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Cooking the Book: Pimento Cheese Burgers and Potato Wedges

2012 June 28

A grill, a girl, pimento cheese and a couple handfuls of meat — what could go wrong? Not much, frankly. Even if this wasn’t the transporting stuffed hamburger of my dreams, it certainly wasn’t bad.

The Good

I love the concept, the stuffed-burger concept and the burger + pimento cheese concept. I foresee stuffing burgers with other things (bleu cheese burgers, anyone?) in the near future. The technique of freezing the filling and then carefully building the burger around it worked great — surprising structural integrity for a burger with no eggs or other binder in it, actually.

The grilled potato wedges were a vast improvement over the plantains, and partially cooking them in the microwave before they hit the grill makes usually hard-to-grill taters much easier to handle.

The Bad

This burger is all about the pimento cheese. “Of course it is!” you’re thinking. “And you are also all about pimento cheese, so what is your problem?” It could be my perpetual problem of getting really excited about a recipe in this cookbook and then finding it to be a let down because I over-hyped it in my head. But what I wanted was a good burger (okay, I was hoping for a great burger) wrapped around a wad of pimento cheese (maybe with a little more pimento cheese on top). As burgers go, this is pretty minimalistic and, dare I say it? bland. I understand that the pimento cheese is the star on this one, but I think we can do better than ground beef, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce, y’all.

The Leftovers

I really expected the potatoes to have at least a hint of garlic going on, but I didn’t really taste it (until I slathered on the garlic mayo, of course). Not a deal-breaker, just a little surprising.

Also — and this is the big one — I am not a fan of cream cheese-based pimento cheese. I find it too heavy and distracting from the cheddary goodness. So I didn’t use the pimento cheese recipe-within-the-recipe. And in spite of not using their method and not freezing the pimento cheese globs for the full two hours, I think it was great in there. The cookbook version in below, but I stand by my pimento cheese.

Pimento Cheese Burgers with Potato Wedges

from Cooking for Two, 2011

Serves 2

Do not use meat leaner than 85 percent or the burgers will be dry. Try to use potatoes of similar size and cut them into even wedges so that they that all of the pieces cook at the same rate. Be sure to let the burgers rest for a full 5 minutes (tented with foil) before eating them or the hot, cheesy center will spurt out. The buns can be toasted on the grill while the burgers rest in step 8.

Ingredients

for the pimento cheese

3 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)

3 Tablespoons jarred pimentos, drained and minced

2 Tablespoons cream cheese, softened (about 1 ounce)

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

pinch cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons mayonnaise

for the burgers

12 ounces 85 percent lean ground beef (see note)

1 1/2 teaspoons Worcester sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 buns, toasted

for the potatoes

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper

2 Yukon Gold potatoes (about 8 ounces each), each cut into 8 wedges (see note)

Method

For the pimento cheese: Mix cheddar, pimentos, cream cheese, mustard and cayenne together in small bowl. Drop two 2-Tablespoon portions of cheese mixture onto a small plate and flatten gently into 3/4-inch disks using your palm. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours. Stir mayonnaise unto remaining pimento cheese; refrigerate until needed.

For the burgers: Combine ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper in bowl and gently knead until well incorporated. Divide meat into 4 equal portions and flatten into patties. Following photos*, seal patties securely around each frozen cheese disk.

For the potatoes: Combine garlic and oil in small microwave-safe bowl and microwave until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Strain garlic oil through fine-mesh strainer into large microwave-safe bowl. Mix strained garlic solids with mayonnaise and lemon juice in medium bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste, refrigerate until serving time.

Add potatoes to bowl with strained garlic oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Cover and microwave until potatoes begin to soften but still hold their shape, 3 to 6 minutes, shaking bowl to redistribute potatoes halfway through.

For a charcoal grill: Open bottom grill vents completely. Light large chimney starter filled three-quarters with charcoal briquettes (75 briquettes; 4 1/2 quarts). When coals are hot, spread two-thirds of them evenly over half of grill and remaining colas evenly over other half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover and open lid vents completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high, cover and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and turn other burner(s) to medium. (Adjust burners as needed to maintain hot fire and medium fire on separate sides.)

Clean and oil cooking grate. Place burgers on cooler part of grill, cover and cook until well browned on both sides and cooked through, 12 to 16 minutes, flipping burgers halfway though. Meanwhile, lay potatoes, cut side down, on hotter part of grill and cook until browned on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes, turning as needed.

Slide potatoes to cooler part of grill (or turn all burners to medium if using gas) and continue to cook until potatoes are tender, 2 to 4 minutes longer. Meanwhile, spread cheese-mayonnaise mixture over burgers, cover and continue to cook until mixture is slightly melted, about 1 minute.

Transfer burgers to serving platter, tent loosely with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Transfer potatoes to separate platter. Place burgers on buns and serve with potatoes and garlic mayonnaise.

* The cookbook has photos, similar to the ones below, showing how to kind of wrap the meat around the frozen pimento cheese in two steps. Basically, take one patty, put the cheese in the middle and push the meat up so it kind of cups the cheese. Then fold the second patty (well, half-patty, really) on top, smoosh the edges together so they seal and kind of flatten the whole thing down it about about one inch thick, even patties. It sounds complicated all written out, but once you’re actually doing it, it’s very logical and easy. And the structural integrity held together really well, even though I had my doubts. Don’t be intimidated by the stuffed burger thing.

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