Treat your family to burger night at home during summer months

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By Ann Cipperly

The Opelika Rotary Club, along with their satellite group, Happy Hour Rotary, recently provided a fun day of tasting various burgers while helping the East Alabama Food Bank’s backpack program feed food insecure children. Whether you attended this year or not, make plans to be there next year. Meanwhile, treat your family to a special burger night at home every week during summer.

Try different cheeses and toppings on burgers each week, or let everyone create their own with a bar of toppings and condiments. While Vidalia onions are good freshly chopped on burgers, try grilling or caramelizing the onions. It is easy by slowly sautéing sliced onions in a skillet with a small amount of olive oil until they are a deep golden brown.

Cheddar, American, Swiss, bleu, Gruyere, Gouda, Smoked Gouda and pepper jack are all good on burgers. If you are a fan of pimento cheese, try topping it on a burger or stuff it in the hamburger before cooking. We have also found burgers that were good with a cheddar cheese sauce, especially if the burger is topped with sautéed mushrooms.

A cheese sauce is easy to make and can be prepared ahead and reheated. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a skillet and stir in 3 Tbsp. flour, blending well. Slowly add 2 cups milk, stirring until it boils and is thick. Add 1 cup or more shredded cheddar cheese and stir until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place a tablespoon or more of the cheese sauce on top of the burger and top with the bun. It can be a little messy to eat, but it stretches cheese if you don’t have much.

Offer a variety of toppings along with cheese and condiments, such as sliced tomatoes, lettuce, onions, pickles, avocado slices, fried green tomatoes, bacon, tomato jam, sautéed mushrooms, roasted red peppers, fried egg, fried onion rings, among others.

A good way to experiment with burger toppings is using slider buns. The small hamburger buns are easy to find in grocery stores and allows everyone to try different topping combinations.

Dr. Ron Herring creates delectable sliders by adding ranch dressing, Dale’s Marinade and garlic powder to hamburger meat. These are so good they don’t need additional toppings.

Toasted buns enhance the flavor of burgers, especially if they have been brushed with melted butter or olive oil. Buns can be toasted by placing the cut side down into a skillet or cut side up under the broiler. Watch carefully or they will burn. If you are grilling burgers, toast the buns on the grill for a few seconds after the hamburgers are cooked.

If you want the best hamburger buns, you can make them from scratch with Nicole Roberts’ recipe. She makes homemade buns for their cookouts.

Whether burgers are grilled or cooked on a stove top, be sure they are fully cooked. Uncooked hamburgers prepared with commercial ground beef are a risk for everyone, especially children 5 and under and senior citizens.

To test for doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer in the side of a burger into the center. Commercial ground beef should be cooked to at least 160F.

Turkey burgers are an option for those watching fat and calories. Margo Herndon prepares Tasty Turkey Burgers with Gruyere cheese, green onions and Dijon mustard. Check turkey burgers with an instant-read thermometer to be sure they are fully cooked at 165F.

This summer, you may decide to have your own “burger wars” at home to see who can create the best burger with assorted cheeses and toppings.

Cipperly can be contacted by email at recipes@cipperly.com.

Recipes:

Homemade Hamburger Buns
Nichole Roberts
3/4 to 1 cup lukewarm water
2 Tbsp. butter
1 large egg
3 ½ cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. instant yeast
*For best results (a smooth, slightly soft dough), use the smaller amount of water in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate); and something in between the rest of the time.
Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients by hand, mixer or bread machine to make a soft, smooth dough.
Cover dough, and let rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until it’s nearly doubled in bulk.
Gently deflate dough, and divide into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a ground ball; flatten to about 3-inch across. Place buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until noticeably puffy.
Brush buns with about half of the melted butter.
Bake buns in a preheated 375 oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven, and brush with remaining melted butter. This will give buns a satiny, buttery crust.
Cool buns on a rack. Makes 8 large buns.

