A Taste of Summer: Burger Dinner Night

The alternate working title for this post is: Or, How Chicago Freaks Out Because It’s Over 40 Degrees, Everyone Sheds Their Sleeping Bag Coats and Starts Wearing Open-toed Shoes, and Every Restaurant in the City Sets Up Patio Seats because, <Oprah voice> SPRING IS COMING!!! (so I made burgers for dinner)

Regardless, one or two warm days in this city and every grill is wiped down, everyone’s smiling, drivers are letting each other into traffic, and a general sense of Summer Vacation Euphoria settles over the neighborhoods. It’s the Mole People Effect, I swear… we’ve been underground for months! And I am not immune.

As soon as the sun poked its way out from behind the fog today, I thought, there’s basically no way I can make anything else for dinner. However, our grill is outside, sitting somewhere between the still un-melted piles of snow and the muddy swamp that’s slowly taking their place, so I decided to go stove-top. Other than that minor modification, this whole dinner hinted at summer, and for that, I thank me. HA. Stove-top burgers topped with fresh lettuce, tomato, and avocado, and sauteed mushrooms and onions, served with baked sweet potato fries and baked beans. Here we go…


For the Fries
* 1 large sweet potato/3 people (one of whom might be tiny)
* 1T olive oil
* 1/2t sea salt
* 1/4t black pepper
* 1/4t smoked paprika

For the Burgers
* ~1lb meat of your choice/4 burgers
* 2/3 pack dried onion soup mix (or, 1/4t each salt + pepper, 1/4t dry minced garlic, 1/2t (generous) onion powder)
* 1T BBQ sauce (you can also use soy sauce, but I always go BBQ)
* ~2/3 of a lightly-beaten egg
* 4 buns, split (duh)

For the Rest
* 1pkg mushrooms of your choice, sliced (I used baby bellas)
* 1 sm onion, halved and sliced thin
* 1 can baked beans of your choice
* fixins to your likin: I had 1 ripe avocado, sliced; 1 heirloom tomato, sliced thickly; butter lettuce; and the regulars–ketchup, mustard, pickles

I started with the fries. Preheat the oven to 300F. Then peel the sweet potato, cut it in half (the fat way), and then slice:

burgerdinner1Cut each slice into thin strips:

burgerdinner2Then put all the fries into a bowl, add olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and smoked paprika, then toss by hand to coat (this is a good place to get your sous chef involved):

burgerdinner3Finally, spread fries onto a baking sheet and pop into the oven to bake while you prepare the rest of the goods. Take them out at some point and flip them over. Full disclosure: I have not consistently achieved actually crispy baked fries, so I go with whatever happens each time I make them, keeping my expectations low. If you know the secret, please share!

P.S., another fun task for the sous chef: I had her find the first letter of every component of our dinner plate in magnet letters on the fridge. She straight up loved it. Boom! Cooking lesson-turned-alphabet challenge!

Back to the food…

For the Burgers
I use this recipe for any meat I choose. Cook times will vary slightly depending on your temperature preference and if you’re using turkey, for example, but otherwise, this is a pretty good template recipe for darn good burgers (totally objective opinion).

In a large bowl, mix together meat, onion soup mix (or spices), BBQ sauce, and egg (again, I go hand-mixing on this one, too).

burgerdinner5Refrigerate about 10 minutes, then form into four patties (I make a big ball in the bowl, and use my hand to cut it in half, then each half in half). Spray non-stick cooking spray on a large pan or stove-top grill, and cook patties on medium heat, approximately 10 minutes/side (give or take, see above), until done.

While the patties are on the stove, prep your saute veggieburgerdinner7s and get a little olive oil heating in a pan. I used mushrooms and onions tonight, but really, get crazy – go with whatever strikesburgerdinner9 your fancy. Just keep the heat on the medium-low side so as not to burn your onions and give any thicker or heartier veggies the opportunity to soften up and absorb some of the olive oily goodness. At the same time, heat the beans over medium-low heat in a sauce pan.

While everything finishes up in the oven/on the stove, cut and prep any additional fixins and get your sous chef to set the table.

(she did not “set” that beer, I promise.)

Pull the fries out of the oven, and season with a pinch more of sea salt to serve:

And there you have it. The absolutely perfect summer preview meal.

Now I just need Chicago to agree to stick with this. Not just because – well, because it’s way better than winter, obviously – but also because Dave and I placed a bet: he says we’re still in for another snow storm. For me, it has nothing to do with the fact that I hate to lose, I swear! I just worry that all my fellow over-excited Chicagoans already packed away their Sherpa coats! Another snow storm would really mess up the closet reorganization…

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