Even if you’re only going to cook out a few times all summer, chances are you’ll be firing up the grill on July 4. It’s the most popular grilling holiday of the entire year.
Patriotic Americans have been celebrating Independence Day with cookouts since the early part of the 19th century. To mark the not-yet-official holiday’s place in history (Congress wouldn‘t declare the Fourth an unpaid federal holiday until 1870), political leaders back then held rallies that included a big, communal, outdoor meal. Designed to draw a crowd, the menu often included a roasted pig. Sometimes even a whole ox.
Fourth of July cookouts are a bit simpler today, with the humble hot dog and steak -- the thicker, the better -- the most popular items to throw on the grill this season, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association‘s 2014 “State of the Barbecue” report. But we love our burgers, too. Quite a lot, actually, with six out of 10 backyard chefs choosing the time-honored meat sandwich as one of their main attractions.
Here at Food & Flavor, we think everyone who cooks outdoors should have a great burger in his or her wheelhouse. It doesn’t matter if you plan on cooking it over gas, charcoal or camper/cowboy-style over an open flame. It just needs to be easy to prepare, come with creative toppings and be packed with incredible flavor.
Below, we offer three recipes that fit the bill perfectly. They‘re special enough for a major celebration, but not so out-of-the-ordinary that your guests will head for the fried chicken instead. We understand that July 4th is all about tradition.
In the spirit of the holiday, the burgers have a patriotic color scheme -- red (a beef BBQ Kentucky Bourbon Burger), white (a “Other White Meat Burger” made with pork and chorizo) and blue (a veggie burger with a creamy blue cheese topping). To keep the day’s fireworks where they belong -- in the sky at night‘s end instead of in front of the grill after a flare-up -- we‘re also extending some tips for cooking the perfect burgers.
BBQ KENTUCKY BOURBON BURGER
If you love red meat, you‘ll love these bourbon-spiked burgers from baseball legend (and cattle rancher) Nolan Ryan’s new cookbook. (Don’t worry, the alcohol will cook out.) Caramelized onions simmered in chipotle barbecue sauce take it to the next level. “It packs an incomparable, enormous flavor,” he writes.
4 pounds ground chuck (80-20 meat-to-fat ratio)
1 cup Kentucky bourbon, divided
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 large yellow onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup chipotle barbecue sauce
8 ounces cheddar cheese, sliced
8 hamburger buns, toasted
2 large tomatoes, sliced
Preheat the grill to medium-high. Lightly oil the grill grates.
In large bowl, combine ground chuck, ⅔ cup bourbon, Worcestershire, liquid smoke, salt, cumin, paprika and pepper and mix with a large serving fork and spatula. Finish mixing with your hands, but do not overmix.
Form mixture into 8 patties no more than ½-inch thick and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate patties for 30 minutes to allow seasonings to flavor the meat.
While patties are setting up in fridge, start sauce. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add onions and saute until golden brown. Stir in chipotle barbecue sauce and remaining ⅓ cup bourbon and reduce heat to a simmer.
Cook patties for 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium doneness.
Place a slice of cheese on top of each burger and cook until it melts, about 1 minute.
Place burger on each bun bottom, top with sliced tomatoes, and finish with onion-bourbon sauce. Cover with bun tops and serve.
Makes 8 burgers.
-- “The Nolan Ryan Beef & Barbecue Cookbook: Recipes From a Texas Kitchen” by Nolan Ryan (Little, Brown and Co., May 2014, $25)
THE OTHER WHITE MEAT BURGER WITH JALAPENO MINT JELLY
These pork-and-chorizo burgers will set your taste buds on fire with just the right amount of peppery heat. It‘s worth the added effort to make your own jalapeno jelly -- it couldn’t be easier, even if you‘re new to canning, and the results are fabulous. You’ll want to spread the pepper-flecked, translucent jelly on just about everything after that first taste, and a batch makes 5 8-ounce jars.
For sandwich spread
3/4 cup jalapeno jelly (recipe follows)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced
2 tablespoons chopped mint
3 oranges, cut vertically to remove peel and pith at the same time
1/2 pound chorizo, outer casings removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1½ pounds ground pork
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce
Coarse salt and black pepper
6 Kaiser buns, split
2 cups baby arugula, rinsed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces
2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella
Wipe grill lightly with vegetable oil and heat to medium.
Heat jelly and pepper to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until jelly melts. Reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in mint. Place in small mixing bowl to cool.
Cut oranges horizontally, after the peel and pith is removed. Set aside.
In medium mixing bowl, combine burger ingredients and blend well. Shape into 6 round patties. Grill burgers over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the meat is no longer pink, turning once. When burgers are almost done, place buns flat side down on grates and grill until golden brown.
Divide the sandwich spread among the flat sides of the buns. Layer the burgers as follows: arugula, sliced oranges, burger and shredded cheese. Close sandwich, and serve.
Makes 6 burgers.
-- Sutter Home Family Vineyard (sutterhome.com)
12 ounces jalapeno peppers (about 12 medium)
2 cups cider vinegar, divided
6 cups sugar
2 3-ounce pouches liquid pectin
Green food coloring, optional
5 8-ounce half-pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands
Prepare boiling water canner. (I used a giant stockpot.) Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
Puree peppers in food processor or blender with 1 cup cider vinegar until smooth. Do not strain.
Combine puree with remaining 1 cup vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add liquid pectin, immediately squeezing entire contents from pouches. Continue to boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add food coloring, if using, and skim foam if necessary.
Ladle hot jelly into hot jars, leaving ¼-inch head space. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
Process in boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
BERKELEY VEGGIE-BLUE CHEESE BURGER
These veggie burgers will delight the non-meat-eaters on your Fourth of July guest list. They‘re baked rather than grilled, but you could consider that a plus -- you can make them ahead, leaving more time to put the final touches on other dishes.
Golden beets can be hard to find but I lucked out at Stan‘s Market in the Strip District. I microwaved the beets instead of roasting them (my kitchen isn’t air-conditioned) and they turned out just fine. Horseradish adds the slightest of kicks.
3 cups grated cooked golden beets (about 3 medium)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup panko
3 tablespoons grated fresh horseradish
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces cooked brown rice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 ounces crumbled blue cheese (about ½ cup)
6 artisanal sandwich buns
1½ cups arugula
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Make burgers: Combine beets, walnuts, panko, horseradish, chives, black pepper and brown rice in a large bowl. Combine mustard, eggs and egg white in another small bowl. Add ¼ teaspoon salt and mustard mixture to veggie mixture; stir well.
Spoon about ⅔ cup rice mixture into a 4-inch biscuit cutter; pack mixture down. Remove mold and repeat 5 more times to make a total of 6 patties. (You also can use your hands.)
Heat a large skillet on stove top over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil, and swirl it around. Carefully add 3 patties to pan and cook for 3 minutes. Carefully transfer patties to baking sheet and place in a preheated 400-degree oven. Repeat with remaining 3 patties. Return baking sheet to oven and bake patties for 12 minutes.
Combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, blue cheese and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Place bottom half of each roll on a plate. Divide mayo mixture among roll bottoms; top each with 1 patty. Arrange ¼ cup arugula on top and top with roll tops.
Makes 6 burgers.
-- Cooking Light
Gretchen McKay (firstname.lastname@example.org)