Italian Burgers

burgerThe three day weekends that sandwich summer in the United States send Americans to the grill in large numbers. One of the most common foods for summer grilling is the humble hamburger. Basic burgers are pretty simple. Shape some ground beef into a patty, add a little seasoning, and grill away.

I enjoy a good, basic hamburger as much as the next guy, but sometimes I want something just a little different. Our local farmer’s market offers up grass fed beef hamburger with a little something extra. They grind beef and bacon into the same batch of meat, so you don’t have to grill the bacon and put it on top. It’s right in the burger! You can find this little bit of sheer genius at the farmer’s market in Olympia, Washington, or you can ask your butcher to give it a try. Ask them to grind sirloin and bacon at a ratio of 75%:25%. It’s pretty tasty stuff, and grills up juicy and delicious. If you happen to be in possession of your own meat grinder (don’t laugh. Kitchen Aids have meat grinding attachments), then you can even do it yourself.

My favorite burger, however, is a departure from the traditional burger. The Italian burger mixes sweet or hot Italian sausage (your choice depending on taste preference), hamburger, pesto mayonnaise, fresh mozzarella, and a rustic bun of some type. I like ciabatta for it, but mini baguettes work well, too.

Italian Burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. each bulk Italian sausage (sweet or hot) and ground beef (20 percent fat keeps it from drying out)
  • 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs (or gluten-free bread crumbs plus 1 tablespoon each garlic powder and Italian seasoning)
  • 2 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • Fresh mozzarella (you can find it in the deli section of most grocery stores – fresh mozzarella is packed in liquid), sliced (eliminate for gluten-free)
  • 6 rustic buns such as ciabatta or mini baguettes (or gluten-free buns)
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1 container pre-made pesto or homemade (recipe available here)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (commercial or homemade)

Method

  1. Mix meat, egg yolks, 2 cloves garlic, bread crumbs, and oregano until well combined. I mix with very clean hands to make sure it is well integrated.
  2. Shape burgers to fit your buns and grill or saute until done. Do not overcook.
  3. In the last few minutes of cooking, top with mozzarella until it melts.
  4. While burgers cook, slice buns lengthwise and brush with melted butter containing one clove of minced garlic.
  5. Broil the buns for a few moments to brown (or toss them on the grill for a few moments, cut side down). Alternatively, you can grill your buns and then rub them with a lengthwise sliced clove of garlic to give them a light garlic flavor.
  6. Combine mayonnaise and pesto. Spread the mixture on your buns.
  7. Top with burgers.

These burgers go great with a spicy Zinfandel or Syrah, or you can choose a more traditional Italian wine such as Sangiovese (the grape found in Chianti).

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