Of Hiking and Burgers

There’s been a distinctive lack of knitting and cooking going on this past week.  I blame the weather – it has been entirely too nice.  Normally, October rolls around and so does The Cloud.  The sky is normally overcast and all is damp in this part of the world.  The autumnal months used to be my favorite (OK, they still are, but for different reasons now).  Growing up in Maine, the air would be dry, cool and sunny this time of year.  The air is cold and the sun is warm.  Perfect weather for throwing on a sweater and heading outside to enjoy the spectacular colors of New England.  Spring was the time of year to hide inside – all that the early months would offer there were mud, flies and sometimes surprise snow storms.  But Autumn was by far the best season.

Jumping forward in time and across the pond, it is the exact opposite here.  Spring offers up a riot of colors with trees, bushes and plants all in bloom, with (almost) nary a bug to be seen.  Autumn on the other hand, typically looks a bit like today:

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See that giant hill at the end of the block?  No?  See – typical October day

But it has been a stunning past week, and hopefully this fog will burn off by the afternoon.  So instead of sitting inside (or even on the deck) working on knitting patterns and recipes, we have been out hiking.  Most of the mountain lifts close down this coming weekend, so we have been trying to make the most of hiking at elevation while we still can.  This past weekend was phenomenal – on Friday we hiked from Kandersteg up to Oeschinensee, had a really, really tasty lunch of Lammpfeffer (a recipe I will try to recreate soon) and then hiked back down again.  On Saturday we hiked in the Grindelwald area, on the First side of the valley.  Just fantastic scenery.

But all this hiking and preparing for my in-laws arriving this past Sunday, left very little time for cooking.  But as the weather was gorgeous (I know I keep saying that, but trust me, this is unusually good weather!), and time was short, burgers on the grill were in order.

IMG_9503I’m sorry to say, but generally burgers over here are a sorry affair.  I think it blows a lot of Europeans’ minds that Americans will take a really nice cut of meat and grind it up for a burger.  A lot of the burger meat here is the off-cuts and not that great in flavor or texture.  So I make do with what I have, as in I pimp it.  The key is still to buy the best ground beef that is readily available:  Here in Switzerland, it’s the Naturaplan beef (happy, healthy cows).

 

 

IMG_9504The beef is generally pretty lean, so some source of fat is needed.  My go-to? Cheese.  Why put your cheese on top when you can stuff your meat with it? So on Friday I went with what I had on hand: Brie, tarragon and red onion (although shallots work even better with that combo).

So a quick easy-peasy guide:  Add your finely chopped herbs and onions/shallots/whatever to the meat and mix well with a healthy dose of salt and pepper.  Form into fist-sized balls and plop a thumb-sized hunk of cheese on top.  Then work the meat around it to properly encase the cheese, making sure there will be no leakage.

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Cheese on top for scale

Preheat your grill on high for at least 5-10 minutes beforehand.  I like to have a few wood chips on the smoker box as well.  When the smoke starts coming off the chips, you know your grill is ready.  Then it’s approximately 4 minutes per side on direct, high heat on the grill, keeping the lid closed as much as possible.

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Note the smoke, and ignore the mini-flag

We went without buns, and instead make ourselves sweet-potato fries.  Yum!

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Oozy, melty, yumminess!

This is pretty much a guide, rather than a recipe, and pretty much anything will work for flavors, but some of my favorites are:

  • Brie, tarragon and shallot
  • Gorgonzola, oregano and yellow onion or garlic
  • Gruyere, thyme and bacon
  • Fontina or mozerella, sun-dried tomato and basil
  • Feta, oregano, black olive and red onion

3 thoughts on “Of Hiking and Burgers

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