Duke’s First Burger!!

Up to this point, Duke has never shown any interest in hamburgers. But this weekend he kept talking about it, so I knew I had to make some this week for him. I kept the sliders simple, 2 oz of 80/20 and some salt and pepper and topped with cheddar cheese.

IMG_1455His got some ketchup on it along with some pickles. The kid will absolutely devour pickles. He’d eat the whole jar if we let him. It must be the Czech in him from his Mom’s side.

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Mine got a little more stuff.

IMG_1459I think he enjoyed it.

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Sometimes, its hard to get a kid to eat, so when you find something they like or show an interest in, you gotta jump on it. For a minute there, I thought something was wrong with the kid. What kid doesn’t like a burger? But he polished it off!

Buffalo Turkey Sliders

Buffalo Turkey Burgers
Buffalo Turkey Burgers

     If you have spent anytime around here, you’ve probably figured out my love for wings and buffalo wings in particular. What’s not to like about them? Spicy hot with a lil twang from the vinegar and cooled off by a dip in either Ranch or Bleu Cheese. Yup, definitely gotta be one of my favorite things to eat.

     I think it might have been Thursday night, I was watching something and they were talking about meatballs and all the different kinds. How just about every culture has some form of meatball, be it beef or chicken or lamb or others. And how they are all seasoned differently. The gears in my brain got to spinning and I started thinking of a buffalo chicken meatball. And wouldn’t it be great to serve it as a slider?

     I got up Friday morning and the thought of a buffalo chicken meatball slider was still in my head. Doing some research online showed that I was not the only person who had thought of this genius idea. Plenty of people had done them before (Well, at least the meatball part. Not everybody took it and made a slider out of it.) From people like Rachel Ray to Martha Stuart to Guy Fieri, not to mention plenty of bloggers. So armed with a few recipes, I sat down to come up with my own version.

Turkey meatballs ready for the grill
Turkey meatballs ready for the grill

     Ok, ok…by this point you are probably wondering why the post has turkey in it and I keep talking about Buffalo chicken. Even the best of plans often get derailed. It seems to happen to me at the grocery store. I walk in armed with a list of things I need to get only to find out they are out of or don’t carry an ingredient. Does this happen to you? Doesn’t it just piss you off really irritate you? The store didn’t have any ground chicken. Not only did they not have ground chicken, they didn’t have boneless chicken thighs. I should mention I put off going to the grocery store till the last minute. Sure, I can debone a thigh. And I could put it through my grinder or mince it in a food processor. It just didn’t seem like it was worth the trouble to grind up one pound of chicken, not to mention the time it would take. So instead, a package of 85/15 ground turkey jumped into my cart.

Onto the Egg using a raised grate at 400F.
Onto the Egg using a raised grate at 400F.

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground turkey, 85/15 (or chicken if you can find it, not leaner than 85%)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup bread crumbs

Buffalo sauce (same one I use on my Buffalo Chicken Wings)

  • 1/2 cup Frank’s sauce (or other hot sauce, I just don’t like Tabasco, too vinegary IMHO)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 lemon squeezed

Bleu Cheese Sauce

  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup crumbled bleu cheese
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper to taste
Off the grill
Off the grill

Directions

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the bleu cheese sauce, taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Place sauce in fridge to cool while cooking the meatballs.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add the ground turkey, egg, bread crumbs, salt and pepper and red pepper. Grate (yes, that is not a typo) 3/4 to 1/2 an onion into the mixture (grating it releases moisture that will help keep the meatballs moist and will give it that onion flavor without the crunch). Using a garlic press, add the two garlic cloves. Mix until just combined.
  3. If you decide to make sliders, form the mixture into 8 meatballs. These will be just large enough for slider buns. If just making meatballs as an appetizer, form them into bite sized meatballs.
  4. Place the meatballs into the refrigerator to set up for about 30 minutes. While waiting, preheat your grill or oven to 400F. If using a BGE or other Kamado style grill, you will want to set it up for a direct cook with a raised grate around the felt line. For other grills, you will want  a direct and indirect area in case you need to move meatballs due to flare ups.
  5. After 30 minutes, place your meatballs on the grill. Slider sized ones will take about 20 minutes to cook, rotating halfway through to ensure even cooking. Smaller, bite sized meatballs will take less time. The meatballs are ready when they reach 165F. (If you like your buns toasted, it would be a good idea to toss them on when the meatballs are almost done. It will only take a few minutes per side)
  6. While meatballs are cooking, add the ingredients for the Buffalo sauce to a skillet and allow to simmer.
  7. When meatballs are done, place them in the skillet and coat with Buffalo sauce.
  8. Build your sliders with the Buffalo turkey meatballs and top with plenty of bleu cheese sauce.
Buffalo turkey meatball sliders
Buffalo turkey meatball sliders

