As I huffed and puffed my way up the hill, my feet spun over and over again with the rotation of my bicycle wheels, beads of sweat began to drip down my temples, my hands began to tingle (stupid carpal tunnel) and I longed for the ice cold lemonade inside my refrigerator, beckoning me to continue my journey home. All I could focus on was how hot, thirsty and grumpy I was becoming. Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, around and around they spun. The post-farmer’s market nachos and beers we had enjoyed were weighing heavily on my productivity as my wheels slowly hummed against the paved trail. I doggedly wove my wheels around the wild berries splattered across the pavement in a vain effort to avoid the unsightly “Berry Butt.” Why, I don’t know, considering the helmet head I was sporting and the splotches of sweat that were increasing in size across my shirt. Suddenly, it hit me. I wanted a cheeseburger.
My sudden craving wasn’t completely unfounded. Somewhere, hidden by the expanse of trees and the declining landscape around the trail, was a grill happily wafting delicious aromas of smoldering charcoal and searing meat into the still summer air. It never fails – the smell of a charcoal grill is always going to make me pause to inhale deeply. There’s something so quintessentially summer about that smell. When I close my eyes, I can hear kids playing in the park or splashing in the pool, laughter, and the sudden hiss of a beer bottle being opened to slake someone’s thirst in the afternoon sun.
While I do enjoy your every day cheeseburger, I love the recent pop culture explosion of the “gourmet” burger. Inspired by an episode of Sutter Home Winery’s Build a Better Burger competition on the Food Network several years ago, I’ve set out to create a new burger masterpiece each summer. The hours of chopping and prepping the multi-ingredient complex towers of burger goodness are usually well rewarded with juices dripping down chins and arms and the sounds of fingers being licked. But on days when I’ve sweat through a humidity-laden bike ride and am feeling a little lazy, I want all of the flavor but none of the work.
Enter the Lee Brothers. I know, I know, another Southern recipe. I promise I’ll stop now, but I couldn’t finish my coveted culinary tour around South Carolina without a nod to Charleston, home of Matt and Ted Lee. One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to take something familiar and to turn it on its side to create something new. The Lee Brothers do just that with Pimento Cheese – a Southern spread typically made with cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and roasted red bell peppers. This piquant version swaps Swiss for cheddar, nixes the mayo and bell pepper, and livens it up with banana peppers (hello), chives and capers. Briny, bright and melty. I’m in. Add that to the top of a juicy burger with an ice cold beverage of your choice, and you’ve got a patio calling your name somewhere.
dirty south burger
recipe: adapted from The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern
1 c. finely grated Muenster cheese
2 c. finely grated Swiss cheese
1 c. banana peppers, drained and finely minced
2 Tbsp. brining liquid from banana peppers
1 Tbsp. minced fresh chives
1 Tbsp. drained capers
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
1 lb. ground beef or 4 pre-made burger patties
Freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, sliced into rings (optional)
1 tomato, sliced horizontally into ¼” slices (optional)
Combine first 8 ingredients in a medium mixing bowl (Muenster through black pepper). Using hands, squeeze and knead together until mixture begins to hold shape. Refrigerate until needed and up to two weeks.
Preheat a grill to medium high. Form beef into four patties. Sprinkle with a light dusting of kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Flip burgers over and repeat on opposite side.
Reduce the heat to medium, and cook the burgers for 3 minutes on each side. With a spatula, flip again and cook for another 1 ½ minutes on the first side. As burgers are cooking, gather approximately 2 Tbsp. pimento cheese spread and form into patties. Flip burgers again and top each burger with a patty of the pimento cheese, cover the grill, and cook for another 1 minute for medium-rare.
Transfer the burgers to the buns. Top each burger with onion, tomato and condiments, as desired.
Your grill and your tummy will be happy.
All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house