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JeanMarie Brownson: Father’s Day burgers on the grill

From the 5 recipes to make on the grill this week series
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Ground venison makes a deliciously rich, yet lean, out-of-the-ordinary burger.

Love. We use the word freely in this country. We love sunny days, we love hanging with our friends, we love baseball, we love burgers and fries. Many of us love the fathers in our lives too.

Let’s put that love on the grill this Father’s Day. I say we hang with friends, watch some baseball, and cook spicy double burgers with lots of cheese in honor of fathers near and far.

First, we’re taking a cue from our favorite burger stand and spreading toasted burger buns with a spicy cheese spread. It’s simple; mash sharp cheddar and soft cream cheese together with hot sauce and roasted red peppers. A rich mushroom and onion saute, seasoned with a bit of steak sauce, adds luxurious flavor and texture.

Ground venison makes a deliciously rich, yet lean, out-of-the-ordinary burger. You can order it online or find it at Whole Foods and specialty meat markets. If you’re feeling hesitant about a gamey flavor, you can mix it 50-50 with lean ground beef. Venison, like beef, will be most juicy when cooked to medium or medium-rare. I prefer to use ground turkey for guests that request a well-cooked burger.

Thin burgers cook quickly, so be sure everything is ready before you set them on the grill. Have a helper to assemble the double burgers as soon as they are cooked.

Serve the burgers with potato salad or homemade sweet potato fries and a leafy green salad dressed with fruity olive oil and red wine vinegar. The fathers in my life would be super happy with ice cream sundaes topped with hot caramel sauce for dessert. Happy to oblige.

Double Burgers with spicy cheese, mushrooms and onions

Makes 4 burgers

  • 1 cup mesquite or hickory wood chips
  • 1/2 of an 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped roasted red bell peppers
  • 2 green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large red onion, peeled, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons steak sauce (or 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and 1 tablespoon ketchup)
  • Salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground venison OR ground beef (90 lean 10 fat) OR a combination
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: garlic powder, freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 slices leaf lettuce
  • 4 thin slices from a large ripe tomato
  • 4 whole grain or brioche burger buns, split

1. Soak wood chips in water to cover for at least 30 minutes.

2. Mix cream cheese, cheddar cheese, roasted peppers, green onions and hot sauce in a small bowl until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate covered, up to three days. Use at room temperature.

3. Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add oil and onion. Cook, stirring until onion is nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in steak sauce, salt and pepper; remove from heat. Refrigerate covered, up to three days. Reheat so it’s warm for the burgers.

4. Put ground meat, 3/4 teaspoon salt, garlic powder and pepper into a medium-size bowl. Use clean hands to mix gently to distribute all ingredients well. Shape into 8 (3-ounces each) burger patties about 4 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/3-inch thick. Refrigerate on a tray while you prepare the grill and garnishes.

5. Preheat a gas grill to medium hot. Or, prepare a charcoal grill for direct cooking and let coals burn until covered with a gray ash. Drain wood chips and add them to a piece of foil to set on the gas grill or put them directly on the hot coals if cooking with charcoal.

6. Set the cheese mixture, onion mixture, lettuce and tomato near the cooking area.

7. Set the buns on the grill, cut side down, to lightly toast them, about 30 seconds. Use a dull knife to spread the cheese mixture thickly over the toasted buns. Put the tomato slices on the bottom buns. Set aside.

8. Put the burgers on the grill directly over the heat source. Cover the grill and cook 3 minutes. Flip the burgers, press them flat and cook covered until medium-rare, about 2 minutes more. Remove burgers to a tray.

9. Pile 2 burgers on each of the bun bottoms. Top with some onion mixture and a lettuce leaf. Put the top bun in place and serve right away.

(JeanMarie Brownson is a James Beard Award-winning author and the recipient of the IACP Cookbook Award for her latest cookbook, “Dinner at Home.” JeanMarie, a chef and authority on home cooking, Mexican cooking and specialty food, is one of the founding partners of Frontera Foods. She co-authored three cookbooks with chef Rick Bayless, including “Mexico: One Plate at a Time.” JeanMarie has enjoyed developing recipes and writing about food, travel and dining for more than four decades.)

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