Hamburgers Galore

Hamburgers Galore

Hot weather does funny things to people, especially to cooks. Certain instincts crop up at about the same time that air conditioners crank up the juice. Primeval visions prevail, usually of smoldering coals and roasting meat, prompting the almost daily obeisance to that great American tradition, the summer barbecue grill.

And summer just wouldn’t be summer without another American tradition — the barbecued hamburger sandwich. Originally a chopped beef gravy-covered patty characteristic of German cooking, the hamburger became a sandwich as harried westward-going immigrants struggled across the Great Plains in the nineteenth century and staked out claims for dairy farms and cattle ranches. Because of those farms and ranches, beef grew to be an important part of the American diet. With the meat patty, and culinary habits of other immigrants mixing with those of the Germans, the famed American culinary melting pot soon bubbled from coast to coast and the ethnic hamburger first saw the dawn’s early light.

In tribute to those brave immigrants, who gave up much to come to America, and in tribute to those who still come, the following recipes for hamburgers are meant for the grills of Labor Day. What better way to celebrate a third American tradition: a day for the people who built America, with their “blood, sweat, and tears,” in a nation dedicated to the freedom of all the people of the world.

Just don’t make a burger so big you dislocate your jaw!

Aussie Hamburger

(Note: Each of the following recipes calls for 1 pound of ground beef chuck made into four patties, serving 4 people. Grill the burgers on your grill in the usual way.)

CHINESE BURGERS

In honor of the thousands of Chinese laborers who built the railroads linking the eats coast with the west.

2 T. soy sauce

1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper

1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, mashed

1/2 green pepper, cut into thin strips

2 green onions, chopped

1 stalk celery, cut into very thin slices

2 T. oil

Salt to taste

4 T. red wine vinegar

4 T. light brown sugar

2 t. cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water

1 t. dry mustard, mixed into the cornstarch and water

1 t. soy sauce

Alfalfa sprouts

4 sesame-seed hamburger buns

Mix hamburger with black pepper and the 2 T. soy sauce; form into 4 patties.

Heat the 2 T. oil in a heavy skillet and throw in the ginger and the vegetables Not the alfalfa sprouts). Stir-fry for 1 minute, remove the vegetables, and add the salt, vinegar, sugar, cornstarch mixture, dry mustard, and 1 t. soy sauce to the pan; stir quickly to mix and allow to thicken. Let cool for 2 minutes.

Mix the vegetables (not alfalfa sprouts) into the sweet-and-sour sauce. Serve the burgers, topped with the stir-fried vegetables and the alfalafa sprouts, on toasted sesame buns.

GERMAN BURGERS

In honor of the Germans who settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and shared their delicious hamburgers, as well as countless varieties of sausages and other preserved pork products.

Sauerkraut

Swiss cheese, thinly sliced

Dusseldorf or other German-style mustard

6 T. mayonnaise, mixed with 2 T. horseradish and 1/2 t. crushed caraway seeds

4 sesame-seed buns

Spread some of the mayonnaise mixture over each bun, top with the burgers, and then the mustard, cheese, and sauerkraut.

GREEK BURGERS

Mint

In honor of the Greek fishermen of Tarpon Springs, Florida.

2 T. chopped black olives, preferably Greek

2 T. chopped green pepper

1/4 t. dried oregano leaves (or use fresh, if preferred, about 3/4 T. or to taste)

1/2 t. dried mint (or use fresh, if preferred, about 3/4 T. or to taste)

1 T. olive oil

4 T. mayonnaise

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Lettuce

Tomato, sliced thinly

Pepperoncini peppers, sliced thinly

4 sesame-seed buns

Mix together the olives, green peppers, oregano, olive oil, cheese, and mayonnaise. Season to taste. Spread each bun with some of the mayonnaise mixture, top with the burgers, and some of each of the remaining ingredients.

SCANDINAVIAN BURGERS

In honor of the farmers who settled Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Dakotas, and provided milk and cheese for our tables.

1/2 cup sour cream

2 T. horseradish

1 1/2 t. dill weed, chopped (or use 1 t. dried)

Salt and black pepper to taste

Harvarti cheese, cut into thick slices

Cucumber slices (thin: peel cucumber)

4 rye or whole wheat buns

Mix horseradish and dill into sour cream and season with salt and pepper. Top burgers with cheese, cucumber slices, and the sour cream mixture.

MEXICAN BURGERS

In honor of the Mexicans who pick the vegetables and fruits we buy in the supermarkets of America, who work long hours in the restaurants and meat-packing plants, whose sweat sustains us.

Lettuce

Cilantro

Jack cheese, thinly sliced

Pickled jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced

Thin slices ripe avocado

Red onion slices

Chunky salsa

4 sesame-seed buns

Place lettuce and cilantro on each bun. Top the burgers with the remaining ingredients.

FRENCH BURGERS

In honor of the French soldiers who traveled across a roiling ocean and helped the American rebels repel the British, the French people who taught Thomas Jefferson so much about French food and influenced America’s fledgling wine industry.

3 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1 oz. blue cheese, room temperature

2 T. chopped shallots, sautéed briefly until transparent

1/4 t. dried tarragon

1 T. finely chopped walnuts

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Dijon mustard

Lettuce

1/2 cup sauteed sliced mushrooms

4 sesame-seed buns

Mix together well cream cheese, blue cheese, shallots, tarragon, walnuts, and black pepper. Spread Dijon mustard on bun, top with burger, spread with 1/4 of the cheese mixture, and top with the mushrooms.

ITALIAN BURGERS

In honor of the Italians who settled in New York and New Jersey, especially their love of fresh produce and “red sauce.” The most popular cuisine in America, born in adversity and poverty, Italy’s “cucina povera” really rules the American palate today.

Pizza sauce

8 fresh basil leaves

1 cup pickled onion slices

1/2 cup sautéed mushrooms

12 thin slices pepperoni or 8 slices prosciutto

Mozzarella cheese, thickly sliced

4 sesame-seed buns

Top each burger with pizza sauce, 2 basil leaves, 2 T. mushrooms, 3 slices of pepperoni (or 2 slices prosciutto), and thickly sliced Mozzarella cheese.

DELI BURGERS

Last, but not least, a hybrid befitting the American propensity for invention.

Thinly sliced deli ham

Thinly sliced deli Swiss cheese

Dill pickle slices

Coleslaw

American yellow mustard

4 sesame seed buns

Spread mustard on bottom buns. Top burgers with the remaining ingredients.

For more on burgers, see Hamburger: A Global History (Reaktion Books – Edible), by Andrew F. Smith.

© 2008, 2010 C. Bertelsen

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I am a cook who loves to write. And I am a writer who loves to cook.

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