Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Caesar Salad Burger

I love Caesar salad, but I'm tired of them with grilled chicken or shrimp. I love burgers, and since I live with a guy who loves them even more than I do, I grill them at least once a week. Pollo Tropical, a local grilled chicken chain in south Florida, used to make a chicken Caesar sandwich, so I thought "Why not translate that to a burger?" I'm sure I'm not the first, but I really liked the results. The burgers are seasoned with some of the ingredients that go into Caesar dressing, and then basically topped with Caesar salad.

When I make burgers, I only use 90% lean sirloin ground beef. I know a lot of grilling experts will say to use 80% lean ground chuck, but I hate dealing with all the flare-ups from the extra grease dripping on the coals. There's also a lot more shrinking with chuck, so even though the price per pound is generally lower, you need more meat to start with to have a decent-sized burger at the end.

Since I use a charcoal grill and only lump hardwood charcoal, the fire takes a while to get going. I light it before I do anything else!

For four burgers:
  • 1 1/3 pounds 90% lean ground sirloin
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
Combine meat with seasonings and shape into four patties. I tend make mine a little larger and thinner so they cook more evenly. Place on a plate and freeze for 20 minutes. If your charcoal fire isn't being cooperative, don't put the patties in to freeze and have to take them out... just wait a while before freezing them. The point of freezing is to solidify them a bit so they go on the grill more easily and don't fall through the grates, since the added liquid from the Worchestershire can cause exactly that.

Before grilling burgers, spray both sides with Pam or other non-stick spray. Trust me - it's worth the few seconds effort! Grill burgers until at least medium-well, which is 155 degrees internal temperature and should take about 5-7 minutes per side.

While the burgers freeze and cook, assemble the rest of the burger materials.

Fry 8 strips center cut bacon until crisp; drain on paper towels.

Toss 3 cups torn romaine lettuce with Caesar dressing to taste. My favorite is Cardini's; Caesar Cardini invented the Caesar salad at his famous Tijuana restaurant in the 1920s - why use any other brand? Remember that Caesar dressing is very fattening; use it sparingly or buy the light version if you're watching calories and fat.

When burgers are done, top each one with one tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese and continue cooking so cheese can melt. It likely won't melt completely - that's fine!

While the grill is still hot, brush each inside surface of four buns (any style is fine!) with melted butter or liquid margarine - I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray is great! - and sprinkle with garlic powder. Grill buns until golden on the inside surfaces.

To assemble, put a bit of salad mix on the bottom half of the bun, top with a burger, then bacon, then more salad and the top half of the bun. If desired, more Caesar dressing can be added to the buns or burgers. If you are serving serious salad fans, serve more salad on the side, with croutons and Parmesan cheese added to it.

For a lower cal version, of course you can use ground turkey or chicken, but the point for me was to make a real beef burger!

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