When I got started writing this piece today, scribbling down everything I know and believe (and crave!) about great hamburgers, my mind immediately wandered back to a television program I had developed a minor addiction to a few years back featuring Chef Heston Blumenthal – and his pursuit of perfection with various foods. Each episode would highlight his hyper-attentive approach to mastering a single dish; from an incredible Margherita Pizza to the greatest Baked Alaska, and from Trifle, Risotto and Peking Duck, to Chilli Con Carne, Black Forest Cake and…. the most perfect hamburger ever created.
Among the various aspects highlighted in this maniacal pursuit were, obviously, the perfect patty, the perfect bun, and the perfect accompaniments. If you haven’t had a chance to watch this show (or missed this particular episode), I’d encourage you to check it out:
That said, if you’re anything like me, you probably enjoy this undertaking more as a spectator sport and point of interest, rather than any kind of actual inspiration to try and re-create this actual dish. (On the off chance that you actually want to swing for the fences and give it a try, I found a terrific blog piece with recipes and step by step instructions you can check out here.)
I suppose the point I was after, before spinning off on that tangent, is that a great burger is really made up of these three key components – the meat, the bun and the stuff you dress it with. But within these broad parameters, there are a lot of places you can go that stray a fair ways from the conventional slab of ground beef on a dry chunk of bread with supermarket condiments.
So it’s with this observation in mind – and the desire to showcase some wicked tasty wines – that I’m going to share five of my favourite gourmet burger recipes… and the perfect wine pairing for each one. Grilling season is just getting started as spring finally appears to have sprung, so I hope you enjoy these creative inspirations as you fire up the grill this coming summer.
Without any further suspense – here they are: my 5 favourite gourmet burger recipes and the wines I’d drink with them.
1. Creole Lump Crab Burger – RECIPE
Wine Pairing: White Burgundy, Champagne or sparkling wine
I really should make a point of eating before I sit down to write – I’m getting hungry already! This swanky, decadent and delicious crab concoction is simply one of the most delicious things you can put between two pieces of bread. So you probably won’t be surprised to learn that I’d serve this with one of my two favourite wines – either a nice, rich serious Chardonnay – yeah, I’m leaning towards white Burgundy (this one would work perfectly!) – or a bottle of your favourite Champagne (here’s my hands-down fav!) or sparkling wine. Either way, food this opulent is worthy of a splurge when it comes to picking the proper libation, so indulge a bit and treat yourself.
2. Chorizo Burger with Avocado & Fried Egg – RECIPE
Wine Pairing: Off-dry Gewurztraminer or Riesling
From the lofty heights of lump crab, we come back to earth with a far more humble and inexpensive collection of ingredients – but a burger that is every bit as delicious! I love the savoury, herbal spicy flavours in Chorizo, and when you top this delicious base with rich egg runny egg yolk and avocado, the results are extraordinary. When it comes to wine, I prefer a super zippy, slightly off-dry white to help refresh the palate and cut through the fat and spice in this burger. Riesling will definitely work here – but if you’re feeling adventurous, I’d encourage you to go with an off-dry Gewurztraminer (and looky here – this is an ideal candidate). You’d classically find this wine poured next to salty sausage dishes in Germany, so why not give it a try with this sausage-based burger?!
3. Bison Burger with Red Wine Onions & Cheddar – RECIPE
Wine Pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux reds
Sadly, so-called “Bison Burgers” are beginning to become somewhat ubiquitous additions to pub menus, where the experience is usually a hard, dry chunk of meat presented in the same boring and uninspired fashion as beef burgers usually are in these same places. Fear not friends – I lead you down an altogether different path with this rich, moist umami-laden sandwich, which I hope will restore your faith in the greatness and potential of bison burgers. Bison is a lean meat, but the sharp contrast and of the old cheddar and the sweet decadent red wine and onion compote, make this burger a perfect candidate to serve alongside your favourite Cabernet Sauvignon – or better yet, fleshy Bordeaux blend with a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot sharing the spotlight (just like this one).
4. Greek Lamb Burger with Spinach & Red Onion – RECIPE
Wine Pairing: Rioja Reds or Mediterranean G/S/M based reds
This spiced up, bold flavourful lamb burger with a simple spinach and onion dressing will leave you wishing you’d made yourself two! So it should only stand to reason that a burger this crave-worthy belongs next to some of the most seductive and gulp-able red wines made anywhere on the planet. Yup – that’s right… I’m talking about the Grenache based reds of the Mediterranean, including both Garnacha based blends from Spain, as well as the stunning value Grenache based reds from France’s Languedoc, Roussillon and Cotes-du-Rhone (this is one of my favourite examples). Spain’s Mediterranean coastline is also home to some of the most amazing value red wines you’ll find anywhere on the planet (and here’s one that’ll knock your socks off!). The plush and generous reds offer sufficient fruit and body to partner perfectly with the gamey and spicy lamb burger patties.
5. Old Fashioned Beef Burger with Blue Cheese – RECIPE
Wine Pairing: Aussie Shiraz
Did someone say blue cheese burger? Oftentimes classics become classics for a reason, and that’s because they’re bloody delicious – or in this case, delicious and bloody. Go to your local trusted butcher and have them prepare some freshly ground beef for you – I prefer half from a lean cut like sirloin tip, and half from a fattier cut like rib or chuck. Mix these two together and sear them off – I prefer them on the rare side, but that’s a matter of taste. Top these tasty beef burgers with some blue cheese, and prepare to get in touch with you inner Aussie – because there’s no red wine that pairs better with these blue cheese burgers than a nice rich bottle of Australian Shiraz (and I’ve got the perfect one for you right here). This red wine is full of dark berry fruit and peppery spice, offering the perfect choice for these classic burgers.