Recently, I took on the challenge of creating a “hometown burger” for the upcoming Labor Day. Since I still think of Wisconsin as home – Madison, specifically – I thought back on two of my favorite summer flavors from that state: Door County cherries and Wisconsin Blue cheese. If you’ve ever paired Blue cheese with port, you know that these two flavors make beautiful music in the key of sweet-salty.
Wisconsin Blue cheese is a great burger topper – it melts well, and the flavor is sharp without being too aggressive. If you have any left over, use it in a spinach salad or tuck it into a BLT. The cherry-onion relish can be made in advance, and it keeps well. The tartness of the cherries alongside the caramelized onions balance out the saltiness of the blue, making for a truly stunning cheeseburger.
Blue Cheese Burgers with Cherry-Onion Relish
4 ground beef patties
4 whole wheat hamburger buns
4 slices Wisconsin Blue cheese
1-2 tsp cherry-relish
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup warm water or dark beer
1 medium-sized white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
Ground black pepper
Place cherries in warm water or beer and set aside to soak for half an hour or more.
Melt butter in skillet and add thinly sliced onions. Cook on low to medium heat, about 20 minutes. If they brown, they’ll get tough, so be sure to let them cook down slowly. Once onions are transluscent, add balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, and turn off heat. Add a pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Drain cherries, and add to onion mixture.
Salt and pepper ground beef patties, and grill. If you cook them on a stove, get the pan hot and cook them in a little butter, 5-7 minutes per side if you want them to be rare – closer to 9 or 12 minutes per side for well-done.
Top burgers with cherry-onion relish and a hunk of Blue cheese. For additional condiments, try some baby spinach, a shmear of mayo, and a little whole-grain mustard. Serve with a dark, smoky beer and sweet-potato chips.
Note: You can also use dried cranberries in place of cherries in this recipe. If you like a smoother relish, put it in a food processer and mix until it reaches the desired consistency.