Burgers and Brew: Three Burgers and the Perfect Brew!

It’s my favorite season of the year which makes it the perfect time to celebrate two of the most splendid human creations of all time: Burgers and Brew! That’s right baby, skip breakfast and lunch, unbutton that top button, and prepare to enter a beer-loving, carnivore’s culinary dream …

Thanks to Foodbuzz’s 24×24 event, I decided to whip up three of the most delicious burgers I could think of, pair them with a perfectly matched brew, and invite some friends over to gorge ourselves on meat patties, drink ice cold beer, and enjoy the beautiful spring weather here in Atlanta, complete with Bocce ball tournament!

There are certain events and memories in life that cannot be separated from the food and beverages consumed during that time period. For me, cold grapes and ice tea at the beach, pate and spinach dip during family gatherings, cookie cake on birthdays, and of course, burgers and beer during barbeques. I hope this post encourages everyone to get outside with friends and family, enjoy the beautiful spring weather wherever you may be, fire up that grill, and make some memories. Enjoy!

The Burgers

According to Jeffrey Tennyson’s Hamburger Heaven: The Illustrated History of the Hamburger, the burger was not a sudden birth, but evolved from a love of steak tartare.  German seafarers acquired a taste for steak tartare in Russia where legend has it Mongol horseman enjoyed their beef raw, tenderizing it by placing it under their saddles. The delicacy became popular in Hamburg, Germany where eventually it was cooked, and brought to the United States by German immigrants. Once in the United States, it was loved and quickly became food for the masses. As Tennyson expresses, “The real American icon is not apple pie. It’s the hamburger.” And for better or worse, I think he’s right.

Grilling Tips for the burgers:

*When you form each patty, make a shallow indentation about the size of a quarter in the middle of the patty to keep it from puffing up on the grill. I highly suggest forming the patties ahead of time and chill in the fridge prior to serving. This makes preparation and grilling much easier. I wrap each patty in saran wrap and stack on a plate.

*The lamb cooks better when chilled at least one hour, but I recommend chilling all patties for at least 30 minutes. We cooked all burgers at about 500 degrees until desired doneness. Use an instant-read thermometer to help you cook exactly to your desired doneness.

*Each recipe makes about four ¼ lb. burgers. I highly suggest fresh baked hamburger buns from a local grocer/baker and don’t forget to toast the buns … yum!

Lamb Kebab Burgers

For these burgers, I wanted a burger patty that was similar to the taste and texture of kebab meat I love getting at Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants here in Atlanta.  The serrano chile pepper adds just a hint of spice. Add more and keep the seeds if you want more heat.

  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • ½ medium yellow onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 serrano chile pepper, seeds removed and minced
  • 1 tbsp. each chopped fresh cilantro and parsley, plus more for topping
  • 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. ground coriander
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • S/P
  • Watercress, rinsed and thick stems removed
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Hamburger buns

Combine all ingredients from the lamb to cayenne pepper in a large bowl; season with S/P and mix to combine. Shape into patties, wrap individual patties in saran, and chill at least one hour until ready to grill.

To plate, spread a generous amount of Greek yogurt on the bottom bun and top grilled burgers with watercress, cucumbers, cilantro and parsley. Sprinkle with S/P.

Loaded Bison Burgers

I LOVE bison … it has a rich, sweet game taste, is a nutritional powerhouse (just like the shitakes on top), and grass-fed meat always makes me happy. The combination of delicate shitake mushrooms, fragrant green onions, salty bacon, and smooth Swiss cheese was the icing on the cake! And I haven’t even talked about the beer pairing yet …

  • 1 lb. ground bison (buffalo)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • S/P
  • Green onions (scallions), sliced
  • Shitake mushrooms, sliced into thirds and stems removed
  • Olive oil
  • Cooked bacon slices
  • Swiss cheese slices
  • Hamburger buns

Mix the ground bison, egg, Worcestershire, garlic, and a generous seasoning of S/P in a large bowl until well-combined. Shape into patties, wrap individual patties in saran, and chill until ready to grill.

Meanwhile, sauté the green onions and shitake mushrooms with a dash of olive oil until soft and tender. Set aside. Cook your bacon if you haven’t done so already.

Top grilled burgers with the onions, mushrooms, bacon slices, and Swiss cheese.

Frita Cubana Hamburger

These are reminiscent of Cuban hamburgers you can often find in Miami. Traditional Cuban hamburgers include freshly fried shoestring potatoes, but I decided to include something that was much easier and provided more of a crunch. I also added fried sweet plantains, which complemented the spiciness of the chorizo quite well.

  • 1 large, ripe plantain (should be soft and mostly black on the skin)
  • Canola oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • ¼ lb. fresh chorizo, casings removed
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 6 saltine crackers, broken up
  • 1 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
  • S/P
  • Pik-Nik Shoestring Potatoes
  • Ketchup
  • Hamburger buns

To fry the plantains, peel and slice diagonally into thin pieces; using a large skillet, heat a thin layer of canola oil and a tbsp. of butter on high until butter is melted and oil hot.  Carefully place the plantain slices into the skillet and fry until light brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Place the ground beef, chorizo, garlic, crackers, paprika, and a sprinkle of S/P in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the meat forms a ball around the blade. Shape into patties, wrap individual patties in saran, and chill until ready to grill.

