For the football fan who cooks, tailgates are a beautiful thing.
Unlike other parties where the host feels a lot of pressure to impress, this pregame festivity can be as fancy or down-home casual as the cook likes or has time for on any given Saturday or Sunday during football season. So long as the conversation and cold beer are flowing, and there’s plenty of great-tasting food to nosh on while you critique the competition, the gathering can’t help but to be a hit.
That said, you still have to come up with a menu that travels well and doesn’t require a ton of work once you hit the stadium parking lot. Not to mention lends itself to eating while standing up in crowded quarters.
Enter the not-so-humble hamburger.
Smothered under a variety of toppings and condiments or nearly naked on the bun, with just a squirt of Heinz ketchup separating meat from bread, burgers are a traditional game-day favorite.
This season, we’d like to help you build a better burger, with some fresh takes on the standard components. All of them can easily be made ahead with just a few simple ingredients. A few can do double duty, serving as side dishes for bigger appetites or as a tasty dip for chips and sliced veggies.
At the heart of every great burger is the patty, so pay attention when it comes to buying the meat. With ground beef, an 80/20 blend of lean to fat is best, says Jim Calato of City Gourmet Catering in Pittsburgh.; any more fat, and you not only stand a good chance of flare-up during grilling, but also the burger will shrink well beyond the size of the bun.
Tempting as it might be to make and freeze the burgers in advance, the best burgers, says Calato, are those made fresh right before cooking. “Ice crystals compromise the quality of the meat,” he says. Even more important is a light touch. Overworking the meat when shaping it into patties is a recipe for dense, dry disaster.
For even cooking, make the center of the patty thinner than the edges, as burgers plump when cooking. A little salt sprinkled on the outside will make for an extra-crispy crust.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service
One way to immediately up your burger game is to experiment with different meats. Below, we offer two patties that go beyond the traditional beef blend. To make them even more tailgate-friendly (i.e., easy to balance in one hand), consider shaping them into 3-ounce sliders and serving them on dinner-sized rolls or brioche.
1 pound chorizo sausage
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
3/4 cup red wine
Mix ingredients together in large bowl. Form meat into eight individual patties. Place burgers on a hot grill, and cook until desired doneness, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Serve burgers topped with provolone cheese, fried onions, lettuce and chipotle mayonnaise (2 cups mayonnaise blended with 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce).
Makes 8 burgers.
— Jim Calato, City Gourmet Group
BUFFALO TURKEY BURGERS
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey breast
1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon grill seasoning
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 scallions, whites and greens, finely chopped
1 rib celery, from the heart, finely chopped
Vegetable oil, for drizzling
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup hot sauce (such as Frank’s)
In a large bowl, combine first six ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Score into 4 equal portions and form them into patties slightly thinner at the center than at the edges for even cooking and to ensure a flat surface (burgers plump as they cook). Drizzle the patties with oil.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook burgers, flipping once, 10 to 12 minutes, or until the juices run clear. Remove to a plate. Wipe pan clean and reduce heat to low. Melt butter in pan and stir in hot sauce. Return the burgers to the skillet and turn to coat in the hot sauce-butter mixture.
Makes 4 burgers.
— “The Book of Burger” by Rachael Ray
1 1/2 pounds good ripe tomatoes (Roma are best), cored and coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon grated or minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeno or other pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced, or red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste
Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
Taste and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate until ready to use; this will keep at least a week.
Makes about 1 pint.
— Mark Bittman, The New York Times
GRILLED GREEN-ONION MAYONNAISE
8 green onions, scallions or small bulb onions
Olive oil, for brushing
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
Prepare a medium-hot grill. Place a perforated grill rack over the grill grate. Brush the onions with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Place scallions on the perforated grill rack and grill, turning every minute or so, until the onions get good grill marks. Let cool.
Chop the onions and combine with mayonnaise, lemon zest, lemon juice and basil until well-blended. Serve right away or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Makes about 2/3 cup.
— “The Gardener & The Grill: The Bounty of the Garden Meets the Sizzle of the Grill” by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig