“I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for the Beef Checkoff. I received products to facilitate this review and a promotional item to thank me for participating.”
I could never become a vegetarian. I watch something depressing about the plight of farm animals and I always think I could, but then the thought of never having a Five Guys burger, or a Steak burrito bowl from Chipotle again, makes me sad. But the humane treatment of animals is also very important to me. The best way I’ve found to do my part to make sure animals are treated more humanely, and still be able to indulge in bacon cheeseburgers, is to buy higher quality meat products. More expensive? Yes. Worth it? Heck yes. I feel so much less guilty eating my food when I know where the animal came from and what kind of conditions they were raised in. Since higher quality meat is much more expensive, we eat much less of it, so it’s a very nice treat when we do have meat at home.
The point of my little ramble (I’ll spare you all of my thoughts about animal rights for another post) is that when I was asked by Mom Central Consulting & Beef Checkoff (part of the 1985 Farm Bill) to have a get together at home and include a beef dish as part of our dinner, I jumped at the chance. This opportunity was timed perfectly, since we had friends and family visiting for Charlotte and I was able to create a huge, delicious spread that would have been wasted on just the two of us.
When I was younger, and an avid soap opera addict, I always thought that entertaining & dinner parties should consist of fancy food, elegant clothes, wine in crystal glasses and maybe a waiter or two to pass hors d’oeuvre on silver platters. As an adult, I’ve realized that is a boring, and stuffy way to have friends and family over for dinner. Most of our friends and family members are fairly picky eaters, and I wanted to serve a dinner that would be easily customized to individual tastes. I thought a ‘Build Your Own Burger” bar would be the perfect, fun way to do that. And really, does anything scream “summer get together” like burgers?
As part of this opportunity, I received some great items to help put together my party, including some fantastic rub from Williams-Sonoma and an OXO digital thermometer. The rub would be amazing used, well, as a rub on any cut of meat, but I wanted to use it in my burgers. So, I sprinkled two teaspoons of the rub into the beef for a nice little burst of flavor. Everything was absolutely delicious, and dinner was a huge hit. Serving a casual food like burgers made for a really fun way to entertain. People were able to talk while they built their burgers, people were convinced to try toppings they may have been hesitant about, and everyone had a good time.
I know burgers aren’t exactly complicated and you don’t really need a recipe. But here’s something you may not know: adding chopped vegetables to lean meat (I bought 93% hamburger meat) helps add moisture to the burger. So, here is how I made these:
- 2 lbs. of lean ground beef (93%)
- 2 cloves of garlic; minced
- 1 small onion; finely diced
- 2 t. of Williams-Sonoma butcher rub (or whatever rub/seasoning blend you like)
Once you have everything mixed together (be careful not to overmix), divide the burgers into eight equally sized burgers. Once they were made, I sent my husband to the grill and I worked on our set up. I love the way this came together. I used a large sheet of craft paper in place of a table cloth. Burgers are messy and I wanted this to be super fun & casual. I didn’t want people to worry about dropping a dollop of ketchup on a table cloth. This worked well, because I was also able to write on it. This came in handy for the cheese selection.
We served almost every topping I could think of, and that I thought people would enjoy. We had high quality traditional toppings (bibb lettuce, farmers market tomatoes, thick cut bacon, sliced raw onions & pickles), and then we had more interesting toppings like caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms and sliced, perfectly ripe avocado. And I’m not at all upset that no one ate avocado but me.
The thing that put these delicious burgers over the top: special rolls. I had a couple of whole wheat Kaiser rolls, and I bought pretzel rolls from the bakery. I’ve decided every time I have a burger at home from here on out, it will be on a pretzel roll. These were so delicious!
I wanted people to have a variety of cheeses to choose from, but I didn’t want to break the bank buying the pre-packaged cheeses. So, I went to the deli counter at the grocery store, and selected three cheeses that sounded interesting. I ended up with Chipotle Gouda (the one I chose for my burger-so good!), Vermont cheddar and horseradish cheddar. I also had some American slices in the fridge just in case… I am SO glad I went this route with cheese. I got 4 slices of each cheese, hoped everyone wouldn’t want the same one, and each pack cost about $1.70. Once everyone picked out their cheese, we just put the burger with cheese under the broiler for a minute to melt it, and then it went back to it’s owner.
For the side dishes, I wanted to do classic “cook out” side dishes, with a more upscale twist. I made a simple pasta salad with English cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, parsley and Tessemae’s balsamic vinaigrette…
and I made a swiss chard salad with dried cranberries, carrots, sunflower seeds, lots of fresh basil and a lemon-Dijon vinaigrette. Both salads were so light & tasty, and were absolutely delicious!
Once we devoured our burgers, my mind started going about 100 miles an hour, thinking of other delicious and exciting burger toppings. How about an pizza style burger: warm marinara in place of ketchup, a slice of mozzarella, and all of your favorite pizza toppings. Mine would have sautéed peppers and onions, olives, a few slices of pepperoni and the cheese melted over the top to hold it all in place. Or a taco burger. Just mix the taco seasoning into your beef, grill it up and then top it with salsa, guacamole, crushed tortilla chips and then either a slice of pepperjack or cheddar melted over the whole thing. The opportunities for burger creativity are endless!