I have some other cookbooks besides Mastering the Grill that also have recipes for stuffed burgers. The theory being that the lean meat we are using today is less flavorful and less moist. To make up for this you make not one, but two patties and put a filling in between them to add back some flavor and moisture. The burger I was making was called the Chili Cheeseburger. The filling was your favorite chili and shredded cheddar cheese. The cheese was intended to act as a binder. As the cheese melted it would help keep the chili from oozing out. Before making this burger the only problem I saw was making the patties. The end weight was 1/3 pound which meant the dual patties each weighed 1/6 pound.
A simple prep that can be done while the grill heats up
When the time came I started warming up the grill while I made the burgers. I’d bought 2 pounds (1 Kg) of ground beef and separated off 2/3 pound (0.33 Kg). I mixed in some salt and pepper for seasoning. Then I rolled this into a loose ball and divided that in half. Then I divided this in half again leaving me four lumps of meat 1/6 pound (76 g) each. I rolled each of the 1/6 pound (76 g) lumps into a ball. These weren’t a whole lot bigger than a meatball, which confirmed my fears that the 1/6 pound (76 g) patties would be hard to form. I started rolling these in the palms of my hands, moving my hands to the sides away from each other which started spreading the meat into an oval. I began to press my hands together to flatten them out at the same time. To get a patty the width of a normal hamburger bun was difficult. The meat had to be pressed out very thin. After a few unsuccessful attempts I had four 1/6 pound (76 g) patties.
Next time I need to use less filling
I added the chili and cheese to a small mixing bowl and stirred them up to evenly distributed the shredded cheese throughout the chili. Then I placed this on two of the patties. In looking at the pictures now it is plain to see I put too much, particularly considering the big beans in the chili. I picked up the patty with the chili in the palm of my hand and topped it with a plain patty. With the patties in my hand, I worked my way around the edge trying to seal the seams. The innards kept trying to ooze out and it took a while to get them sealed off. Finally I achieved what I thought was a good seal. I melted some butter for the toasted buns and it was time to go out to the grill.
The patties looked like they were well-sealed. Not the case.
The recipe called for you to cook the burgers for 5 minutes on high then flip them and finish for 4 minutes on the second side. The first three minutes were uneventful. Then I started having flare-ups. Some of the fillings were finding holes to ooze out of causing flare-ups. Fortunately my grill grate was well oiled so I was able to slide the patties forward or backward to a new area. Of course the flare-ups would start up again after 30 seconds, so I was kept busy moving the burgers out of harms way. When I flipped them it was the same pattern except it was 2 minutes before the flare-ups started.
The patties were starting to spring leaks at the seams and the oozing chili and fat were causing flare-up after 3 minutes
The other thing that began to happen was the burgers began to separate in several places into two patties again. I was lucky that more of the fillings didn’t spill out. I think at this point the cheese had melted and was helping to bind the chili. With the burgers splitting I had to be extra careful moving them away from the flare-ups. Once again I was glad my grill grate was well oiled. As per Steven Raichlen’s teachings: I scrape the grill when it has heated up. Then I spray some PAM for Grilling (high temperature formula) onto a folded paper towel. I grab this with some tongs and oil the grate. When I am done cooking I leave the grill on for 10 minutes and then scrape and oil it again. I rarely have problems with food sticking to the grill and it sure came in handy today.
The two halves started to separate when the burgers were cooking on the second side. I need to seal them better next time
I pulled the burgers off the grill and didn’t know what to expect. I am happy to say while they weren’t as pretty or photogenic as I might have hoped, but they sure tasted great. The insides were moist and tasty and the burgers also had that nice grilled flavor. I tried one plain and one with mustard. The burgers were tasty enough that I could take or leave the mustard. As a mustard fan this is a big admission from me. I knew what I had to do next time: Add less filling and do a better job sealing the edges and any holes on the surface of the patties. I knew that I would have two more chances at it later in the week.
