Biggest burgers not always the best bet

There’s hardly a more crowd-pleasing story for newspaper food sections than burgers.

And the timing couldn’t be better than in summer.

Back in 2007, we solicited readers’ favorite recipes for an August burger spread, following the lead of larger media organizations that expend no small effort on writing about and photographing burgers. Because bigger often is better, A la Carte has showcased these over-the-top burgers for one edition over each of the past five summers.

The Associated Press’ 20 burgers of summer were featured in 2010, following its 2009 tips from celebrity chefs. For the past three years, it’s been the outcome of the Los Angeles Times’ Battle of the Burgers reader recipe contest.

Winners in the third annual Los Angeles Times Battle of the Burgers are clockwise from top left: STG/Save the Gravy Burger, GCCB Ultimate Fusion Burger, Steakhouse Burger, Hoad's Hot Jalapeno Burger and Texas Luau Burger. (MCT photo)

Unfortunately for home cooks, the contest’s recipes keep getting more and more complicated as entrants attempt to stand out in a field of hundreds of submissions. Not that they aren’t worth your time, just maybe not when you’d rather be kicking back with a cold one on the precious days remaining in summer, rather than sweating it out in the kitchen.

That’s good reason to try the Chicago Tribune’s recent burger recipes, really just regionally inspired variations on the classic American burger. And inexplicably (because they can?), the paper’s food staff even created a cocktail-inspired burger.

Here is the basic recipe with “mix-ins” and “top-withs.”

Classic Burger

In a bowl, lightly mix together 2 pounds ground chuck, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Divide meat into 8 equal pieces. Form into patties. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill burgers, flipping just once, to desired doneness. Makes 8 servings.

Southern-Style

Mix in: 8 cooked-until-crisp bacon strips, crumbled, and 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped. Top with: 2 tablespoons of favorite barbecue sauce, warmed slightly, and a big dollop of coleslaw.

New England-Style

Mix in: 1/3 cup molasses (or 1/3 cup dark Chinese soy sauce). Top with: 1 thick slice of cheddar cheese each, as burgers grill. Place cheeseburgers on buns; top with a squirt of Dijon-style mustard, 1 or 2 tablespoons baked beans and a pickle slice.

Martini Nation

Mix in: 1/3 cup gin (choose one with a strong juniper flavor) or 2 tablespoons crushed juniper berries. Add a splash of dry vermouth. Top with: sliced green pimento- or blue cheesed-stuffed olives. Substitute pickled onion slices for a Gibson burger.

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  • Blog Author

    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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