The challenge: how to make the ubiquitous burger more delicious, more extraordinary, and more unique. My suggestions: Try something other than beef for the patty. Add something unexpected. Load it up with flavor. Cook it over wood or charcoal. And, for a finishing touch, toast really good buns.
Personally, I am not a “grillmeister,” but when pressed I will gladly accept the challenge. I prefer real wood or charcoal to gas, and I ignite the old-fashioned way, with kindling, to create a hot, slow fire that will sear and cook any burger to the desired doneness. The three burgers here -- made of beef, ground turkey, and hake (a flaky white fish that is moist and tasty and holds up to the rigors of high heat) -- will certainly enliven any cookout.
For beef burgers, look for organically raised, grass-fed meat, and use six ounces per patty. Be careful not to overwork the meat when forming patties, which will make them tough. Instead, gently form each one. I mix aged cheddar and Swiss cheeses because both are good for melting -- the Swiss adds elasticity, which makes for long, gooey strings of cheese -- and blend them with freshly grated horseradish for a kick. Butter the brioche buns, grill them lightly, slather them with “Russian dressing,” and finish with crisp bacon, sliced farm tomatoes, and lettuce before serving to delighted guests.
The turkey burgers are not your typical ones -- they’re actually made from my go-to meatloaf combination of organic ground dark turkey meat and red-pepper relish, and are full of flavor. Consider topping them with Heinz Chili Sauce and vinegary shredded kale.
And for burgers fresh from the sea, try the third option, made with hake: They’re my favorite, and my grandchildren’s too. These are cooked not directly over the coals, but rather in a cast-iron skillet on the grill. Flavored with chives, mayo, and capers, and garnished with pickled red onions, they will have your friends and family returning for seconds -- maybe even thirds.