Classic Cheeseburger
Cattlemen’s Association
1 lb. ground beef
1 1/2 tsp. steak seasoning blend
4 hamburger buns, split
4 slices cheese (such as Cheddar, American, Swiss, etc.)
4 lettuce leaves
4 tomato slices
Optional Toppings (such as ketchup, mustard, onion slices, pickles)
Combine ground beef and steak seasoning in large bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Lightly shape into four 1/2-inch thick patties.
Place patties on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 8 to 10 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, 7 to 9 minutes) until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160°F, turning occasionally.
About 2 minutes before burgers are done, place buns, cut sides down, on grid. Grill until lightly toasted. During last minute of grilling, top each burger with cheese slice.
Stove Top Method
To prepare on stovetop, heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Place patties in skillet; cook 12 to 15 minutes until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160°F, turning occasionally.
Cooking times are for fresh or thoroughly thawed ground beef. Color is not a reliable indicator of ground beef doneness.
Line bottom of each bun with lettuce leaf; top with tomato slice, burger and toppings, as desired. Close sandwiches.

Favorite Sliders
Dr. Ron Herring
2 lbs. hamburger meat
½ cup ranch dressing
¼ cup Dale’s Marinade
1 Tbsp. seasoning salt
1 Tbsp. pepper (coarse ground)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. minced onion (optional)
Mix ingredients thoroughly. Pat out to make 10-12 small burgers. Grill until done. Top with cheese of choice as well as usual condiments. Serve on Pepperidge Farms Slider buns.

Tasty Turkey Burgers
Margo Herndon
1 lb. ground turkey breast
½ cup grated Gruyere (or other white cheese)
3 green onions, chopped
¼ cup breadcrumbs (I use whole wheat bread and chop it up in food processor)
¼ cup Dijon or coarse ground mustard
¼ tsp. minced garlic
Mix all ingredients together and shape into patties. Cook in skillet with a little olive oil until brown, crispy and fully cooked.

Juicy Cheeseburgers
Tommie Agee
1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
½ packet Lipton Onion Soup mix
Pinch of salt
4 slices extra sharp cheddar cheese
4 wheat buns
Tomatoes slices
Onions
Lettuce
Mustard
Ketchup
Mayonnaise
Mix ground beef, soup mix, egg, and salt together. Shape into 4 baseball shaped balls then flatten to about ½ thick. Grill or pan fry in about 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. After burgers are done place cheese on top and let it melt.
Prepare buns by spreading mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise; add slice of tomato, onion, and lettuce, then add meat and cheese.
Optional Sauce
Burgers can also be placed in an optional sauce after cooking. Combine ½ cup Dale’s sauce, 3 cups water and ¼ cup apple juice. Place cooked burgers in the sauce and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve. Agee also uses this mixture as a marinade for steaks. He places steaks in the mixture a day ahead before grilling.

Lamb Burgers
Pat and Frank Randle
2 lb. ground lamb
1 egg
1 tsp. Bavarian style seasoning, such as Penzey’s
1 tsp. salt
2-3 gloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
Form into patties weighing about 4-5 ounces each.
Grill as you do hamburgers made with ground beef, but be watchful as lamb cooks a bit quicker.
Patties ½ inch thick should cook about 5 minutes per side, or until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees for medium doneness.
Serve with your usual condiments.

Savory Cheeseburgers
Donna Woodham
2 lb. ground chuck
5 Ritz crackers, crumbled fine
2 eggs
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Montreal steak seasoning
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Form patties. Place in refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to placing on grill. Push the middle of the patties with your thumb to create a dimple to help prevent rupture.
For best results cook with wood or charcoal briquettes. Add cheese to burgers when desired doneness is reached.
Southwest Version
For Southwest version, omit Montreal steak seasoning. Add 1/2 large sweet onion (diced) that has been sautéed and 2 jalapeno peppers (seed and membrane for your desired hotness).

