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Burgers with Blue Cheese

The quality of ground beef is of paramount importance; make sure yours comes from a reputable butcher or an upscale supermarket. For the best burger, choose well-marbled chuck or sirloin steak with at least 20 percent fat and ask the butcher to grind it twice.

Ingredients:

For the caramelized onion jam (optional):

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced 
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 
  • 1/4 cup red wine 
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves 
  • 1/4 cup light agave syrup 
  •   
  • 1 1/2 lb. ground beef chuck or sirloin (75% to 80% lean)  
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 3 to 4 Tbs. very cold water 
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted   
  • 4 sandwich rolls, such as seeded Kaiser, split 
  • 4 to 5 oz. blue cheese, sliced or crumbled 
  • 1 to 2 cups shredded crisp lettuce leaves, such as iceberg or romaine 
  • Chipotle ketchup for serving (see related recipe at left; optional) 
  • Beer mustard for serving (see related recipe at left; optional)  

Directions:

To make the caramelized onion jam, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the onion, vinegar, wine, sugar and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is very soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the agave syrup and stir to coat the onion. Cook until the onion begins to caramelize and the mixture is thick and syrupy, 1 to 2 minutes more; do not allow the jam to burn. The jam will thicken as it cools. Serve immediately, or cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Put the ground beef in a bowl and generously season with salt and pepper. Add the cold water as needed to moisten the meat. Using wet hands, gently work the seasoning and water into the meat, working quickly to keep the meat cool and being careful not to overwork it. Divide the meat into 4 portions and shape each into a patty 3 to 3 1/2 inches in diameter and about 1 inch thick. Transfer the patties to a platter lined with parchment or waxed paper. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or freeze for 10 minutes.

Prepare a hot fire in a grill. Brush and oil the grill grate.

Brush the hamburger patties on both sides with some of the melted butter and generously season again with salt and pepper. Grill the burgers directly over high heat until they are nicely grill-marked and their juices begin to rise to the surface, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the burgers over and grill the other side. Move the burgers over indirect heat until cooked to your liking. During the last few minutes of grilling, brush the cut sides of the rolls with the remaining melted butter and grill, cut side down, until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Turn the rolls over and grill for about 30 seconds more.

Serve the hamburgers on the grilled rolls topped with the blue cheese, lettuce, caramelized onion jam, ketchup and mustard. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma On the Grill, by Willie Cooper (Oxmoor House, 2009).