The sun streams down, the leaves rustle quietly in the late afternoon breezes, the rooster crows (silly guy – doesn’t he know what time it is?), and the dog lies, panting, in the shade (except when she needs to be in the sun to watch the dinner preparations).
And we sit on the deck, mouths watering, as the savoury, smokey aromas curl out of the barbecue. But it’s okay – we can be patient – it’s the weekend, we have ice-tinkling drinks in our hands, and our screaming muscles need a rest after several hours of intense gardening.
Barbecue season has arrived . . . and so have spring and summer . . . all in one fell swoop. Two weeks ago we still looked anxiously at the skies to see if snow was coming, or those late killing-frosts, and now it’s sunbathing weather.
I love summer in the North.
And I love these burgers.
I have to thank my friend, Christine, for the clever trick of using the frozen mini cheeses. It solves the problem of having the cheese leak out of the burgers before they are done, as I’ve experienced so often in the past. The time it takes each little cheese to defrost is the exact amount of time it takes to have a perfectly cooked burger. The thinking is done for you.
I have recently discovered that the perfect mix for a moist, light but tasty burger is a combination of half ground beef and half ground chicken – ground chicken thighs or chicken breast work equally well. The chicken holds the burgers together so well that you don’t need an egg or crumbs as a binder. And the wine – well that’s the flavour bonus (the secret ingredient) and you get the added benefit of having to finish the bottle, now that you’ve opened it (oh, darn).
Kitchen Frau Notes: Since you’re using both beef and chicken here, you get to choose – red or white wine – whatever makes you the most happy. Just make sure it’s good enough to drink, too.
This recipe makes 8 burgers, but you can easily halve it to make 4. The burgers are quite thick and rounded, so they don’t do as well on a bun. I find them more fun to eat with a knife and fork – you get the full effect of the cheese oozing out as you cut them open. They are wonderful served with any number of robust summer salads.
The brand of cheese I use are those red-wax-covered little round individual cheeses called Babybel – Original. But you could also just cut ½ inch thick (1.3cm) disks, about 1½ inches (3.5cm) across, of any firm cheese and freeze them. I think they would work the same. If you peel the cheeses ahead of time, pop them back into the freezer to stay frozen until you use them, and assemble the burgers just before throwing them on the barbecue.
Keep a stash of these little cheeses frozen and you have a quick gourmet burger any time the craving hits, or you want to wow your guests.
Wine and Cheese Hamburgers
- 1 lb (450gm) lean ground beef
- 1 lb (450gm) ground chicken
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) sea salt
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) freshly ground pepper
- ¼ cup (4 tablespoons or 60ml) red or white wine
- 8 mini (20gm each) wax-covered cheese rounds, frozen solid
The day before you are to make these, pop the mini-cheeses into the freezer.
Combine the ground meats, garlic, salt, pepper and wine in a bowl.
Mix together well with your hands. Divide the mixture into 8 portions. (I do it by patting the dough flat into the bowl, then dividing it into wedges by poking my fingers in to make lines.)
Then roll each of the portions into a ball. Remove the mini-cheeses from the freezer and peel off the wax. They slip off quite easily, but some bits need to be helped along with a knife.
Press one cheese into the center of each hamburger ball.
Grill, or pan fry (with a little oil), the burgers until both sides are nicely browned and the first bit of cheese just starts to ooze out.
Serve with sides of summer salads.