     I was really quite surprised with these. I almost tossed the whole idea when I couldn’t find ground chicken at the store. I was worried that the turkey would be bland and dry, but I forged ahead anyway and they came out quite good. They weren’t bland or dry. My brother joined me for dinner and even though he skipped the Buffalo sauce (He doesn’t like it. Sometimes I’m not sure we are related), he said they were very tasty and juicy. Yeah, they didn’t have the crispy skin of a chicken wing (nor the mess) but all the flavors were still there.  A great alternative to wings. I’m really thinking they might make it on to the Superbowl menu (or we’ll bring them along with us if we go to somebody’s house).

Served with a side of 'maters and mozzarella cheese.
Served with a side of ‘maters and mozzarella cheese.

     There is only one thing I think I would do differently with this recipe next time. I think I would take some of the Buffalo sauce and add it to the meatball mixture before forming them to bring more of the Buffalo flavor through out. I thought of doing it originally, but I had my brother to think about. Other than that, I was quite pleased.

Lamb Sliders with Garlic Aioli

Lamb Sliders

     Ahh…Spring is in the air. The smell of fresh cut grass. People planting flowers. trimming hedges and in general sprucing up their yards. For most, this is the beginning of grilling season. People are dragging their gas or charcoal grills out of the shed or the garage (or maybe just that corner of the yard its been hidden in all winter), cleaning them off and prepping them for another season of use. Maybe realizing that their ole friend won’t make it another season and rush off to one of those big box stores to get a replacement. For us here at Casa de Griffin, it’s just another day. We do this all year and laugh feel bad for those who only grill or ‘cue during the nice months. How can you possible go that long without good ‘cue? I’ll never be able to understand, but then again I might just be a little crazy.

     Last week I was at the grocery store, procuring some much needed item or ingredient which now escapes my mind. Whenever I go to the store, I always have to walk by the meat section. Just to see if they are having any deals or if anything looks really good. And I ALWAYS have to walk by the very end of that section. You know…the part where they put the meat that is marked down for a fast sale before it has to be tossed? Granted, most of the time I wouldn’t buy, let alone touch what is in that section. But….but I have found some pretty sweet deals there and if the meat hasn’t started to turn a nasty brownish color, what’s the big deal? I’ve scored some nice rib-eyes and some pork loins there before. Heck, one time I found a prime rib! On this particular day, they had a few packages of ground lamb that were in a cryovac package….still nice and pink….and there was still 4 days till the sell by date. Marked down over 50%! Not sure what I was going to do with lamb, but it was coming home with me!

     Originally I had thought about maybe doing a meatloaf with 1/3 beef, 1/3 pork and 1/3 lamb. Until my wife pointed out that its a 1/3 veal, not lamb, if you are going to do it that way. Oops! And then it struck me….Lamb Sliders!! Why not? It could work and I was sure there was some recipe out there that I could copy adapt to suit our palates.

Making the Garlic Aioli

     One of the recipes I found had a garlic aioli that went along with the sliders.

Garlic Aioli

  • 1 cup mayonnaise (we used a light mayo)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely mined
  • 1 tsp hot sauce (we prefer Franks, but use whatever you like)
  • ½ tsp freshly ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
    Adding Franks

     

     Mix together the ingredients and adjust to taste. You may like more or less heat or garlic. That’s up to you. I suggest making the aioli at least and hour ahead of time and placing in the fridge so the ingredients can mingle and get happy. Mine was done about 3 hours ahead of time.

     Now on to the sliders themselves. We used two recipes and cobbled together our own based on the ingredients we had on hand. At this point, neither of us felt like going to the store, so we worked with what we had.

Lamb Sliders

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • ¼ yellow onion diced (this was a lot of onion; you might want to cut back)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • ½ tbsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground coriander
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

     Mix the ingredients together, handling the meat as little as possible. Shape into 6 patties and then place in the fridge for a minimum of 5 minutes. This gives the sliders a chance to set and helps to prevent them from crumbling apart on the grill. Speaking of grill, you want to preheat your grill to a medium/medium high temperature. On our Egg, I was aiming for 400F. Once your grill is preheated, and the grates have been scrubbed clean, place the sliders on the grill.

