By RENEE MORGAN
Time to fire up the grill and ice down the beer! Friday, Sept. 18th is what could only be described as the Holy Grail of all food holidays, featuring an All-American favorite of carnivores everywhere.
It’s National Cheeseburger Day!
Boy, did I enjoy the research for this article. There is nothing that says “its still summer” like a big, juicy cheeseburger with all the fixings. So in the interest of providing you, the reader, with only the best story, pictures and article, adorable hubby, my friend Deby, and I hunkered down around the grill and took one for the team. I think we came up with what can only be described as the perfect cheeseburger. Let me break it all down for ya.
First of all, the kind of meat counts. It must have a fair amount of fat content. I like to use 80 percent beef, 20 percent fat, ground chuck. This higher percentage of fat will allow the beef to self-baste as it cooks so it will stay juicier. It will also shrink more as it cooks, so you might want to beef up your patties a bit. Ha! Get it? “Beef” up your patties.
I use about a third of a pound for each burger, mix in a nice big pinch of salt and pepper, a little garlic powder and a couple of dashes of Worcestershire Sauce. Then, I form my patties, keeping in mind the size of the buns, put a big ole’ thumb print indention in the center of each patty and lay them out on a cookie sheet wrapped in foil. (I’ll tell you why in a minute.) The indention will keep the patty from puffing up in the center as it cooks so that it ends up looking more like a giant meatball.
For grilling burgers, I like a charcoal grill. I know, I know…it takes too long, you say. It’s messy to set up, you say. You know, once you get the hang of it, it’s really not too bad. Start by removing the top grate of the grill and arranging the charcoal briquettes in the bottom of the grill in a pyramid fashion. Give it a good squirt of lighter fluid but don’t over soak it. Then light it and let it go for about 20-30 minutes until the charcoal is white and hot. Carefully spread the charcoal out in the grill and replace the top grate. Next, give that grate a good swipe with a thick wad of paper towel soaked in oil to grease up the grate. Now you’re ready to grill those burgers.
Carefully lay the burgers out on the grill, spacing them evenly. This next part is very important. DON’T press or poke them or move them around. Pressing or poking them will result in dry, tasteless burgers. Moving them around before they’re ready will rip the patties and interrupt the cooking process since they’ll probably still be stuck to the grate. Trust me on this! When the patties are cooked enough on the first side, they will turn loose on the grill all on their own and you’ll easily be able to flip them over to cook on the other side.
Remember the foil I talked about earlier? Now is the time to remove it from the cookie sheet. That way you’ll have a fresh, clean pan to put the cooked meat on without hauling two pans out to the grill. Cook them until they reach about 155-160 degrees, depending on your preference. The residual heat will continue the cooking process until they reach the food safety required 165 degrees.
Now we’ve come to the really important part…the toppings.
Of course, cheese is paramount. It IS National Cheeseburger Day, after all. I like a nice sharp cheddar, but it kinda depends on what other toppings you intend on using.
For example, grilled mushrooms and onions practically scream for a mild, creamy slice of Swiss. Anyway, I digress.
For my perfect cheeseburger, I started with a layer of mayo on both the top and bottom bun. Then a layer of crisp, cold lettuce. Again, personal preference is at play here. I like romaine, but many prefer iceberg. Next, the star of the show, that hot, juicy, glistening hunk of meat. Then that sharp cheddar, a couple of slices of beautiful bacon and whatever other condiments you like. I added a slice of ‘mater, a couple of rings of onion, two or three of my homemade dill pickles (Yum!), a glob of my homemade tomato jam (You do not even know the goodness!) and topped it off with the pièce de résistance — beer battered, deep fried jalapenos. I could hardly get my mouth around that burger, but I can assure you, I persevered.
You can serve that burger up with a big ole’ pile of Parmesan potato wedges.
Happy National Cheeseburger Day, everybody! I just love a holiday, don’t you?
Beer Battered, Deep Fried Jalapenos
Canola Oil for frying
¼ cup whole milk
1 cup all purpose flour
¾ cup beer of choice
Salt and Pepper to taste
Whisk together the milk, flour, beer, eggs, salt and pepper. Pour oil into a cast iron skillet to about a 2-inch depth and heat until hot and shimmering. Drain the liquid off the jalapenos and dredge them in the batter. Use a slotted spoon to retrieve the jalapenos from the batter, shaking off most of the excess. Carefully lower them into the hot oil and fry until they are golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels and enjoy.