Posts Tagged 'Burgers'

Dinner Party Menus: Niman Ranch Burgers

Labor Day is fast approaching (I cannot even believe it’s September already), and I have the perfect burger-based menu for anyone who is planning a cookout to celebrate.  As is, the menu will serve six people somewhat generously; the recipes are easily doubled (or tripled!) for extra guests.

Appetizer:
Hummus with Peppers and Pita Chips

Meal:
Niman Ranch Burgers with Cheddar, Tomato, Caramelized Onion, and Spicy Mayo
Orzo and Zucchini Salad
Grilled Corn

Dessert:
Ice Cream Cones

The hummus, pita chips, ice cream, and ice cream cones are all store-bought, which saves some time and prep work.  Here’s the prep schedule I followed for a 6 p.m. dinner party on a Friday:

Anytime Thursday:
Chill beverages
Wash and iron napkins (unless you’re using disposables)
Make caramelized onions (part of Niman Ranch Burgers recipe) and refrigerate
Make spicy mayo (combine light mayo and Chalula or other hot sauce to taste) and refrigerate

Friday morning or afternoon (work takes 60 – 90 minutes):
Slice peppers for hummus (I usually do a very large dice instead of strips because bigger pieces are better for dipping) and refrigerate
Slice zucchini for orzo salad and refrigerate
Wash, dry, and tear basil for orzo salad and refrigerate
Make corn packets (recipe follows) and refrigerate
Make burger patties (place squares of wax paper between each patty for easy use later; store on a plate and cover with plastic wrap or place in an airtight container) and refrigerate
Set table (unless you’re serving buffet-style)
Set serving dishes aside (this prevents me from having to root around for dishes and ask my guests to move while they’re enjoying appetizers at my kitchen island)

5:00 p.m.: Make Orzo and Zucchini Salad (zucchini is already sliced and basil is ready to go).  Cover and set aside until dinnertime.  (For best flavor, do not refrigerate.)

5:45 p.m.: Set out hummus, peppers, and pita chips.

6:00 p.m.: Guests arrive!  Make sure everyone has a beverage.

6:15 p.m.: Pre-heat grill on high.

6:30 p.m.: Scrub grill with wire brush.  Lower heat to medium-high.  Cook corn packets according to recipe.  While corn is cooking, slice tomato for burgers and set out caramelized onions, spicy mayo, and any other desired burger condiments. Slice hamburger buns (if they aren’t pre-sliced).  These are good tasks for guests if you want help! 🙂

6:50 p.m.: Remove corn packets from grill and set aside.  Lightly oil grill and cook burgers according to recipe (about 4:30 per side).  Place cheddar cheese slices on burgers during last minute of cooking.

7:00 p.m.: Dinner is served!  Let guests assemble their own burgers, and serve with orzo salad and corn.

Once everyone’s food has settled, set store-bought ice cream on the counter for 10 minutes to soften.  Scoop ice cream into store-bought cones to serve. (Or, if you want to put in a little more effort, set up an ice cream bar with bowls, sprinkles, and other toppings.)

Here’s my corn recipe for anyone who wants to give it a try:

Jenny’s Grilled Corn
Serves 6

Ingredients:
6 ears sweet corn
Olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Method:
Remove the husks and silk from the corn.  Place each ear of corn on a large piece of foil.  Brush each ear with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Fold in the sides of the foil and roll around each ear to completely enclose the corn in foil. Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Heat grill to medium-high.  Place corn on grill and cook for 20 minutes, turning occasionally.  Remove foil and serve.

Grilled Corn

This meal was seriously fantastic.  My friend Christopher equated it to restaurant food, which is a wonderful compliment.  The burgers were juicy and deliciously sloppy (have lots of napkins!), the corn was tender and smoky, and the orzo salad was bright and fresh.  I love that the appetizer and dessert courses were so easy thanks to store-bought elements, and the rest of the meal really did require minimal work while my guests were present.  Perfection!  I’ll definitely use this menu again.

TIPS:  Have a vegetarian guest?  Add Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese or store-bought veggie burgers to the menu.  Also, I feel like a key element of a good burger (meat or veggie) is that the bread doesn’t overwhelm the patty.  I love, love, love SuperTarget’s mini Kaiser rolls (available in the deli section) for this reason; they’re the perfect size.

Recipe links: Niman Ranch Burgers and Orzo and Zucchini Salad

Dueling Veggie Burgers

I’m having a vegetarian dinner guest again this weekend, and my tried-and-true options (a) have been done before, and (b) aren’t seeming super appropriate at this moment with this gorgeous weather.  What does seem appropriate?  Grilling! Burgers and side salads make an easy entertaining menu, so I decided to try two very different vegetarian burger recipes: Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers and Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese.