They tasted a whole lot better than they looked
Later in the afternoon it was on to the stuffed trout. This recipe from Smoke and Spice started off with a marinade which was somewhere between a liquid marinade and a paste. The liquids in the marinade were Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and canola oil. To this was added minced garlic, salt and black pepper. Each of the fillets were rubbed with this pasty mixture, then wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge for an hour. While this was going on I would do the prep for the stuffing and fire up the smoker. I also need to figure out how to smoke these fillets. The recipe called for them to be butterflied. You would stuff the two halves, fold them back together and wrap some limp partly cooked bacon around them to tie the halves together. I had separate fillets. I made sure to get 4 matching left and right pairs but they were separate pieces. I still has some time to figure this out as I set about chopping up the celery, green pepper and onion. I also chopped up the pecan nuts and 16 saltine crackers.
Some assembly required: First the strings, then the bacon...
...then the stuffing...
...then the top fillet and another strip of bacon. Then the strings are tied
After the trout had been in the fridge for an hour, I took it out to stuff it. I heated a large frying pan using high heat and cooked the bacon. The bacon was supposed to be cooked in a frying pan so it would still be limp. I must admit I have been using the microwave for my bacon lately, so I am not an expert in frying it. When I pulled it off it was still limp, but there must have been some carryover cooking going on here. When I checked later the bacon was somewhat crispy. As a result there was no way I was going to be able to wrap the bacon around the pair of fillets. It would crumble away. This actually helped me solve the problem of cooking my fillets, which were not butterflied as the recipe called for. The Tennessee Whiskey Pork Loin recipe I’ve made several times uses a strip of bacon above and below the pork loin. The bacon gets trapped by the string used to tie the pork loin shut. So I would tie the two fillets together after they were stuffed and the string would also secure the bacon. Instead of wrapping the bacon around the fillets I would run it lengthwise.
With that problem solved I moved on to the stuffing. The hot fat from frying the bacon was retained and the onion, green pepper & celery were sauteed in the bacon fat. Once they were soft I poured them through a strainer into a stainless steel mixing bowl. Then I added in the crushed pecan nuts and crushed saltine crackers. Once the stuffing was mixed it had a dry but slightly pasty consistency to it. I laid out three strings, a bacon strip and then the bottom fillet. I added the stuffing, topped this with the other fillet then another bacon strip. The two fillets were tied together and placed on a shallow foil pan with a ribbed bottom. I like the raised ribs in these pans. They help keep your food up out of any drippings and some of the smoke can make it to the bottom side of the food.
The trout are back in the Kitchen after a 50 minute smoke
After all four pieces of fish were ready it was out to the smoker which was running at 200 degrees (93 C). The fish recipes in Smoke & Spice call for a temperature of 180-200 degrees (82-93 C). I don’t know if it is the mild weather we’ve had this week or if I am at one with the smoker, but it has been rock steady all week. I get it up to temperature and it has stayed glued there throughout the cook. As I added the fish, I also added several small Pecan chunks for the smoke. Midway through he 50 minute cooking time I turned the fish around 180 degrees to even out the temps. This is another reason I like the foil pans: You can turn the pans to accomplish this midcourse turn and not disturb the item you are smoking or worry about it sticking to the grate. After 50 minutes it was time to eat. I brought the fish in, cut the strings and plated the fish.
Plated and ready to serve
This fish was wonderful too. If I had to pick: I think I like this fish better than the tuna the other night. But it was real close. The trout was still moist and the stuffing was a perfect compliment for this fish. I like pecan wood with fish. Once again it took a little planning and prep to keep the fish moist, but the results are well worth it. The tuna Tuesday and this trout have convinced me to keep exploring smoked fish recipes. I heard about a cookbook that is strictly about grilling and smoking fish which I am now on the lookout for. On tap for Friday: Having another go at the stuffed hamburgers for lunch and smoke a bone-in pork loin roast for supper.
The trout was incredible!