I’m off work this week, and there’s a whole lot of cooking going on around here. I’ve even made bread three times so far. My Culinary Enthusiast is feeling very lucky indeed. Yesterday dinner was his choice, and he asked for burgers. The weather has been mild and sunny, and he was looking forward to using the barbecue in its new home on the back porch. So, burgers it was.
I have two variations on hamburgers that I’ve been making for quite some time, the main difference being one is ground beef and the other is a combination of ground turkey and chicken, as I described here when I last made them in November. This time, I wanted to make something different, that would reflect the season. I didn’t want to garnish the burgers with the usual fresh onion and tomato slices and a variety of condiments. I wanted something, well, something more wintry.
What I came up with, from who knows where, had me second-guessing myself. Could I really create a tasty burger that we would enjoy using roasted sliced beets in place of the onion/tomato slices, and a warm topping of caramelized onions and swiss chard? Could I really get away with no mustard, ketchup or relish? Would Brent think I’d lost it?
I have to tell you, I was feeling a little trepidatious about this idea, but couldn’t shake it off. I had to try it. And, it worked! We both enjoyed the burgers, which were juicy and flavourful. The beet was toothsome, sweet and earthly. The topping of caramelized onion and chard, along with a healthy amount of freshly ground pepper, was moist and packed a wall0p of flavour. Brent and I both enjoyed these burgers.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any balsamic vinegar in the cupboard (shameful disorganization on my part), so I used white balsamic instead for both the beets and the onion and chard topping. The white balsamic was good, but had I had regular good quality balsamic on hand, I would have used more in the topping, to impart its intense sweet depth of flavour. The topping would have been a bit moister too, but we were still happy with how it turned out.
Here’s how I went about creating this unique burger (at least, I’ve never seen one like it, but with the plethora of specialty burger restaurants out there, perhaps you’ve seen something similar – if so, do tell me about it!).
Winter Burgers with Roasted Beets and Carmelized Onion & Chard Topping
Makes 4 1/4-pound burgers
For the Beets
Pre-heat oven to 300°. Peel one large beet and cut into slices less than 1/4 inch thick. Put into a bowl along with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, a grinding of fresh pepper and the leaves of a couple of thyme sprigs. Toss well, then arrange on a parchment paper lined baking tray, making sure there are thyme leaves on each one. Drizzle any liquid remaining in the bowl over the beets.
Now, here’s a little tip, along the lines of, “I wish I had done this…”. Cover the beets with foil before placing in the oven, removing it about 3/4 of the way through the cooking, assuming the beets are tender at that point. I didn’t cover mine until nearly the end of the roasting time, and they were just barely tender enough. Turn the beets over when you remove the foil.
Roast the beets for 45 minutes, longer if needed.
Carmelized Onion and Chard Topping
Chop half a large onion into a medium sized dice. Remove the stems from about six inner stalks of swiss chard, and reserve (they’re going into the soup I’m making after this). Roll the chard leaves, make a couple of slices lengthwise, and then chop.
Heat one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat, add the onions and stir until translucent. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat until they begin to turn a deep golden colour. Add 2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar and cook until caramelized. At this point, add the chard.
Stir and cook, adding another teaspoon or two of the vinegar, until the mixture is cooked down and still moist. Remove from heat. The finished topping looks like this. (I think it would have looked even more appetizing with the darkness of regular balsamic vinegar.)
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- about a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
- 2 – 3 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 egg
- half red chile pepper, seeded and minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- several good grindings of black pepper
- leaves of several springs of thyme
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until incorporated. Some people like to use their hands for this, but I have a large serving fork that does the trick just fine. Pat down the meat mixture, and score into four relatively equal portions. (I don’t know about you, but I don’t stay awake at night if my burger patties don’t all weigh the same.) Scoop out each quarter and fashion into patties. Refrigerate until ready to grill.
Bringing It All Together
Grill the burgers on the barbecue until the meat is cooked through but not dried out. Whatever you do, don’t flatten the patties with a spatula. You want the juices inside the burger, not your barbecue! Lightly toast the buns of your choice on the grill as well (I used whole wheat kaiser buns).
To assemble, place a slice or two of roasted beet on the bottom of the bun, add a grilled burger on top and another slice of beet. Finish it off with 1/4 of the caramelized onion and chard topping, and dig in!
These burgers, strange as they may sound, are definitely worth a try. They were flavourful, healthy and definitely had a winter vibe going on. Just the ticket for a February barbecue.