Here's a fact: turning the big burger without it breaking is a feat. Here's a more important fact: it's not that big of a deal if it breaks. You can arrange it on the loaf of bread after cooking and it won't matter all that much if it's one piece or in several pieces. It's a showstopper either way. I use two pizza peels (one above the patty, one below) to turn the burger. If you don't have peels, use large spatulas. A quick wipe of olive oil or spritz of nonstick cooking spray on the peels or the spatulas can't hurt. This burger is messy in the best possible way. Eat chunks of it with your fingers, dip the bread into the cherry sauce, and enjoy every bite.
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
- 3 1/2 pounds ground beef
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, preferably gray salt, plus more for sprinkling
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for sprinkling
- 6 ounces soft, fresh goat cheese, at room temperature, such as Laura Chenel's
- Nonstick spray, for spritzing
- One 16-ounce round loaf country bread
- Grilled Bing Cherry-White Balsamic Sauce, recipe follows
Preheat a gas grill to high or ignite the charcoal. When the grill is hot, clean your grill rack. Decrease the temperature to medium-high (for a gas grill only) and brush or wipe a little oil on the grill rack.
Divide the ground beef into two equal portions. Line a 9-inch-round cake tin with plastic wrap. Gently push half the beef into the tin. Don't press too hard. Place another sheet of plastic wrap on a work surface and invert the tin so the shaped beef patty pops out onto the plastic wrap. Line the cake tin with plastic wrap again. Gently push the remaining half the beef into the tin and keep it in the tin for the moment.
Sprinkle the top of each patty with the salt and pepper. Spoon the cheese onto the patty still in the tin. Spread the cheese to cover the meat, but leave about 1/2-inch margin uncovered around the edge. Use the plastic wrap-lining to remove the patty from the tin and flip it onto the non-cheese patty. You want the seasoned sides of the meat facing together, with the cheese sandwiched between. Lightly press the 2 patties together all around the edge. Sprinkle the top of the burger with salt and pepper.
Wipe a pizza peel with a little oil and transfer the burger to the grill using the peel. Close the grill lid and cook until the bottom of the patty shows grill marks, 8 to 9 minutes. Spritz a little nonstick spray on top of the burger, then flip and cook, 8 to 9 minutes. Gently transfer the cooked burger to a large platter and let rest, about 15 minutes.
Halve the bread straight across horizontally so it forms a bun. If you like, you can toast both halves lightly on the grill. Transfer the burger onto the bottom half of the bread. Spoon on the Grilled Bing Cherry-White Balsamic Sauce and close the burger with the top half of the bread. Slice the burger into 6 wedges, as if you were cutting a pizza, and serve.
Cook's Note: A great burger begins with the meat. You'll never get a great burger from meat in a tube. Good burgers come from freshly ground steaks with a good percentage of fat. There's no such thing as a great super-lean burger. As a rule of thumb, choose beef with 20 to 25 percent fat content for your burgers.
A fresh grind is just as important. Choose chuck steaks from your butchers and ask them to grind the meat while you wait, the same day you plan to cook them if possible. Even your local supermarket butcher will be happy to do this for you.
Grilled Bing Cherry-White Balsamic Sauce:
- 2 cups whole Bing cherries, stemmed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
- 6 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt, preferably gray salt
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
- Special equipment: Fine-mesh grill basket or all-metal strainer
Summer fruit, when given a quick turn on the grill, gets a smoky, sultry tang that works well with goat cheese on a burger. This also works well as a topping for a turkey burger, chicken breast or a grilled pork chop or pork loin.
Dark red Bing cherries are beautiful in this sauce but you can also use a combination of cherries with apricots, peaches or any stone fruit. I like to grill cherries and then pit them; you lose less juice that way. For stone fruit, cut the fruit in half, remove the pit, give the fruit a light rub of olive oil on both sides and then grill, about 2 minutes each side.
Preheat a gas grill or charcoal grill to medium-hot heat. A charcoal grill will glow red under gray ash when at this temperature. (Alternatively, grill the cherries in a hot grill pan over high heat on the stove.) Pour the cherries into a fine-mesh grill basket or all-metal strainer, and place the basket over the grill. Cook until bright and smoky, but not charred, about 4 minutes. Give the basket a good shake every 20 to 30 seconds, so the cherries heat through. After 3 minutes, taste a cherry to see if it's smoky enough. Take the basket off the heat and let the cherries cool, about 5 minutes.
Halve the cherries over a bowl, reserving all the cherry juice you can. Discard the pits. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large saucepan or skillet, either on the grill or the stove. When the butter is foaming, add the shallots and stir. Cook the shallots until they begin to show some color, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and brown sugar. Add the cherries to the saucepan with any reserved juice. Cook until just slightly syrupy, about 3 minutes. Add the salt and pepper, taste, and add more seasoning if you like.
This can be stored in the fridge, tightly covered, for 3 to 4 days. Yield: about 2 cups.