When I lived and worked in kitchens in France and Belgium, I was often teased about the "cuisine americain" being nothing but burgers and catchup – which they called "sauce americaine." Oh, those Frenchmen…
Fast-forward and I'm entertaining French "Name Chefs" in Manhattan (I won't mention who, but foodies would know him), and what does he want but burgers!!!
But I have to admit…there really isn't anything like a good burger. It has to have the perfect balance of charred meat and fatty richness (protein). Add crisp lettuce, tomato and onion (vegetables), and energy sustaining bread (grain), and you have the perfect food.
Then you get to top it with bacon (another food group on its own), cheese of some sort, and condiments (Didn't Reagan say catchup was a food group?). It's a very democratic food; "have it your way." What could be better?
Alternatives To Beef
In the restaurant, we often have small bits of proteins other than beef so burgers can be a great way to use them up while offering our guests a fun way to get their protein and yet keep it lean. Tuna, salmon, turkey and chicken all make wonderful burgers, as do the fattier lamb and pork.
I sometimes like to add my topping right to the mix. Lamb is great with feta and black olives. Turkey is tasty with chopped arugula, cracked black pepper and chunks of goat cheese.
Try some ground pork on the grill that has been mixed with rosemary, chilies and diced bits of smoked mozzarella – heavenly. These little "inventions" are often so well received by guests that they end up landing on the menu.
Ethnic flavors are also great with ground meat. Try Asian seasoning with fish burgers, Middle Eastern with lamb, Caribbean with pork, and cumin and other Mexican flavors with beef.
Harrison Lake Garden Burgers
Threw these together with my brother Dave on the 4th of July 4, 2002 at our family home in Indiana. You can add all types of stuff to these from corn kernels to sautéed zucchini or eggplant. Garden burgers are a great way to use up those lonely veggies in the crisper!!!
Note: For an even easier recipe use low-fat refried beans in place of the white beans and simply mix everything in a large bowl.