On, Wisconsin Beer ‘n’ Butter Baby Badger Burgers
My favorite childhood stories were not about far-away castles, gourds being transformed into carriages and glass slippers, but rather about a kingdom NOT so very far away – the homeland of my father and his Norwegian immigrant family, and the center of the universe for cheese curds and beer – the glorious world of Wisconsin. Though my family would make the 45-minute jaunt from Illinois to this nearby kingdom nearly every other weekend, I could never get enough of it and implored my parents to tell me more stories about this wonderful State to the north. My favorite is about contraband margarine in the 1960’s. As a non-dairy product, margarine was banned for a period in The Dairy State and nothing makes something more coveted than a ban, especially to crazy Scandinavians. My relatives were fascinated by this mysterious elixir that looked like butter (especially when you mixed in the special “butter dye pack” that was supplied with each tub), but was NOT butter. My newlywed mom was quickly initiated into the illicit goings-on of her new husband* who directed her to daintily sit upon boxes of margarine tubs hidden beneath the bucket seats of his Austin-Healey convertible and to “just act natural” when they got to the Illinois-Wisconsin border. Being a law-abiding Catholic schoolgirl, I can only imagine the terror that she felt. Thankfully, my relatives’ margarine curiosity eventually wore off, and we returned to being treated to the best that Wisconsin has to offer each time we visited – beer-soaked butter burgers on local rye bread, filled with cheddar curds from our family’s farm, coarse-grained mustards, horseradish and braised onions, accompanied by heaping spoonfuls of sweet-tart Norwegian lingonberry jam. It was enough to make you yell “Uff-da!” (roughly translated from Wisconsin-Norwegian as “sensory overload”). It is the best of the State on a bun, and every bite takes me back there. Enjoy!
*Later, my siblings and I would be treated to being pawns in such contraband; primarily, the reverse smuggling of illegal fireworks from Wisconsin into Illinois in order to fairly compete with our neighbors on explosives-friendly holidays.
From: Foffee — June 30, 2010
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 head garlic, peeled and pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon celery salt
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped and divided
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
10 ounces beer, divided (Old Milwaukee is particularly good, but most pale beers are great, particularly if you have local microbreweries to sample)
10 slices thick-cut bacon, crisped and crumbled
2 pounds ground chuck
12 cheddar cheese curds
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
2 tablespoons grated horseradish
4 tablespoons coarse prepared mustard
2 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup lingonberry jam (whole berry cranberry sauce can be substituted)
12 rye dinner rolls, split
1 5-oz. bag cheddar potato chips (recommended: Kettle Brand Cheddar Beer Chips), finely crushed
Before preheating the grill, baste the grill rack with a coating of extra virgin olive oil from your 1/2 cup of olive oil (reserving the remaining 3 tablespoons for use later in the recipe). Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high
In a large bowl, stir together the pressed garlic, fennel seeds, celery salt, ground allspice, 1/4 cup of the chopped flat leaf parsley (reserving the remaining 1/4 cup for use later), Worcestershire sauce and 4 oz. of beer (reserving the remaining 6oz. for later use) until combined. Add the crumbled bacon and ground chuck to the bowl and, using your hands, gently toss with the liquid ingredients to combine. Using a 1/3-cup measuring cup, evenly divide the mixture into 12 equally-sized balls. Make an indentation in the center of each ball to hold the cheese curds and place one curd into the indentation of each ball. Re-seal the ball and press each cheese curd-stuffed ball into a patty approximately the size of the rolls you will be using. Make sure that the curd is not visible so that it will not leak out during grilling. Generously salt and pepper both sides of the burgers. These are your Baby Badger Burgers. Chill the burgers to firm while preparing the rest of the recipe.
In a small bowl, stir together the reserved 1/4 cup chopped parsley, sour cream, fresh dill, horseradish and coarse prepared mustard until combined. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste. Chill the mixture until ready to serve to let the flavors combine. This is your Creamed Horseradish, Mustard and Herb Spread.
By now, the grill should be pretty much ready to go. Place a large heat-proof skillet upon your grill and add the 3 tablespoons of reserved olive oil to the skillet. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the thinly-sliced yellow onions and a pinch of kosher salt. Griddle the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown (usually 7 to 10 minutes). At this stage, momentarily remove the skillet from your grill, add 4 oz. of your reserved beer (leaving 2 oz. for later use) to the skillet to deglaze the pan, stir, and return the skillet to the grill. Cook the onions for another 5 to 7 minutes, or until the beer has reduced and the onions have turned dark golden brown. Transfer the onions to a small bowl and set aside. These are your Beer-Braised Onions.
Return the skillet used to cook the Beer-Braised Onions to the grill and add the 3/4 cup unsalted butter. Once the butter has melted, continue to let it cook until it has turned a light golden brown and smells slightly nutty (usually about 2 to 3 more minutes). Transfer the browned butter to a heat-resistant bowl. Add the lingonberry jam and, using a form, smash the jam into the brown butter. Add the reserved 2 oz. of beer and stir to combine. This is your Lingonberry Butter Glaze.
Re-baste your grill from your 1/2 cup of olive oil and place the rye rolls cut-side down upon the rack. Grill the rolls until they are lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Remove the rolls from the grill and set them aside to rest, grilled side up.
Re-baste your rack one more time with olive oil and place the burger patties upon the grill. Grill the first side for about 5 minutes, or until the juices emerge from the top. Baste the burger with your Lingonberry Butter Glaze, flip the patties, re-glaze with the Lingonberry Butter Glaze, and finish grilling on the second side to your desired doneness. Before removing the burgers from the grill, give them a final douse of the Lingonberry Butter Glaze, and transfer the burgers to a plate to rest and to let the juices redistribute while getting the burger assembly line prepared. These are your Baby Badger Burgers.
Pour your crushed potato chips onto a plate. Spread the cut sides of each bottom bun with a spread of the Creamed Horseradish, Mustard and Herb Spread. Top this with a Baby Badger Burger, followed by a mound of Beer-Braised Onions. Spread the cut side of each top bun with more of the Creamed Horseradish, Mustard and Herb Spread, and dip each top bun, spread side down, into the crushed potato chips to encrust the buns. Add the bun tops to the burgers, securing each with a toothpick, if desired. Serve 2 burgers to each person (serves 6). Uff da! Enjoy!