My niece Holly and her husband Don are chefs. There are few invitations to dinner with her friends. The apology? Buddies say they’re intimidated by the fancy food the pair serve up when entertaining at their house.
To prove it, they held a gathering to show their party food can be delicious but far from fancy. They made smashed cheeseburgers, a kind of culinary art of culinary performance. Each two-patty burger takes less than two minutes to cook on a super-hot plancha (cast iron griddle) on the grate of a gas or charcoal grill. It goes fast.
The buns are toasted and topped with spices before grilling begins so the burgers come together quickly and the cheese layered between the patties is perfectly melted.
It’s the crust that forms on each side of the meat that gives the burgers their irresistibility, as well as a welcome contrast in texture to the soft burger buns. The ground beef is rolled into ready-to-cook balls ahead of time, 2-ounce balls ready for battering.
It seems like a great idea for 4th of July gatherings with four to six guests. The plancha process is quick: smash, sizzle, flip, cheese, sizzle, stack.
At her outdoor merrymaking, Holly served up store-bought ice cream cones and drumsticks. With a grin, Holly asked the guests if that was fancy enough. Here I offer a recipe for Strawberry Clouds, a delicious finish that can be served on top of Angel Food Cake or ice cream.
And if you want a delicious side to go with your burgers, delicious orange-scented baked beans are hard to beat. The dish can be prepared and reheated in advance. Happy 4th of July.
Yield: 6 servings
24 ounces 80/20 ground beef, freshly ground beef chuck preferred; see chef’s notes
6 soft hamburger buns
Soft butter for spreading buns
Condiment Suggestions: Easy Burger Thousand Island Dressing (3 parts mayo plus 1 part ketchup), lettuce, thinly sliced red onion, sliced tomato, sliced pickles, mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 thin slices of processed cheese, such as American or Jack
Equipment: large rigid (rigid) spatula, potato masher, thin, flexible spatula such as a slotted fish spatula, plancha (cast iron griddle), gas or charcoal grill, optional heat-resistant grilling gloves, optional burger press (if using a press, large rigid spatula, and potato masher will not required)
Cook’s Notes: Although most Smash-style burger lovers prefer 80-20 ground beef for its fat content, I’ve used leaner 85-15 ground beef with success.
1. Divide ground beef into 2-ounce portions and roll each into a ball and place on a plate. The easiest way to do this is to use a kitchen scale, but if you don’t have one, you can roll the meat into 1 3/4 inch diameter balls and try to make them the same size.
2. Place the plancha (large cast iron griddle) on the cooking grate (charcoal or gas). Start grill. Cover the plancha and heat until sizzling hot, 550 to 600 degrees. This takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure children are far away from the grill.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the buns. Lightly brush the cut surface of each bun with softened butter. Place buttered side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Grill in the oven about 6 to 8 inches below the grill element. Turn on the oven light and watch carefully as the surface is toasted. In my oven it’s 1 1/2 minutes.
4. Since the process on the grill is quick, prepare the buns in advance with the desired spices and place them next to the grill. If you’re new to this, make a burger (2 patties) at a time; If you’re a pro, make two (4 patties) at a time. For newbies, you can wear heat-resistant gloves for protection; Place two meatballs about 4 inches apart on the super-hot plancha. With a large, firm spatula in one hand and a potato masher in the other, press down meatballs with a large spatula and use a potato masher on the spatula to increase the pressure (smashed burger presses are also sold, which work in place of the large can be used). solid spatula and potato masher). The meat forms very thin patties. remove or press spatula; There may be areas with small holes. Grill for about a minute (the tops are beginning to turn a pale pink-grey in some spots), season with salt and pepper. Use a thin, flexible spatula to flip each patty (try to grasp any browned bits in a scraping motion) and immediately coat a patty with cheese. Grill for about 30 seconds and place the patty without cheese on top of the one with cheese. Place on the prepared bun and serve.
Baked beans with orange blossom
Yield: about 14 cups, 10 to 12 servings
3 1/2 cups large northern kidney beans, picked, rinsed, soaked overnight
Canola oil or vegetable oil for greasing the pot
1 large onion, halved, peeled, sliced
1 tablespoon salt, less to taste, but these beans taste best when well salted
1/2 to 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
3/4 cup orange marmalade
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Optional: 1 tablespoon finely chopped chipotle in adobo
Grated zest from 1 orange (colored part of zest), reserve orange
2 tablespoons honey, preferably orange blossom honey
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 pound salted pork, rinsed very well, drained, patted dry, diced
1. Drain, rinse and place beans in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover beans 2 cm with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until almost tender, about 50 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. Let cool down; drain through a sieve, reserving the cooking liquid.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly grease the inside of a bean pot or 4 1/2 to 5 quart deep casserole dish with a tight fitting lid. Spread the onion slices over the bottom of the saucepan or casserole dish. Scatter cooked drained beans on top.
3. In a large bowl, pour 1 quart (4 cups) bean cooking liquid (if you don’t have enough water), add water; Stir in the salt, pepper, dry mustard, jam, cayenne, tomato paste, chipotle if using, zest, honey, and ginger. Pour the mixture over the beans until just covered (reserve the leftover liquid to add later if needed). Scatter the salt pork over the beans.
4. Lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees. Cover and place in the oven for 7 to 8 hours, adding more liquid—the cooking liquid mixture—as needed to keep the beans from drying out. Remove the lid during the last 1 1/2 hours to allow a nice crust to form. Serve hot. Cut the (peeled) orange in half and squeeze some fresh orange juice onto the beans (catching any seeds). I know that sounds a little strange, but it’s a juicy combination.
Source: Adapted from “Bean by Bean” by Crescent Dragonwagon (Workman, $15.95 softcover)
Yield: 6 servings
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into several pieces
24 large fresh strawberries, washed, not peeled
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup strawberry vodka or watermelon vodka
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
12 thin slices of Angel Food Cake or 6 generous scoops of ice cream
1. Place a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter, partially melt and add strawberries. Gently toss berries and cook until all of the butter melts and coats the berries. It’s okay for the butter to boil, but don’t let it brown. Add sugar, vanilla and vodka; continue cooking, letting the mixture bubble and continuing to brush the berries. The strawberries should be tender but not mushy, and the sauce should reduce a bit. (If making 1-2 hours ahead, reheat over medium-high heat to liquify the sauce—berries don’t need to be hot.)
2. In shallow bowls, pour berries and sauce over sliced Angel Food Cake or ice cream (vanilla or pistachio).
Source: Adapted from “Dessert Circus at Home” by Jacques Torres (William Morrow, $28)