Food & Drink

Burgers worth your labor

Many folks will enjoy Labor Day weekend with a get-together that involves the grill.

You could just slap some ground beef on the grill. But why go that route when some prominent chefs have elevated the lowly burger to new and gourmet heights?

Replace those seeded super market buns with artisan breads, and in addition to humble ground chuck, try rock shrimp, chicken and lamb. As for condiments, try cilantro-laced pestos, mango salsas and a Greek-style tzatziki. Best of all, you can find the chefs' secrets in some of the summer's hottest cookbooks.

Hubert Keller's culinary reputation was made at San Francisco's renowned Fleur de Lys. But it's his inventive Burger Bar at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay and, this fall, Macy's Union Square in San Francisco that raised the bar for barbecue. And his new book, Burger Bar, offers ideas ranging from Brazilian rock shrimp burgers to ostrich, buffalo and pesto-laced beef. He's even got a recipe for s'mores burgers — sweet, not savory.

But it's his mixture of wild creativity and down-to-earth practicality that will endear him to home cooks. Stick bamboo skewers through your about-to-be-grilled onion slices, he says, and you'll never lose a Vidalia to the coals again.

Google's former executive chef has a new book out, too. Charlie Ayers, who now helms Calafia restaurant in Palo Alto, Calif., infuses his colorful cookbook, Food 2.0, that fast food can be fresh and healthful, too. So his lamb burgers, topped with tzatziki and marinated onions, go from supermarket to table in less than half an hour.

We rounded out our fabulous burgers list with a slider variation from Cindy Pawlcyn's Appetizers.

Fire up the barbecue.Cilantro pesto beef burger

2 pounds ground chuck, chilled

Sea salt and black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 slices provolone cheese

4 ciabatta buns

1 large tomato, sliced

Large handful arugula

Cilantro-arugula pesto

12 roasted, salted macadamia nuts

1 or 2 garlic cloves, to taste

1 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed

2 cups packed arugula

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1⁄3 teaspoon grated lime zest

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano

Grilled onion steaks

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 large Vidalia or Maui onion, peeled and cut into four thick slices

4 to 6 soaked bamboo skewers

For the pesto: Finely chop the nuts and garlic in a food processor. Add the cilantro, arugula, lime juice and zest and process to coarse puree. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a thin stream and process until smooth. Pulse in the cheese and season to taste. The pesto will keep, chilled, up to two days.

For the burger: In a bowl, mix the meat, ¼ cup of the pesto and 1½ teaspoons pepper. Divide the meat into four evenly sized patties and chill several hours or overnight.

For the onion steaks: Preheat the barbecue. Whisk together oil, mustard, honey and vinegar, and set aside. Thread one or two skewers through each onion slice. Brush onions with the oil mixture, season with salt and pepper, and grill for 15 minutes, flipping several times as they caramelize.

Season the meat on both sides with salt and pepper, and grill for 7 to 10 minutes to desired doneness. For the last minute or two of cooking, drape a slice of cheese over each burger to melt.

To serve, spread the bun bottoms with pesto. Top with tomato and arugula. Add the patties and then a grilled onion.

Makes 4 servings.

from Burger Bar

Lamb burgers with tzatziki

1 pound high-quality ground lamb

1 teaspoon minced garlic

½ teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Ground pepper

Sea salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 artisan style hard rolls

4 handfuls baby spinach leaves

Marinated onions:

½ red onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

Tzatziki sauce:

2-inch piece English cucumber, coarsely grated

¼ cup Greek-style plain yogurt

¼ teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

For the burgers: Mix the lamb, garlic, cloves, cumin and plenty of ground black pepper until well combined. Shape into four burgers. Chill until ready to cook.

For the onions: Mix the red onion with the vinegar and sugar. Let marinate while you prepare the tzatziki sauce.

For the sauce: Squeeze the cucumber to remove excess moisture, then mix with the yogurt, garlic, mint and a little salt and pepper. Chill.

Sprinkle the burgers with a little salt and brush with olive oil. Grill until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes a side.

Split the rolls and layer on the baby spinach leaves, burger, tzatziki sauce and drained, marinated onions.

Makes 4 servings.

From Food 2.0

Brazilian rock shrimp burger

1⁄3-inch piece peeled fresh ginger

1 garlic clove

2 tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons unsweetened coconut milk

Sea salt and black pepper

1½ pounds rock shrimp, chilled (ground chicken or turkey can be used)

1 tablespoon chopped, fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 slices brioche bread or buns

¼ cup mayonnaise

4-8 slices ripe tomato

2 handfuls salad mix

Avocado-Mango Salsa:

1 ripe but firm avocado, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ ripe mango, peeled and diced

3 tablespoons diced red onion

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons diced jicama or water chestnuts, fresh or canned

2 tablespoons red bell pepper, diced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

1 small garlic clove, minced

In a food processor, finely chop the ginger and garlic. Add the coconut milk, 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, shrimp and cilantro and pulse until coarsely ground.

Wet hands, then shape the shrimp mixture into four evenly sized patties, about 1 inch thick. Cover and chill for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.

Mix the salsa ingredients gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Brush the burgers on both sides with oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown, 6-8 minutes.

Toast bread. Brush with mayonnaise, and layer on tomatoes, greens and patties. Add a little mango salsa and cover with remaining bread.

Makes 4 servings.

From Burger Bar

Sunday supper burgers

Dressing:

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup pickle relish

2-3 tablespoons ketchup

3-4 drops Tabasco

1 drop Worcestershire

1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon cognac

Burgers:

2 strips bacon, cut in 1 inch pieces

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 pound ground beef

Sea salt and black pepper

½ cup grated sharp Cheddar

6 small brioche or slider buns

1 cup arugula

1 tablespoon minced scallions

Mix the dressing ingredients, and set aside.

Cook bacon until crisp.

Form the beef into six or more small patties. Season with salt and pepper, and grill them over high heat, a few minutes each side. Top with the grated cheese. When the cheese begins to melt, add a couple rings of the sliced onion.

Spread the bottom of each bun with dressing. Top with arugula, patty, and crisp bacon and minced scallions. Cover with the tops of the buns and serve.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

From Cindy Pawlcyn's Appetizers

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