More than a decade ago, I teamed up with a friend to garden on her farm. The vegetables and fruit we grow are a labor of love, keeping us in fresh produce all summer and preserved bounty through cold months. Whenever I look up from weeding close-growing onions or yanking bolted greens, a small herd of cattle will be eying me from across the fence, waiting for my bucket of treats to land in their pasture.
Leah Mitchell, owner of Mitchell Farm, raises all-natural Red Angus cattle, selling hundreds of pounds of beef each year to help support the rest of the farm. My involvement stops at handfeeding across the fence line, so I asked my garden partner to share one of her favorite beef recipes.
For this burger, she forms ground beef into thin patties that then surround a layer of cheese and bacon. The resulting burger looks thick and juicy and reveals a creamy center on the first bite. The recipe works if you keep the patties thin and the filling from overflowing. Once the layers are sandwiched together, pinching the patty edges until the seam disappears ensures the cheese doesn’t ooze into a mess on the grill. Expect to have leftover filling to enjoy as a dip while the burgers cook.
Because Mitchell doesn’t raise pigs, she buys a whole, locally raised hog each year and cooks the bacon ends, bite-sized leftovers from the cutting process, for the filling. If you’re using bacon strips, it’s easiest to cook, drain and then crumble the meat.
Cheese- and Bacon-Stuffed Burgers
4 ounces cream cheese (about 1/2 cup)
3 ounces crumbled blue cheese (about 1/2 cup)
5 strips cooked bacon or 1/3 cup cooked bacon ends, crumbled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
Freshly ground black pepper and seasoned salt blend to taste
In a small microwave-proof bowl, combine the cream cheese, blue cheese, bacon and garlic. Heat the mixture in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds, until the blue cheese just starts to soften. Stir until it forms a creamy spread.
Divide the ground beef into eight portions, each about the size of a large egg. Press each patty into a 4- to 5-inch circle that’s about 3/8 inch thick. Add a heaping tablespoon of the filling to the center of four patties. Set one of the remaining patties atop each, pat to flatten and then pinch together the edges until the seam disappears. Sprinkle with pepper and chili powder or other seasonings to taste.
Cook the burgers on a preheated grill, evenly spacing them on a cooler area for the initial cooking. When the meat starts to sweat, flip the burgers and move them to a hotter part of the grill to sear. After searing both sides, return the burgers to the cooler part of the grill as needed to finish cooking. For a well-done burger, the meat should register 160°F on an instant-read thermometer. Serve immediately.
Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.
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