To plate, spread a generous amount of ketchup on the bottom bun and top grilled burgers with plantains and shoestring potatoes.

The Brew

Once I finalized the burger recipes, I hopped over to a neighborhood store, Ale Yeah!, and asked for some help in pairing the perfect brew. With their help I paired the following brew to each burger:

Lamb and Collete, a seasonal brew by Great Divide Brewing: the strong spice notes in the lamb were paired with a light and refreshing beer with a hint of citrus. Collete is a saisons brew – saisons being a farmhouse ale that was traditionally brewed in the winter, to be consumed throughout the summer months. Although the color and taste is light and slightly dry, there are a lot of complex yeast and fruit flavors that paired nicely with the intensely flavorful, herbal lamb.

Bison and Centennial IPA by Founders Brewing: the richness of the bison was paired with a sweet hoppy brew that I absolutely loved. I’m usually not a big fan of Indian Pale Ales because I find them bitter at times. Centennial IPA, however, was smooth with a beautiful color and floral aroma absent any bitter aftertaste. The smoothness of the brew was a perfect accompaniment to a rich and filling burger.

Frita Cubana and Hoss by Great Divide Brewing: Say hello to my new favorite beer! The guys at Ale Yeah! suggested Hoss as a brew that would complement the spice and flavor of the chorizo really nicely. Not only were they right, but this beer all around is my perfect brew: an earthy, malty lager that finishes crisp. There is distinctive layer of spice cushioned with a smooth fruit note that served in an iced glass was absolutely amazing with the Frita Cubana burger.

On the Side

For sides I decided to make a refreshing cucumber salad and a Southern-style potato salad:

The cucumber salad is refreshing and is a nice way to add some green to your normal barbeque repertoire.  The salad has a tangy finish from the vinegar, but is sweet and fresh on the tongue. A lot of cucumber salads are overly vinegary – you know, “bam!” on the tongue, leaving you reaching for a glass of water. This salad, on the other hand, has a perfect sweet and sour, yin and yang, relationship.  Also, I’m a huge salt fan and like to experiment with different varieties. I used English Grey Sea Salt for this salad and it was great, so feel free to use a similar salt if you prefer something other than regular kosher salt.

The Southern Potato Salad is classic picnic and barbeque fare and complements the burgers and sweet cucumbers perfectly. I love the addition of pickle juice and individual servings with pickle chips and paprika.

Sweet Cucumber Salad

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 English seedless cucumbers
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegars, sugar, and salt; set aside. Using a vegetable peeler, peel alternate strips of skin from the cucumbers; discard skins. Slice cucumber into thin slices and add to the bowl of vinegar. Add the shallots and toss to combine. You can chill in the same bowl, but I prefer to transfer to a rectangular dish or Tupperware so the cucumber marinates a bit more evenly.  Chill for at least an hour. Serve cold and season with salt and pepper just before serving.

* I really don’t like limp cucumbers, so if you plan on making this a day ahead, marinate for several hours and then using a slotted spoon, transfer the salad into another bowl and discard the vinegar dressing. This will prevent the cucumbers from losing their great crunch.

Southern Potato Salad

  • 2 ¾ lb. medium red-skinned potatoes, peeled (about 8)
  • Salt
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup bread and butter sweet pickle juice from jar plus pickle chips for serving
  • 1 ½ tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 hard boiled eggs
  • ¼ cup red onion, minced
  • 2 tbsp. flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Paprika

Place potatoes in a large pot and add water to cover by 2 inches. Season with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 20-30 minutes. Drain. Place potatoes in a large bowl and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk mayonnaise, pickle juice, mustard, and sugar together in a small bowl; season generously with salt and pepper.

Using a large wooden spoon, coarsely smash potatoes so you have larger pieces mixed with well-mashed potatoes. Separate the egg yolks and egg whites from your boiled eggs. Chop all 5 egg yolks and add to the potatoes. Chop 3 of the egg whites and add to the potatoes; discard the remaining 2 or eat! Add the dressing to the potatoes and toss. Add the onion and parsley and gently mix to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasoning with S/P as needed.

Recipe Source: Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe

To Finish

Something fresh, sweet, and not too heavy after a day of burger and brew …

Pear Sorbet

  • 4 ripe pears (I used Bartlett)
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Peel the peers and cut into 1-inch chunks. I don’t like to use a fruit corer because you get less fruit; you can use almost the entire pear if you use a paring knife to cut around the core and seeds.

Place pears in a saucepan with ½ cup water. Cover and cook on medium-high heat for about 15 minutes until the pears are cooked through and tender.

Transfer the pears to a blender and add the remaining ¾ cup water, sugar, and lemon juice. Blend until completely smooth.

Chill the mixture for at least 2 hours and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Recipe Source: David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop


2 thoughts on “Burgers and Brew: Three Burgers and the Perfect Brew!

  1. Jacky Hackett April 30, 2012 / 8:30 PM

    Bocce, burgers, beer…sounds like a great time! Looks delciious.

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