Screen Porch Burgers
My parents have retired to a small farm in Maine, in the foothills of the White Mountains. Summers are short but hot, perfect for growing the armloads of sweet, crisp summer vegetables that my family and I devour when we visit. Happiness, for me, is sitting on the huge screen porch, listening to the tree peepers chirp, sipping a cool glass of Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc, and noshing on burgers filled with the farm’s bounty: sweet corn, basil, scallions, heirloom tomatoes, and Mom’s bread and butter pickles from just-picked cukes.
For the Sweet Corn-Basil “Pimento” Cheese:
6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese
1 cup sweet corn kernels, from 3 ears corn
½ cup thinly sliced basil leaves
½ cup mayonnaise
For the Bread and Butter Frickles:
1 cup vegetable oil
12 bread and butter sandwich-cut pickles
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup milk
½ cup cornmeal
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
For the Burger Patties:
2 pounds ground chuck
½ cup finely sliced scallions
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
6 King’s Hawaiian Sandwich Rolls
6 1/4-inch slices heirloom tomato
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
6 leaves red-leaf lettuce
To make the Sweet Corn-Basil “Pimento” Cheese, shred the cheddar on a box grater. Stir together shredded cheese, sweet corn, sliced basil leaves and mayonnaise in a medium bowl, and set aside until ready to serve.
To make the Bread and Butter Frickles, preheat all burners on a gas grill to high. Place a large cast-iron skillet on the grates, and heat for at least 5 minutes. Carefully add the oil to the hot pan, and heat to 350 degrees.
While the pan preheats, lay out the pickle slices in a single layer on a kitchen towel. Blot with a second kitchen towel. Arrange 3 small bowls into a breading station: place the flour in the first, beat the eggs and milk in the second, and mix the cornmeal and panko in the third. Season contents of each bowl with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and mix to combine. Bread the dried-off pickle slices by turning in the flour, then dipping in the egg mixture, and finally coating with the panko-cornmeal mixture. Fry the breaded pickles in batches, turning once, until golden brown and crisp, about 90 seconds per side. Drain on a rack set over a paper-towel-lined sheet pan. Carefully remove skillet from the grill grates, and reduce heat to medium-high.
To make the burger patties, gently combine chuck, scallions, salt and pepper. Divide into 6 portions, and form each into a ¾-inch thick patty roughly the diameter of the King’s Sandwich Rolls. Grill the burgers on the preheated grill, turning once, until medium rare, about 3 minutes per side. After turning the burgers, arrange the sandwich rolls, cut sides down, around the edges of the grill to toast.
To assemble the burgers, place one burger patty on each of the toasted sandwich roll bottoms. Top with 2 criss-crossed frickles, a slice of heirloom tomato, and a crisp leaf of lettuce. Spread the top halves of the sandwich rolls with a scant quarter cup of the sweet corn-basil “pimento” cheese, and close the burgers. Enjoy on the screen porch, listening to the soothing sounds of a summer evening, accompanied by a crisp, cold glass of Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc.