The last July Fourth barbecue I attended made me sob. Not a burger on the grill. I asked my friend, the host: Are we so highbrow—so healthy and gourmet?--that we don't even grill burgers on our nation's birthday anymore? (Yes, the hamburger is an American creation, first appearing on menus in the late 19th century.) Well, this summer, I have vowed to stand for tradition, especially after returning from abroad. Here, my little collection of four winning, grill-friendly summer burgers—some decadent, low-fat, gourmet, seaborn (published in this month's Men's Journal)--and the chefs behind them. Because any other kind of July 4 food post would just feel wrong.
1. Burger: Chuck | Chef: Bobby Flay, Mesa Grill, Bahamas
A born-and-bred New Yorker (you can also grab his burger at Mesa's Manhattan and Vegas locations) the Food Network's "Boy Meets Grill" star prefers burgers simple, with ground chuck (source it from your trusted butcher, and grind it yourself), two thick slices of cheddar, grilled and sweet Vidalia onion, and horseradish mustard for kick. "Think about a perfect burger," he says. "It's crusty, it's juicy, it's got cheese oozing over it. It's basically one of the only times even a food snob can really say that they're into American cheese and get away with it. It just works." And chuck is flavorful and affordable. But “the most important thing is its fat content," he adds. "It has to have 20% fat or you're going to get a dry burger. I'm just not into lean burgers."
The Mesa Burger with Double Cheddar Cheese, Grilled Vidalia Onion and Horseradish Mustard
Grilled Vidalia Onions
1 large Vidalia onions, sliced crosswise, 1/2" thick slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Brush olive oil on both sides of onion slices and season with salt and pepper. Grill the onion slices for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown.
1 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, drained
Whisk ingredients in a small bowl until combined.
2 lbs freshly ground chuck
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 slices cheddar cheese, sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 slices beefsteak tomatoes
4 leaves romaine lettuce
Grilled Vidalia Onions
4 Sesame Seed Hamburger Buns
Preheat grill to high. Form the meat into four 8-ounce burgers. Season burgers on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill for 3-4 minutes on each side for medium doneness. During last minutes of cooking add 2 slices of cheese to each burger, cover grill and let melt, approximately 1 minute. Place burger on bun and top with onions, tomato, lettuce and a dollop of Horseradish Mustard.
2. Burger: Yellowfin Tuna | Chef: Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Spice Market, Atlanta
"I love beef burgers," says Vongerichten, one of America’s first celebrity chefs who crafted this Asian-flavored seafood burger for a tasty attempt at better health. "I can't eat too many [traditional burgers] because I have to watch my cholesterol. I think people will love this burger because it doesn't skimp on flavor, but is a far healthier alternative to the traditional beef." What's more, while bluefin tuna is being over-fished in the Mediterranean, it's great to use yellowfin, which is available in better fish markets. "It's a much smaller fish that is sourced not from the Mediterranean but from Hawaii," the chef adds. "It is always caught wild. It's also a great variety of tuna because it's not as fatty as others, but it still tastes great."
Grilled Yellowfin Tuna Burger, bonito mayo, shiso and yuzu pickles.
For the Tuna Mix: For 4 Burgers
You can buy fresh ground tuna from a fishmonger.
2 Pounds Ground Tuna
3 TBLS Shallots, minced
3 TBLS Ginger, peeled and minced
1 Red Thai chili, minced
2 TSP Sesame oil
Carefully spread the tuna to cover the entire hotel pan. Sprinkle the surface with the remaining ingredients and mix carefully.
Form into 4 patties without working the meat.
Season with salt and white pepper, brush with light soy sauce and olive oil and grill on HIGH until medium rare.
Cut a Kaiser roll in half and brush with olive oil, grill until toasted and warm.
For the Bonito Mayonnaise:
2 cups Bonito flakes plus ½ cup reserved
½ cup water
2 egg yolks
2 TSP salt
4 TBLS Yuzu Juice
2 cups Grape Seed Oil
Put the 2 cups of bonito flakes in a small bowl. Bring water to a boil and immediately pour over bonito. Let steep for 8 minutes, then strain through a fine mesh strainer, pushing hard for total extraction. The can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Put ¼ cup of the bonito broth into the food processor with the yolks, salt and yuzu and process. Emulsify with the oil, then add the remaining bonito flakes and pulse quickly. Reserve refrigerated until needed.
For the pickles:
2 Euro cucumbers, washed and channeled with a peeler, sliced full opening on a mandoline.
2 cups Japanese rice vinegar
6 oz Yuzu juice
12 oz Sugar
2 TBLS Salt
3 Green Thai chilies, washed and split
Put cucumbers in a medium size bowl. Combine vinegar, sugar, chilies and salt and bring to a boil. Add yuzu juice and cool over ice. Pour over cucumbers 4 hours prior to use.