My use of the word “dueling” in the title might suggest that there was actually some hot competition between the recipes.  There wasn’t.  One recipe was leaps and bounds (truly!) above the other.  I wanted to include both, though, to help anyone who might be having their own veggie burger debate.

I’ll start with the Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers since I made them first.  The patties were made of quinoa, carrots, scallions, beans, breadcrumbs, and egg; they were seasoned with cumin, salt, and pepper.  The patties came together easily and without too much mess, and I liked that they could be assembled a day ahead and held (uncooked) in the refrigerator.  The recipe called for the patties to be cooked on the stove, but I decided to use my outdoor grill since it would create less mess when I was entertaining my guests.  They cooked up easily (I did 8 minutes per side over medium heat) and didn’t stick to the grill at all.

The problem?  Despite all those delicious ingredients, they didn’t have a lot of flavor.  They were also super dry when we reheated the leftovers the next day.  The yogurt-lemon-scallion sauce helped quite a bit, but the experience really should be about the burger, right?  Carnivores would never trade a beef or turkey burger for one of these, but I figured the quinoa burger would be a not-amazing-but-good-enough backyard barbecue option for vegetarians.

Greek Style Quinoa Burgers

That was, until I tasted the Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese.  Oh.  Mah.  Gawd.  They were just as easy to make as the quinoa burgers (maybe easier) and still had make-ahead convenience factor, but I would actually choose this over meat from time to time.  Portobellos are a meaty mushroom to begin with, and they soaked up the marinade so beautifully.  You know that wonderfully messy, juicy dribble you get when you bite into a fantastic burger? You get it here.  With roasted red peppers and goat cheese (two of my favorite ingredients!) on a grill-toasted bun, this was absolute heaven.

Balsamic Portobello Burger with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese

My only note is that you’ll use either one or two mushrooms per burger depending on the size of your portobellos.  Just make sure you get at least the weight recommended by the recipe (1 pound).  Consider making extras…  You won’t regret it!

Recipe links: Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers and Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese

Niman Ranch Burgers

After years of rental housing, moving, and making do with a grill pan, I have to say that I love my real deal Weber grill.  This is the second summer we’ve had it, and I’m determined to become just as good of a cook outside as I try to be inside.  I’ve had some success, for sure, but the one meal that keeps throwing me for a loop is burgers.

Burgers!  You’d think they’d be the simplest thing.  I had an absolute disaster with them last year…  When I cook on the stove, I usually try to buy the leanest ground beef I can find to avoid having to drain it.  On the grill, super lean beef is a bad idea.  Like it or not, fat provides flavor; we ended up with dried out, tasteless little pucks.

This year, I accepted that I was going to have to use beef with a higher fat content in order to get better results.  I found a tasty-looking recipe – Ina Garten’s Niman Ranch Burgers – and decided to give them a whirl.  (Full disclosure: I did not seek out Niman Ranch beef specifically, so I suppose these are just “burgers.”  I did use 80/20 beef as recommended, though.)

Prior to starting the burgers, I heated my grill to medium-high.  In a large bowl, I combined 2 pounds of 80% lean beef, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of coarse salt, and 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.  I gently mixed the ingredients with a fork (overmixing will toughen the meat).  I recently acquired a burger press – I figured that uniform patties would help me get to uniform cooking – so I used that to create six 1/3-pound patties.

Once the grill was ready to go, I oiled the grates to prevent the burgers from sticking.  The recipe said to cook the burgers for 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare.  We are definitely medium to medium-well hamburger eaters, though, so I decided to give mine 5 minutes on each side.  (I’ll probably drop this to 4:30 or 4:45 on each side next time.)  Once the burgers were done, I served them on toasted rolls (I used mini Kaisers from Target, which are so not mini!) with caramelized onions.

Niman Ranch Burgers

I overcooked the burgers slightly, so they weren’t amazing, but they were strides ahead of last year’s disaster.  The olive oil and the higher fat content of the meat kept the burgers moist, and the seasoning combination was simple but so good. This is a great “basic burger” recipe that I fully intend to try again, next time with ground chuck (a tip from my dad) and slightly shorter cooking times.

TIPS:  The burger press took a little getting used to.  I initially had a hard time getting the patties out of the press, but running a butter knife around the edges before inverting the press over a plate helped a lot.  If you are going to freeze any of your patties (I froze half), be sure to freeze them on wax paper or some other surface that will easily release them once they’re frozen.  I must have mentally checked out when I went to freeze mine because I put them directly on a plate to flash freeze them before putting them into freezer bags.  Getting them off of that plate took a little bit of thawing and quite a bit of coaxing.

Recipe link: Niman Ranch Burgers




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