SINCE IT WAS A guys-only meal at the homestead, ground meat was leading the menu. The only question was what form would appear on the supper table. Was it going to show up as taco-filling, spaghetti and meat sauce, or grilled burgers?
I could have polled my two teen-age sons for their preference, but I didn't. They might have picked tacos or spaghetti. That is the trouble with attempts at consensus-building. You ask people what they want, and they give you the wrong answer. Consensus is so much easier if everyone agrees that your way is the best.
Moreover, since I was going to be the chief cook and dishwasher for the night, I felt I had earned the right to dictate the menu. I picked burgers.
But these burgers weren't going to be boring. They were macho burgers, made with meat that we had ground ourselves and, in one case, stuffed with a cheese mixture I had blended with my very own fork.
Why did I deviate from my ordinary burger-making routine? Book-learning made me do it.
I had read the hamburger-making passages in "The Complete Meat Cookbook" (Houghton Mifflin, 1998) by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly and felt inspired to try something different.
First, I wanted to grind the beef. The main advantages of grinding the meat myself seemed to be that the meat might taste good and the grinding would be fun. Rather than using the meat-grinder attachments on our KitchenAid mixer, I chose to cut the meat in the Cuisinart food processor.
I found a sirloin roast in the freezer, let it defrost, then sliced it into 3/4-inch chunks. I made sure I included all the fat. Fat adds flavor, of course, but Aidells and Kelly said in their book that fat helps keeps the burgers moist. They said the ideal burger has about 20 percent fat in it.
Using a metal blade, I pulsed the food processor until the meat looked something like the ground beef I saw in grocery-store packages. To my eye, the beef I ground looked much redder and had a much more appealing texture than the ground meat found in stores. I was one proud grinder.
The next step, putting the cheese inside rather than outside the burger, was more daring. I wasn't sure if my kids, who are traditional cheeseburger types, would go along with it. So I made all the burgers with the freshly ground meat, but compromised on the cheese treatment.
The kids had exterior cheeseburgers, patties covered with slices of Cheddar. I had interior cheeseburgers, patties with blue cheese stuffed inside.
Blue Cheese-Stuffed Burgers
Makes 4 sandwiches
1 pound ground beef
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon softened butter
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onions (such as Vidalias), optional
In a large bowl, combine the meat, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Form meat into 8 patties about 3/4-inch thick. Refrigerate the patties while you prepare the stuffing.
Put the cheese in a small bowl and blend in butter with a fork. Mix in the onions (if using) with fork until mixture is creamy.
Remove patties from refrigerator, place equal amounts of cheese stuffing on half of them. Cover the stuffing with the other patties and seal the edges with your fingers. Grill over medium-hot fire.
-- From "The Complete Meat Cookbook"