Cheeseburger tips for Dad

June 12, 2008

Three times a year I find myself with the same dilemma: what to get my dad for his birthday, Christmas or Father’s Day. He’s a tough person to shop for since he doesn’t do the basic ‘Dad’ stuff. Not only is he not a golfer, but he doesn’t wear ties to work and he has no nifty collections that need augmentation.

Fortunately, my dad does like to grill. And, since the day he discovered instant read thermometers, he’s actually become pretty good at it.

Last week Dad called me up to ask questions about cheeseburgers. It was obvious that he doesn’t read the cookbooks I write since he wanted to know if I had any recipes for burgers that

1. have cheese fillings
2. are coated with sauces.

My last book, Dana’s Top Ten Table, contains 20 burger recipes, many of which are saucy, cheesy or both. So much for having a home grown fan base!

The good news is that I can take this info and make my Dad a little cheeseburger kit for Father’s Day and he won’t know I’m using old material.

Here are some of the tips I’m going to include in his burger kit as well as a recipe for Gourmet Brie Burgers (pictured above). They’re both saucy and cheesy, which makes them pretty much made to order for my Dad!

Tips for My Dad the Cheeseburger Lover:

• Top burgers with sliced cheese only after they are cooked to the desired internal temperature. Adding cheese too early can lead to tough, greasy cheese.
• If topping burgers with crumbled cheese (such as Stilton, Feta, etc), add the cheese to the warm burgers after they’ve been removed from the grill. These cheeses will soften and begin to melt just from the heat in the meat.
• If adding cheese to the inside of a burger to make a molten centre, use cold cheese and ensure it is fully encased by the meat. If there are any gaps, the cheese will drip out into the grill and cause flare-ups. Besides the recipe below which uses Brie, cheddar, Stilton and other semi-soft and firm cheeses can be used as fillings, too. In fact, this recipe I developed for Heinz several years ago is a great example of how to use sliced cheese as a burger filling.
• Adding shredded cheese to burgers is becoming a popular technique in recipes; however, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort. I find that the shredded cheese on the outside surface of the burger scorches easily and you never get a good cheesy bite. Instead the shredded cheese makes the burger seem greasy.

Dana’s Gourmet Brie Burger

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 to 25 minutes

There will never be any shame in serving these super thick, molten cheese filled patties at a dinner party! In fact, you may even get applause. Superbly decadent and wonderfully impressive looking, these glossy burgers are in the same league as fillet mignon but much less expensive to make.

Brie is a soft, mild cheese with a downy, edible rind. As the burgers cook, it will become molten and saucy. Mmmm! As exciting to look at as they are to eat!

1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp (30 mL) ketchup
1 tbsp (15 mL) liquid honey
2 tsp (10 mL) dried thyme leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 tsp (4 mL) each salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, melted
2 lb (1 kg) ground sirloin
1/4 lb (125 g) cold Brie cheese or Camembert, cut into 6 equal-sized cubes
1/2 cup (125 mL) barbecue sauce

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Whisk the egg with the ketchup, honey, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Whisk in the butter until completely combined. Crumble the meat into a large bowl using your fingers. Pour in the egg mixture and gently blend into meat until just combined.

Line a baking sheet with perforated grill foil or greased heavy duty foil that has been pierced all over to allow drainage. Divide the meat mixture into 12 portions. Gently pat one portion of meat into a 1 cup (250 mL) dry measuring cup. Add a piece of the cheese and another portion of meat. Pat firmly to compress the mixture so that the cup is filled to about 3/4 full, making a very thick patty with the cheese sealed inside. Run a butter knife or another knife around the edge of the measuring cup and turn each patty out onto the foil-lined tray. Repeat with remaining meat and cheese.

Transfer the burger-topped tray to the grill. Slide the foil onto the grate. Cook the burgers for 6 minutes. Turn and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, turning at least once and basting often with barbecue sauce, for about 15 minutes longer or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the centre of each patty registers 170F (85C). Serve patties on buns with traditional burger condiments or with a side dish such as roasted potatoes or baked sweet potatoes. Makes 6 burgers.

Bacon-wrapped Brie burgers: Wrap 2 slices of bacon around each raw patty. Tie a piece of butcher’s twine around each patty until snug but not tight. Proceed as directed above.

Recipe and photo from Dana’s Top Ten Table: 200 Fresh Takes on Family-Favourite Meals. Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. Copyright (c) 2007 by Dana McCauley. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.