For a while, I worked a second job on the weekends at a gourmet grocery/butcher/wine shop/cheese store/deli/coffee bar/caterers (A little something for everyone who could shell out the clams 😉 ). Originally my job was to assist in managing catering jobs on and off site, but the owners and kitchen manager soon put me to work in the kitchen, deli, and cheese counter filling in where ever they were short staffed. I learned a lot, met some great people and there was lots of free leftover food that helped out the household budget of an under-paid non-profit do-gooder. If it wasn’t for the 8-12 hour shifts on my feet and the 60+ hour work weeks, it would have been ideal. 🙂
Though it wasn’t much good for business (they did eventually close), my favorite times were the lulls with little to no customers where I could chat up the butchers and the cheese sellers. It vastly expanded my knowledge of meat, which I had only recently started eating again and had not much experience cooking. There were in house smoked chickens, dry aged prime beef steaks, imported sausages, house cured dry salami, soft shell crabs, fresh oysters….And the cheese…oh the cheese. I had the opportunity, nay, was ENCOURAGED, to try everything to make sure there was no trouble with stepping in and selling with confidence when the regular staff was away.
I’ve eaten cheese that looked and smelled like what I imagine the zombies do on Walking Dead (not bad tasting really), that was aged in raw pine casks (not my fav, too medicinal tasting), wrapped in leaves, soaked in wine, and made from the cows of a particular 5 mile radius in the mountains of Italy. I’ve tasted the first chunks pared from the cutting open of a wheel of real reggiano parmagiano so large two people had to lift it onto a cart and roll it into the store, which was then drizzled with 20 year aged balsamic vinegar (heavenly). I’d not appreciated until then that blue cheese came in such a tremendous variety. If you are not a fan of domestic blue cheese crumbles in the little containers (as I was not), go find a good cheese store and work your way through sampling their best blues. There is a blue cheese for everyone: some of my favorites are Cambazola – like a brie blue combo very creamy with a soft rind, Roquefort, Gorgonzola Dolce, and Roaring Forties – all firmer, but still on the creamy side especially the Dolce which can be almost runny in spots, and Cabrales – firm, dry, sharp, salty cave-aged Spanish cheese that bellows “blue”.
These two worlds came together in Black and Blue Burgers: fresh ground Black Angus beef, crumbled blue cheese (American Maytag if I remember correctly), and applewood smoked bacon bits, well seasoned and sold ready to cook from the butcher counter. They were juicy, smoky and a bit salty. The burgers felt a bit decadent bursting with all those sometimes derided ingredients, but in a way that took unashamed pride in their oh-so-American “screw-it-I’m-gonna-eat-it-anyway” attitude. The cool thing? On most low-carb plans you can eat beef, bacon and cheese – just not the bun.
So, as I’m feeling a bit “tossed around” this week by my new food plan – black and blue is just the right tone. (Who really thought that the pleasure of eating was so connected to chewing!) Hearty and savory main dishes I can sink my teeth into have preoccupied my thoughts when three of my 4 meals are protein shakes. The plan allows some dairy this week as well as foods food high in leucine, like beef. Leucine is an essential amino acid that aids in muscle building. Its important when your goal is to lose weight, that you are not losing muscle mass, but burning off fat. With the leftover Gorgonzola from the French Fridays with Dorie quiche recipe this week (coming soon on Friday!) it put me in mind to make my version of these burgers which include the surprise of a creamy melted blue cheese center.
Stuffed Black and Blue Burgers – makes 8 burgers
*2 pounds freshly ground high quality beef (like a Black Angus or whatever high quality beef you choose)
4 strips of thick cut smoked bacon, cooked until crisp and chopped or crumbled
4-5 ounces of blue cheese, divided (see below) – your choice, I used Gorgonzola this time.
salt and pepper
Mix all the ingredients together, thoroughly but lightly, including the crumbles of blue cheese if you are using them (see below). The more you mash the ground meat the tougher the burger tends to be, so go lightly. Divide up the meat so that you have roughly equal amounts for 8 burgers (you will really need 16 lumps as you are enclosing the cheese inside the upper and lower halves of the burger). Form a lower and upper patty, lay the cheese slice inside and press together the edges to seal. Repeat with rest of meat and cheese. Cook to your desired doneness, either in a pan or on the grill.
Served with a very portion controlled serving of my colelsaw.
*If your blue cheese is a soft variety, use half to stuff the burgers and half to melt on top. If its firm and can be chopped or crumbled, take half and crumble into small pieces and cut the other half in 8 smaller 1-2 inch slices to put inside the burger.