having a bulge in the center and the burger will be thick, but flat and evenly cooked.

2. Ignite about 6 quarts (1 large chimney or about 6 pounds) charcoal and burn until coals are completely covered with thin coating of light gray ash, 20 to 30 minutes. Spread coals evenly over grill bottom, position grill rack above the coals, and heat until medium-hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill surface for no longer than 3 or 4 seconds). Or, for a gas grill, turn all burners on gas grill to high, close lid, and heat until very hot, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Scrape hot grill rack clean with wire brush. Lightly dip wadded paper towels in canola oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe grill rack. (If you are scared about the fish sticking, then simply place a sheet a aluminum foil on the grill and cook the fish patties on the foil once it is hot.) Grill patties, uncovered, without pressing down on them, until well seared on first side, about 2 minutes. Flip burgers with metal barbecue spatula; continue grilling about 2 minutes for rare, 2 1/2 minutes for medium-rare. (Fish burgers should be served rare to mid rare.)

4. Serve on a toasted bun with a crunchy piece of romaine lettuce, slices of thick avocado seasoned with a sprinkle of sea salt and a spread of wasabi mayonnaise.

HAVE IT YOUR WAY FOR LABOR DAY by Virginia Willis

Moroccan Style Lamb Burgers – Serves 4
*Harissa is a Tunisian hot sauce that often comes in a tube or a can. It’s absolute magic with lamb. Give a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to these burgers so the flavors really pop once they come off the grill.

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely grated onion
  • 1 tablespoon harissa
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • canola oil, for oiling grill rack
  • 4 grilled pita bread pockets, for serving
  • Sliced tomato, green leaf lettuce, thinly sliced onion, for serving
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
1. Combine the lamb, paprika, cumin, black pepper, onion, garlic, parsley, and red pepper. Cover and refrigerate to marinate at least 2 hours or overnight. Season with salt and pepper. Taste the mixture as described above. Once the seasoning is right divide the mixture into 4 equal patties. Gently press center of patty down creating a slight depression in each patty; repeat with remaining portions of meat. This will prevent the burger from having a bulge in the center and the burger will be thick, but flat and evenly cooked.

2. Ignite about 6 quarts (1 large chimney or about 6 pounds) charcoal and burn until coals are completely covered with thin coating of light gray ash, 20 to 30 minutes. Spread coals evenly over grill bottom, position grill rack above the coals, and heat until medium-hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill surface for no longer than 3 or 4 seconds). Or, for a gas grill, turn all burners on gas grill to high, close lid, and heat until very hot, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Scrape hot grill rack clean with wire brush. Lightly dip wadded paper towels in vegetable oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe grill rack. Grill patties, uncovered, without pressing down on them, until well seared on first side, about 2 1/2 minutes. Flip burgers with metal barbecue spatula; continue grilling about 2 minutes for rare, 2 1/2 minutes for medium-rare, or 3 minutes for medium.

4. Serve in grilled pita pockets with shredded lettuce, tomato, and onion.

HAVE IT YOUR WAY FOR LABOR DAY by Virginia Willis

Spiced Turkey Burgers – Serves 4
*The pear will provide a little moisture and the egg is needed to hold the mixture together. The rosemary sage combination is savory and delicious.

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey (a combination of light and dark meat is best)
  • 2 medium firm pears, peeled, cored, and coarsely grated
  • ¼ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Canola oil, for oiling the grill rack
  • Toasted onion rolls, for serving
  • Sliced tomato, green leaf lettuce, thinly sliced onion, for serving
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
1. Combine the turkey, pear, parsley, sage, rosemary, allspice, and egg in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper. Taste the mixture as described above. Once the seasoning is right divide the mixture into 4 equal patties. Gently press center of patty down creating a slight depression in each patty; repeat with remaining portions of meat. This will prevent the burger from having a bulge in the center and the burger will be thick, but flat and evenly cooked.

2. Ignite about 6 quarts (1 large chimney or about 6 pounds) charcoal and burn until coals are completely covered with thin coating of light gray ash, 20 to 30 minutes. Spread coals evenly over grill bottom, position grill rack above the coals, and heat until medium-hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill surface for no longer than 3 or 4 seconds). Or, for a gas grill, turn all burners on gas grill to high, close lid, and heat until very hot, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Scrape hot grill rack clean with wire brush. Lightly dip wadded paper towels in vegetable oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe grill rack. Grill patties, uncovered, without pressing down on them, until well seared on first side, about 1 to 2 minutes. Flip burgers with metal barbecue spatula; continue grilling until well-seared on both sides. Move to the cooler edge of the grill and cook for 3 more minutes on both sides and the meat is completely cooked all the way through and the juices run clear, an additional 3 to 4 minutes. (The temperature should register 165°F when measured with an instant read thermometer.)

4. Serve on a toasted onion roll with tomato, lettuce, and onion.

HAVE IT YOUR WAY FOR LABOR DAY by Virginia Willis

Sriracha Chicken Burgers – Serves 4
*Sriracha gives these chickens burgers just enough kick to make things interesting.

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (a combination of light and dark meat is best)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup fresh whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce, more for serving
  • ¼ cup very finely chopped green onion
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Toasted wholewheat buns, for serving
  • Lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced dill pickles, for serving

Directions
1. Place the chicken in a mixing bowl. Using a rubber spatula, fold in egg,
bread crumbs, sriracha, and onion, salt and pepper. Form chicken mixture into 4 patties and refrigerate until ready to cook. (Refrigerating will help the patties stay together when cooking.)

2. Ignite about 6 quarts (1 large chimney or about 6 pounds) charcoal and burn until coals are completely covered with thin coating of light gray ash, 20 to 30 minutes. Spread coals evenly over grill bottom, position grill rack above the coals, and heat until medium-hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill surface for no longer than 3 or 4 seconds). Or, for a gas grill, turn all burners on gas grill to high, close lid, and heat until very hot, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Scrape hot grill rack clean with wire brush. Lightly dip wadded paper towels in vegetable oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe grill rack. Grill patties, uncovered, without pressing down on them, until well seared on first side, about 1 to 2 minutes. Flip burgers with metal barbecue spatula; continue grilling until well-seared on both sides. Move to the cooler edge of the grill and cook for 3 more minutes on both sides and the meat is completely cooked all the way through and the juices run clear, an additional 3 to 4 minutes. (The temperature should register 165°F when measured with an instant read thermometer.)

4. Serve on toasted whole grain buns with lettuce, sliced tomato, and dill pickles.

Virginia Willis

 

 

 

 

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Photos courtesy of Virginia Willis / Boy and Grill photo courtesy of Big Green Egg.