Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Making Stuffed Hamburgers for a Birthday Meal

Last summer I made stuffed hamburgers a few times. My sister-in-law, Sherri, most particularly loved them. So much in fact, that she requested them for her birthday dinner this past Sunday. I couldn't even recall what I used to stuff the burgers last year, but she reminded me: caramelized onions, Gorgonzola cheese, mushrooms. I don't think I ever used all three at the same time, but we decided these should be a little more hearty, and I christened them Stuffed Hamburger "Steaks". 
Onion, Gorgonzola and Mushroom Stuffed Burger Steaks

The one thing I simply do not have down is the part where the burgers do not get over cooked. I must admit, most particularly when there is only a thin layer of meat encasing already cooked fillings, it has been difficult for me to gauge when the meat is done and the insides are warm. I over did these also, though neither Sherri nor my husband had any trouble eating them. At least I didn't blacken them. While most people find a little char on their grilled foods enticing, my husband finds it intolerable. 

Another thing I find confusing is how to fill the burger meat and keep the whole thing together on the grill - without really compacting the meat. I watch Mario Batali and Michael Symon on The Chew stressing how burger meat should not be overworked or compacted. For me, if it isn't well compacted, they just want to crumble. Oh well. Again, it could be just a matter of "to each, his own." I still find my burgers tasty in the extreme, so for me, this works.

Do Ahead

It is really best to make the caramelized onions and the sauteed mushrooms the day before. They are time consuming at the best of times and require attention. Two medium-large onions sauteed down to just about 1/2 cup once deep golden brown. An entire pound of mushrooms sauteed down to a little over a cup. The onions are best cooked over very low heat, stirring occasionally at first; more and more often as they begin to color. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to accomplish this task. The mushrooms took about 20 minutes to cook down. If you have never cooked mushrooms, expect them to release a LOT of liquid, quickly. I prefer to saute mushrooms over a medium heat, or even higher because this helps evaporate all the excess liquid more quickly. Once the liquid is gone, they will brown well. I used a combination of 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 - 2 tablespoons of olive oil for each application.

1 pound sliced mushrooms in pan  |  after about 5 minutes lots of liquid  |  now golden  |  compare cooked amount!

How to Make Stuffed Burgers

For starters, I divide up the meat for each burger, then take out about 1/4 to 1/3 of the meat and set it aside to make the "lid." The larger portion I pat out and create high ridges to hold the filling(s). I create what sort of looks like a tart shell, patting, shaping, pressing into the corners to make a high rim. If using things like caramelized onions or sauteed mushrooms, these need to be made in advance. The onions can take nearly an hour to make and the mushrooms at least 20 minutes. In this particular instance I used about 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) of the caramelized onions, then about 1/2+ ounces of the Gorgonzola crumbles and about 2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) of the sauteed mushrooms for each burger. This used up all of the 2 onions I had caramelized, nearly all of a 5 ounce tub of Gorgonzola Crumbles and at least 2/3 of the pound of sauteed mushrooms I had prepared. These burgers can be made smaller by using 4 ounce portions of meat. I was aiming for an entree, using no bun.

Once the fillings are in place in the well of the patty, I thinly pat out the "lid" portion of the burger. Carefully lifting it, it is set atop the fillings, and I begin to pinch closed the edges all around. Re-shaping a bit and pressing to keep the burgers relatively flat for even cooking, I set them onto a rimmed baking sheet that was sprayed with cooking spray for easy release. In an effort to keep the meat from coming apart later, I set the sheet, uncovered, into the fridge for a few hours to dry before grilling.
Divide meat and make well  |  layer with onion  |  add Gorgonzola  |  top with mushrooms  |  set meat lid over top and seal

Onion, Gorgonzola and Mushroom Stuffed Burger Steaks

makes six (6 ounces before stuffing) burgers

2 pounds hamburger meat
6 ounces bacon, minced finely.
2 medium/large onions, caramelized
1 pound Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced and sauteed
3 - 4 ounces Gorgonzola crumbles
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, combine the minced bacon with the burger meat. Divide the meat into 6 equal portions of 6 ounces each. Separate out about 1/3 of each portion to pat into the "lid" for the burger. It helps to use cooking spray or oil on the counter while forming the burgers, for easier lifting later. Using the 2/3 portion of the meat, pat out a round and press up the sides to make a good sized well. The patty should be about 5 1/2 inches in diameter. Begin layering in the fillings: onion, cheese and mushrooms. Set the lid portion atop and pinch the edges all around to seal. Pat into a flat burger with smooth edges. They will be about 1 inch high.

Gently lift and set the burgers onto a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray or brushed with oil. Refrigerate the burgers for at least an hour; more if time permits. Before grilling, sprinkle the burgers with salt and pepper. Grill to desired doneness.

The thing to (try to) remember is that the meat is very thin on each side of the fillings. The fillings do not need to be cooked; only reheated. Once the cheese is oozing out, the meat is officially overcooked. I believe the smarter thing would be to use an instant read thermometer and make sure the inside is not much more than 110 degrees. That is my next goal!

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.