Lamb Sliders going onto a 400F Preheated Grill

       If you enjoy a bit of smokey flavor (and who doesn’t with a burger? Otherwise you might as well cook it inside….gasp!), you can add some wood chips to your coals. I would not advise going with a strong wood like mesquite, hickory or pecan. Instead, choose a fruit tree wood. We went with apple, but I’m sure cherry would work as well. You want to add a bit of smoke flavor, but not overpower the lamb. 

    

Halfway (about 4 minutes)

 Our sliders took about 8 minutes to cook, flipping halfway through (but make sure you are cooking to temp, not time, We were shotting for 160F, not sure if that is the correct temp for lamb, but sounded right to me). Please, fight the temptation to over flip your burgers, they only need to be flipped once, and Please, Please, Please NEVER EVER push down on your patties with a spatula!! This only forces out the juicy goodness from inside the patty. You don’t want a dried out burger, do you?

 

Adding Buns

     If you like your buns toasted, throw them on the grill when your burgers are about done. One to two minutes should about do it.

 

Finished

     Aside from the garlic aioli, we topped our sliders as we normally would a burger. Some lettuce, tomato and onion. Mrs. G opted for some provolone cheese, but I kept mine simple. As for sides…nothing says gourmet like some tater tots, right? (my wife thinks I have a strange thing about tater tot. She maybe right, but who doesn’ t like tots?)

 

Dinner is served!

     We thought the lamb was a nice change from regular ole beef sliders. It wasn’t gamey at all. The onions (which I would cut down on next time) helped to keep the sliders juicy, and the mustard, while not offering up a lot of flavor, helped bind the meat together. Next time I would like to add some fresh mint or oregano to it (maybe even some parsley) as these seem to be some of the more traditional ingredients when lamb is involved. I would also cut down on the garlic. Between the 3 cloves in the aioli and the 3 in the sliders, we had no fear of vampires attacking us in our sleep, and garlic is supposed to help you sleep better. But you wouldn’t want to be kissing anybody who hadn’t also been eating these sliders. If you are still on the fence about whether or not to try lamb, I would suggest you do.

     Hope you enjoyed and would love to hear any comments or experiences you may have had with lamb. It’s still new to us.

Sliders with Home Ground Beef

     It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything here. Eleven days to be exact, and for us, that’s quite unusual. But we were out of town for a while watching Mrs. G’s sister getting married. And before that, I gotta admit I was just feeling a little bit burned out on cooking. Just couldn’t get motivated to cook anything. I’m sure you all know the feeling. You should make something for dinner, maybe something healthy or maybe something fun or special, but you just can’t seem to get your butt in gear. Sometimes you just need a break. Although I don’t think I’m totally over my burnout, last night the wife and I agreed that burgers sounded good.

Frying up some patties
Frying up some patties

     Bet you’re shocked that I’m not doing these on my Egg. I could blame it on being out of charcoal and forgetting to get some more at the store (but I didn’t forget the charcoal). I could blame it on mowing the yard yesterday and having a serious allergy attack, but I won’t. I could say that sometimes Mrs. G wants a skillet burger as the outside caramelizes and develops a nice crust, but the truth is I was being lazy and it just seemed much easier to do it inside on the stove.

Melting the Cheese

     To make these burgers, I went to the freezer and pulled out some beef that I ground up back in January and had frozen for a later occasion. Details on that can be found HERE. After thawing them out, Mrs. G seasoned them up with some Worchestire sauce and some Dizzy Pig Raising the Steaks Rub. Each patty weighed about 3.5oz pre-cooked (just in case you curious, most fast food burgers are 4oz, In-And-Out is 2.) Then we placed them back in the fridge to chill out. I’ve found that hamburgers tend to hold together better if you cook them from fridge temperature versus room temperature.  After spending a few minutes on a medium-high skillet, the patties were flipped, topped with some white Anmerican cheese and then a lid was placed on top to help the cheese melt. While I was cooking the patties, Mrs. G toasted the buns a bit under the broiler (See? We can use a stove and an oven just like regular folks 🙂 )

Half the sliders ready for topping

     Just because I was still feeling lazy, we opted for some paper plates. Doesn’t make the greatest presentation, but sometimes lazy trumps all. Served up with some tater chips as I forgot to pre-heat the oven for some tater tots and we were too hungry to wait.

Ready to grub

     Not the most fancy meal in the world, but sometimes you get a craving for a good burger and it can’t be ignored. Think I’m finally getting over my burnout, gonna fire up the Egg tonight. Maybe some stir-fry? Maybe some kind of seafood? You’ll just have to wait and see.

BTW….sorry for the picture quality. The battery for our good camera died over the weekend and didn’t charge in time, so we had to rely on our back-up. Really need to get a backup battery for that camera.