Boston lettuce leaves
Shiso or mint leaves
3. Burger: Buffalo with Blue Cheese and Buffalo sauce | Chef: Jason Boso, Twisted Root Burger Co., Dallas
"Often I can trick people into thinking they're eating beef with this burger," says Boso, who sources his hormone-free bison meat for Dallas's premiere burger enterprise from Comanche Buffalo (www.comanchebuffalo.com), a local operation in Lawton, O.K. "Buffalo is low-fat, 92% lean, so you won't have as much flame-up on an outdoor grill, but you should also cook it quicker than you would a piece of chuck." Boso suggests finding the crumbliest bleu cheese around, because it binds well with his bleu-cheese dressing before he "smushes" the creamy topping down onto the hot buffalo sauce with his preferred cracked-wheat bun. "No matter what you think, this buffalo meat isn't gamey like elk or venison, and if you can't get some from Comanche, you should be able to find buffalo at any specialty meat market now."
2 lb. Ground Buffalo meat
1 tablespoon Sea salt
2 teaspoons Fresh ground black pepper
4 oz unseasoned bread crumbs (used as binder and helps retain fat
for a more moist burger)
Hand mix all in a cold bowl thouroughly speading seasonings into meat.
Roll meat into 5 or 6oz balls and then press into patty shape. Makes 5-6
Place on high heat grill for 2 minutes each side for a medium Burger. 4
minutes a side for welldone. Remember Buffalo is 92% lean and therefore
better with a little pink in it.
We cook our Buffalo sauce with a slury of cornstarch and lime juice to
give it a more ketchup consistancy and make it cleaner and easier to eat
on a burger.
16 ounces of buffalo sauce.(we like Frank's Red Hot)
4 oz. slurry of cornstarch and lime juice. (2-3 oz of lime juice 1-2 of
cornstarch -stir well to get rid of lumps.)
Add slurry to heated buffalo sauce and 4 oz. of sugar, cook for a few
minutes, then remove from heat and let cool.
6-8 ounces of your favorite Blue Cheese (we like Stilton)
crumble it and mix with a blue cheese dressing to bind crumbles.
Sesame white or Cracked Wheat bun are our favorites with this meat.
1 1/2 of buffalo sauce and 1 oz. of blue cheese mixture on top of your
buffalo meat and you're good to go. Enjoy.
4. Burger: Lamb Merguez | Chef: Laurent Tourondel, BLT Burger, Las Vegas
Tourondel, a French-born burger maven, also serves this alternative burger year-round in his New York and LA restaurants of the same moniker. But what makes it especially great for summer is its middle-Eastern spice and flavor profile, offset by a cooling cucumber yogurt sauce, tomatoes, olives, red onion, and spicy harissa (or hot sauce) mayo. "You can use a beef merguez sausage to temper the flavor of the lamb if lamb sausage is a little too strong," says Tourondel, who also says any high-end sausage should work at the end of the day and recommends using wood in your grill if you have it. "I also use the lamb shoulder meat, because it has the best flavor--and maybe the neck, because it has more fat. You can ask your butcher for it. But the key is to grill the burger to medium but let it char a bit over high heat for a good flavorful crust."
BLT Lamb Burger
4 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons fennel seed
2 teaspoons cumin seed
½ teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 cups plain yogurt
1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon lamb spice mix
1 cup mayonnaise
1 ½ ablespoon harissa
¼ cup lemon juice
1 vine-ripe tomato, finely diced
1 cucumber, peeled, finely diced
1 red onion, finely diced
¼ cup black pitted olives, finely diced
½ cup cured lemons, finely diced
1 tablespoon mint, chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ pound ground lamb
1 ½ ounces Merguez sausage
1 tablespoon of lamb spice mix
½ pound sweet unsalted butter, melted
6 burger buns with sesame seeds, split
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 vine-ripe tomatoes, sliced into ¼-inch slices
6 leaves romaine lettuce, ribs removed
To make the lamb spice mix In a small sauté pan set over medium heat, lightly toast the black peppercorns, fennel seed, and cumin seeds until fragrant, approximately 3-5 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to cool.
Add the toasted spices, paprika, turmeric, cayenne, garlic powder, dried thyme, and dried oregano to a spice grinder and grind until the spices reach the consistency of a fine powder. Set aside.
Note: The Lamb spice can be stored in an air and water tight container.
To make the yogurt sauce Drain yogurt in a sieve lined with a cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel set over a bowl in the refrigerator until all excess liquid is released, approximately 3-4 hours.
In a mixing bowl combine the strained yogurt, mint, lime juice and lamb spice mix and mix thoroughly. Cover and store in refrigerator.
To make the harissa mayonnaise In a small mixing bowl combine all ingredients and mix until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and store in refrigerator.
To make the vegetable mix In a large mixing bowl add the tomato, cucumber, red onion, olives and cured lemons and mix until combined. Add the mint, cilantro, lemon juice and olive oil and lightly toss. Season with salt and pepper.
To make the lamb burger Using a knife, carefully remove casings from the merguez sausage. In a large mixing bowl add the sausage, ground lamb and lamb spice mix and mix until well combined. Gently form the meat into six 6-ounce burgers. Brush each patty with butter and season with salt.
Heat a grill pan or barbeque over medium-high heat. Grill the burgers for 4 minutes per side for medium rare. Do not push down on the burgers while they cook, as this will cause the juices to run out.
Assemble the burger Lightly toast the hamburger buns. Place the burgers on the bottom halves of the buns. With a slotted spoon, take a small amount of the vegetable mix allowing the juices to drain off, and place on burger. Top with lettuce, tomato, onion. Spread the harissa mayonnaise, and the yogurt sauce on the top halves of the buns. Serve immediately.