Napa Valley Basil-Smoked Burgers

As you know, July is AwK’s BBQ month! It’s that special time of year when we get to talk about the things that are near and dear to my stomach:

Summer food.

I’m talking BBQ, Potlucks, Picnics, Family Gatherings, Friendly Get-Togethers, anything at all that requires getting outdoors and heating up the grill.

Or, at the very least, plugging your George Foreman into the socket on the back deck.

I’ve talked about the Build A Better Burger book before when I reviewed my 4th of July burger, Tuscan Burger Bruschetta. Now it’s time to talk about one of my absolute favorite burgers in the book: Napa Valley Basil-Smoked Burgers

bbb-basilsmokedburgers.jpg

The combination of fresh basil, minced red onion and sun dried tomatoes with a little pesto mayonnaise — It is so savory. And yes, when it’s the middle of winter and I’m jonesing for a delicious, flavor-packed burger, I have broken out the George Foreman. I have no shame in admitting it!

Burger Patties
2 pounds ground sirloin
1/4 cup Zinfandel
1/4 cup lightly packed minced fresh basil
1/4 cup minced fresh onion
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
8 sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, finely chopped
2 teaspoons garlic salt

This burger won the Grand Prize in 1990. I have made it repeatedly and always with fantastic results.

Light some fire – preferrably in a grill with a cover. If you don’t have fire or you aren’t allowed to be anywhere near it, try for a stove or the George Foreman grill. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high.

The recipe tells you to mince the onions and basil, and finely chop the sun-dried tomatoes. Instead, I just toss those into my food processor and give it a whirl. It saves time and minces things beautifully — this is an especially good trick if you’re serving this dish to someone who doesn’t like to feel an onion in their mouth. The onion is minced up finely so that it lends to the flavor, but isn’t obtrusive.

Take the minced mixture out of your processor and put it in a bowl with the rest of the patty ingredients. Handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it, mix well. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form the portions into patties to fit the rolls.

When the grill is ready, brush the rack with vegetable oil. If you’re using a George, you don’t have to do this because the George is perfect in every way. The Foreman Grill is like the Fifth Element, but of food.

Too much?

Okay anyway. Moisten 8 large basil sprigs with water, then put them directly onto the fire – this is the basil smoked part. I don’t do this because there’s already basil in the burger, and I’m fine without going through the trouble of adding basil smoke. Also, it’s pretty pointless if you’re cooking on the George because there is no fire. Same thing with pan cooking the patties — there’s no point. Place the patties on the rack, cover and cook, turning once, until done to preference (5 to 7 minutes on each side for medium). During the last couple minutes of cooking, place some large sandwich rolls, cut side down, on the rack to toast lightly. During the last minute of cooking, top each patty with a slide of Monterey Jack cheese.

To assemble the burgers, use some pesto mayonnaise:

Pesto Mayonnaise
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons prepared basil pesto

You can see where we’re going with this. Put the pesto mayonnaise ingredients into a bowl and mix. I really do like the taste of this, and it does add some complementary flavor to the burger. Do NOT use Miracle Whip. I wouldn’t anyway but in case you were thinking about it, I really just don’t think the sweetness of the Miracle Whip can do anything other than obliterate the pesto, much less the savory flavors of the burger.

To assemble: Spread the mayonnaise over the cut side of the rolls. On each roll bottom, place a lettuce leaf, a patty, a tomato slide, an onion slice and a basil sprig. Add the roll tops and serve.

Amazing.

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