By Frank E. Vaerewijck, “The Firehouse Foodie”
It’s finally here! Mother’s Day just passed, and the start of pool season is on the horizon. Summer’s official start, according to the Summer Solstice and the Roman calendar, is June 21 or June 20, depending on the time zone you’re in. Summer starts at 12:24 a.m. here on the Eastern Seaboard, but either way, yes, yes, yes, it’s finally here: warm weather!
I hate the cold. Being from Florida, heat is the norm, and much like the Northerners laughing at us, all bundled up on our vacations in October to some far-away state with our jackets and hats and scarves on when it’s only a chilly 55°F, 103°F in the shade is nothing to us. The warm weather and sun bring life to the frozen tundra. They make washing the trucks outside enjoyable, evenings on the bench in front of the station possible, and interactions with others more notable. The best part of the warm weather season is grilling or, as we say it in the South, “grillen.” Whether it be with a frothy cold beverage, enjoying time off with family and friends, or standing around the grill at the station razzing each other, the grill tends to bring people together in more ways than one.
This “grillen” season, try a new twist on an old favorite and stuff your burgers with a little bit of gooey goodness known as cheese–any kind of cheese too, not just cheddar. How about gouda or pepper jack? And if you’re lactose intolerant, you are missing out, and for this I am truly sorry. They’re even better with one type of cheese on the inside and another on top; and if you really want to wow the masses at your “grillen” extravaganza, don’t tell them that the burgers are stuffed, and let them find out when they bite into one. One of the greatest things is that it doesn’t have to be cheese. Think outside the box; you can stuff them with anything, and I mean anything. How about bacon? Everyone loves bacon. Or chutney, mushrooms, or relish? Let your mind go wild! They are delicious and will be uniquely yours, for a recipe is more like a guideline than the gospel, and “That’s Bringing the Firehouse Home!”
Stuffed Burger Goodness
1½ to 2 pounds ground chuck beef
Salt and pepper
Whatever your heart desires to stuff your burgers with (I’m going to use portabella mushroom, sweet onion, and Swiss cheese
1 small sweet onion
1 container portabella mushrooms
1 two-cup package of shredded Swiss cheese
(Some ingredients need to be mixed or prepared before the ground beef, so be sure to think this through before starting)
- Season the beef with salt and pepper or whatever spice you want, and form 8 to 12 patties (depending on if you want 4 larger or 6 smaller stuffed burgers).
- Place an indent with your thumb in half of the patties. That is where you will place the fillings before they come together. Another cool way to make the void is to place a clean aluminum can on the patty and form the edges up around the can.
- Saute mushrooms with butter so that they are soft.
- Shape 1½ to 2 lbs. of ground chuck into eight 3- to 4-oz. portions on waxed paper, placing the two patties next to each other on the portion of the waxed paper. One will be the bottom, one will be the top.
- Put fillings in the center of one of the flattened patties, leaving enough room to join the edges with the top patty. Seal the edges together with a fork to keep all of the filling inside.
- Grill the burgers over medium heat until they reach 160°. This lets the filling heat through without the outside becoming overcooked. (If you’re using ground poultry, make sure the burgers hit 165° before pulling them off the grill.)
- Let the burgers rest for 5 minutes.
- Put them on your favorite kind of bun; top with your favorite toppings like lettuce, tomato, and bacon, and enjoy!
Frank E. Vaerewijck has had a passion for the fire service that has spanned 20 years. He has been a volunteer and career firefighter and is currently a firefighter/EMT with the Manassas (VA) Volunteer Fire Company. He has passed on his passion for the fire service through instruction and mentorship. That same passion he has for the fire service is shared with his love of food. In 2006, Vaerewyck won an Iron Chef-style competition sponsored by a radio station in Richmond, Virginia. That is where he also furthered his education by attending a Culinary Arts Program. As the Firehouse Foodie, he has been compiling recipes to be included in a cookbook that will give others the opportunity to see their hometown heroes not just as firefighters, but as the firehouse chefs they truly are.