Not Your Daddy’s Cheeseburger

“What’s for dinner?” A simple question that evokes panic or exasperation depending on your day. Since the weather has been cooperating, burgers on the grill are quick and reasonably clean. But heaven help us, they do get boring quickly. We can mix it up with a cheeseburger. Or we can go completely off the rails with pimento cheese spread on top, and a slab of onion hidden inside the hamburger patty itself.

Pimento cheese spread is ridiculously simple to make. The ingredients are easy to come by, and you can make four times as much for the same cost as a container from the deli. You can also control just how much salt ends up in the finished product. Why use pimento cheese spread instead of a slice of cheese? The spread melts at much lower temperatures, so you won’t risk overcooking your burger just to get the cheese melted properly. And it’s got a few of the regular burger topping ingredients in it, so you might be able to get away with only using the spread to top your burgers and nothing else.

The second surprise, the onion slab, can be left raw or very slightly grilled to soften it up a bit. This onion slice is about ¼ – ⅜ inch thick, and we use the entire slice, not individual rings, so a raw slab might be a bit much for your family. Grilling the onion before sealing it inside the patty will start the cooking process, softening the onion and carmelizing the sugars which can take the sharp edge off the onion. Additionally, seasoning the onion slice adds flavor to the inside of the patty.

As far as construction goes, building this patty on plastic wrap makes putting it together much easier. The two halves of the patty are flattened very thin so that this burger isn’t too thick when it’s all put together. Using plastic wrap makes it much easier to place the top patty without tearing the thin meat. It’s also important to make sure the top and bottom patty are sealed around the onion. Since the meat will shrink when it’s cooked, make sure that you have about a half an inch of beef around the onion.

And keep in mind that what appears to be a really thick hamburger patty is really two very thin patties sandwiching a slab of onion. Cook times will be pretty short because of this. Three minutes a side on a very hot grill will be sufficient to cook the beef to medium on both sides of the onion. After the patties have grilled, the heat can be turned off and the cheese spread scooped on top. A short rest in the hot grill should melt the cheese perfectly.

This burger should be delightfully messy, so toasting a hearty roll, such as a Kaiser roll should keep the bun together long enough for you to eat most of the burger as intended before meat juices and melted cheese spread force you to resort to an alternate eating method.

“What’s for dinner?” need not be a source of frustration tonight.

Pimento Cheese Spread

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ – ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces chopped pimentos, drained
  • 16 ounces sharp cheedar cheese, grated

Pulse the cream cheese, mayonnaise, and salt in a food processor until smooth and completely incorporated. Pulse the pimentos to incorporate, but do not puree until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Mix in the cheddar cheese a half at a time. Add more mayonnaise if the mixture is too stiff. You should be able to scoop it with a cracker.

For each burger

  •  ⅓ pound ground chuck, divided
  • ¼ inch slice of red onion about 2 inches in diameter
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • non-stick cooking spray

If you plan to grill the onions first, lightly coat one side with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Grill the onion slices seasoned side down for about 1 minute. Carefully remove the slices, keeping them intact. On a sheet of plastic wrap, press half the meat for each patty to a diameter of 3½ inches. Place the onion slice in the middle. Press the other half of the meat to a diameter of 3½ inches. Carefully fold the plastic wrap over the place the top patty on the onion slice. Seal the patties around the onion slice. Liberally season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill over high heat for 2-3 minutes a side. Turn off the heat and scoop 2 tablespoons of pimento spread onto each patty. Close the grill lid and allow the cheese to melt for about 45 seconds. Serve immediately.