Burger Birthday

by Jeanne

Monstertb There’s nothing more American than a burger.  While many can’t agree on it’s origins most food historians agree that the hamburger made its official debut at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. Concessionaire Fletcher Davis of Athens, TX, served the hamburger with a mixture of ground mustard and mayonnaise on slices of thick bread and topped the burger with cucumber pickles and a slice of Bermuda onion.

And we Americans love our burgers.  According to the research organization NPD who tracks trends for marketers and the generally curious, 73% of all burgers consumed in the U.S. are prepared and purchased; French fries are the most popular side item and burgers are more popular than pizza plus seven of every 10 commercially ordered burgers are cheeseburgers most often with American cheese followed by cheddar and Swiss. According to a Hardee’s survey, 48% of Americans say ketchup is their favorite hamburger condiment, followed by mayonnaise and then mustard. What’s more, 83% of those surveyed say lettuce is their favorite topping, followed closely by tomato, and then pickle, onion, bacon, chili and salsa.

Recently Hardee’s in a complete act of decadence, and perhaps to fill a market void announced the Monster Thickburger— two 1/3-pound slabs of Angus beef, four strips of bacon, three slices of cheese and mayonnaise on a buttered sesame seed bun.  This 1,420 calorie meal sells for $5.49, or with fries and a soda for just over $7.  In an interview on CNBC, Hardee’s chief executive Andrew Puzder was unapologetic, saying the company’s latest sandwich is "not a burger for tree-huggers."  Apparently the marketing strategy is to be the real burger choice for real men and real men aren’t environmentalists? 

What you eat is ultimately your responsibility regardless of party affiliation.  I don’t eat a lot of burgers but when I do it must be worth the indulgence.  The 2004 winner of Sutter Home’s Build a Better Burger competition is an example.

History & Legends of Hamburgers

Photo: Image by Hardees of the Monster Thickburger

Grilled California Avocado BLT Burgers W/ Caramelized Chipotle Onions

2004 Winner of Sutter Home Build a Better Burger Contest
Serves 6

Carmelized Chipotle Onions
1 large sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce
1 tablespoon beef broth
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon crushed fresh garlic
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese Spread
6 1/2 ounces light garlic-and-herbs spreadable cheese
4 ounces Point Reyes blue cheese or other favorite blue cheese, crumbled

1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground sirloin
1/3 cup minced sweet onion
1/4 cup Sutter Home Zinfandel
3 tablespoons minced fresh oregano, thyme, and basil (any combination)
1 tablespoon Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons spicy seasoned salt
Oil for brushing grill rack
12 California avocado slices (prepare at the last minute, brushing with balsamic vinegar
and sprinkling with spicy seasoned salt before grilling)
12 pre-cooked bacon slices
6 soft Kaiser rolls (about 4 1/2 inches in diameter), split
Romaine lettuce leaves
6 large tomato slices, about 1/4 inch thick

In a grill with a cover, prepare a medium-hot fire for direct-heat cooking.


Caramelized onions

Combine onion, pepper sauce, broth, vinegar, oil, garlic, and brown sugar in a 10-inch nonstick skillet with a lid. When coals are ready, place covered pan on grill rack. Cook onion mixture for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized and most of liquid is evaporated. Remove pan from grill and set aside.


Combine spreadable cheese and blue cheese in a saucepan; cover and set aside.


Place ground beef in a large bowl. Drizzle in onion, Zinfandel, herbs, pepper sauce, and seasoned salt; mix gently. Shape beef mixture into 6 round patties.

Brush grill rack with vegetable oil. Place patties on grill rack, cover, and cook about 4 minutes. Turn and continue cooking until done to preference.

Meanwhile, place saucepan with cheese spread on outer edge of grill rack to warm cheese mixture just until it reaches a very soft, spreading consistency. Remove saucepan from grill and set aside.

During final minutes of grilling patties, arrange avocado slices on a rimmed nonstick perforated grilling pan coated lightly with oil, and grill alongside patties for 1 to 2 minutes, turning as necessary. During final 30 seconds, add bacon slices to pan. When avocados are nicely grilled and bacon is crisp, remove from grill. When patties are cooked, remove from grill, stacking to keep warm. Place rolls, cut side down, on outer edges of grill to toast lightly.

To assemble burgers, spread a generous amount of cheese spread over cut sides of rolls. On each roll bottom, layer lettuce, tomato slice, beef patty, caramelized onions, grilled avocado, and bacon. Add roll top and serve.