Caramelized Onions
Slice onions and sauté in a skillet with a small amount of olive oil or a mixture of olive oil and butter. Stir occasionally until the onions are a deep golden brown. Sprinkle salt over onions, if desired.

Tuscan Burger with Avocado
Cattlemen’s Association
1 lb. ground beef (95% lean)
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
2 Tbsp. finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup basil leaves, divided
1 tsp. kosher salt
4 whole-grain hamburger buns, split
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh fennel bulb (core removed), optional
Mash avocado in small bowl (should be chunky, not smooth). Add sun-dried tomatoes and half of garlic; mix well. Set aside.
Combine beef, remaining garlic, 2 tablespoons minced basil leaves and salt in medium bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Lightly shape into four 1/2-inch thick patties.
Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Place patties in skillet; cook 10 to 12 minutes to (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally. Remove patties from skillet. Place buns, cut side down in skillet, cook 1 minute or until lightly toasted.
Place burgers on bottom of buns; top each with equal amounts avocado-tomato spread, fennel and remaining basil leaves. Close sandwiches.

Garlic Seasoned Turkey Burgers with Guacamole
4 ground turkey breast patties
1 tsp. garlic granules
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin or paprika
½ Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Guacamole, homemade or purchased
Lettuce, tomato, onion, optional
In a bowl, mix garlic, salt, pepper, cumin or paprika until blended.
Brush each patty on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic mixture on both sides.
Cook patties over medium-high heat, covered, in a skillet for about 5 to 6 minutes per side, until fully cooked.
Serve on toasted buns topped with guacamole. Add lettuce, tomato and onion, if desired.

Spicy Cheeseburger Sliders
Cattlemen’s Association
1 lb. ground beef (96% lean)
9 small whole wheat hamburger buns, split, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground chipotle chili powder
2 slices pepper Jack cheese, cut in quarters
Toppings:
Barbecue sauce, lettuce, tomato slices, pickles (optional)
Tear one hamburger bun into pieces. Place in food processor or blender container. Cover; pulse on and off, to form fine crumbs.
Combine breadcrumbs, beef, garlic and chili powder in medium bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Lightly shape into eight 1/2-inch thick mini patties.
Place patties on grill over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 8 to 9 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, 9 to 10 minutes) until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160°F, turning occasionally. Evenly top with cheese during last minute of grilling.
Place burgers on bottoms of remaining eight buns. Top with desired Toppings. Close sandwiches.

Bistro Cheeseburgers
Cattlemen’s Association
1 lb. ground beef
4 slices sweet onion (1/2-inch)
Vegetable oil
4 slices Swiss cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
4 crusty rolls, split, toasted
Romaine lettuce, tomato slices
Lightly shape ground beef into four 3/4-inch thick patties. Brush onion with oil. Place patties on grid over medium, ash-covered coals; arrange onion around patties. Grill, covered, 11 to 15 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, covered, 13 to 14 minutes) until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160°F, turning occasionally. Season with salt and pepper after turning. About 1 minute before patties are done, top each with 2 cheese slices.
Combine mayonnaise and mustard; spread on top halves of rolls. Serve burgers and onion in rolls with lettuce and tomato.

Lean Mean Cheeseburger
Cattlemen’s Association
1 lb. ground beef (93% lean or leaner)
2 Tbsp. quick-cooking oats
1/2 tsp. steak seasoning blend
4 seeded or whole wheat hamburger buns, split
4 slices low fat cheese, such as Cheddar or American
Toppings:
Lettuce leaves, tomato slices (optional)
Place oats in food safe plastic bag. Seal bag securely, squeezing out excess air. Roll over bag with rolling pin to crush oats to a fine consistency.
Combine ground beef, oats, and steak seasoning blend in large bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Lightly shape into four 1/2-inch patties.
Place patties on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 8 to 10 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, 7 to 9 minutes) until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160°F, turning occasionally.
Line bottom of each bun with lettuce and tomato, if desired; top with burger and cheese slice. Close sandwiches.

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