Although some people declare dishes like homemade chicken noodle soup, spaghetti with meatballs, or mac and cheese their favorite comfort foods, my husband would choose a juicy hamburger to boost his spirits any day of the week! As a result, I am always on the lookout for new ways to prepare them. And, recently while visiting friends in Vermont, I discovered Pimento Cheese Burgers at a charming restaurant called The Downtown Grocery in the small town of Ludlow.
Turns out one of the owners grew up in the South and decided to top grilled patties with scoops of her family’s recipe for this classic spread. At home I whipped up my own version prepared with sharp white cheddar paired with cream cheese (for easy spreading), plus chopped pimentos and shallots. Hints of cayenne and lemon brighten the mix. This cheese filling tastes best when assembled at least two hours in advance, and is even better made a day ahead.
After testing these burgers multiple times (much to my spouse’s delight), I found that spreading the bottom of lightly toasted buns with a little pimento cheese anchored the lettuce leaves. Then I added sliced red onions, and the grilled burgers topped with more of the cheese spread. As sides, a colorful mélange of red and yellow grape tomatoes, diced avocados, and chopped onions tossed in a lemon dressing, plus some crisp potato or tortilla chips were all that was needed to round out the menu.
Oh, and for a midnight snack any leftover pimento cheese is delicious spread on crackers!
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Hamburgers with Homemade Pimento Cheese
4 oz sharp white cheddar cheese, grated coarsely
3 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp mayonnaise (such as Hellman’s)
3 tbsp (half of a 4-oz jar) pimentos, drained and chopped
2 1/2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
1 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 pd ground beef, preferably 85 % lean
1/2 tsp kosher salt plus extra for seasoning
1/ 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
4 good -quality hamburger buns, warmed or lightly toasted
4 lettuce leaves cut to fit buns (Red or green leaf, Romaine, or arugula work well.)
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
1. For the pimento cheese, combine all ingredients in a medium nonreactive bowl, pressing the mixture with the tines of a fork to blend completely. Refrigerate the pimento cheese until it is chilled and firm, at least two hours or even better overnight. Remove pimento cheese from fridge 45 minutes before you start to cook the burgers.
2. For the burgers, in a mixing bowl, mix the ground beef with kosher salt, black pepper, and cumin until blended well. Shape into 4 patties about 4 inches in diameter.
3. Oil grill rack and prepare grill for a hot fire (high temperature). Lightly salt burgers and grill 3 minutes. Then turn and cook 2 to 3 minutes more for burgers that are pink inside, a little longer for well done. Watch carefully as cooking times can vary depending on the intensity of the heat and type of grill used. (You can also use a stove top grill pan. Oil it well and cook about the same time.) Remove burgers from grill.
4. Spread a generous tablespoon of pimento cheese on bottoms of buns. Top each with a lettuce leave, a slice or two of red onion, and the burger. Spread a scant 3 tablespoons over each burger, and cover with top buns. (You’ll have some pimento cheese left over.) Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2019