The Big Valley Burger

Pairs well with:


Bright and full-bodied, this Zinfandel wine is a curious contradiction in tastes.

I’ve lived in Florida for 16 years but I still miss the Italian farming heritage and flavors of the rich San Joaquin Valley, and especially the products I can only find in my hometown, Stockton. If I were making my Zinfandel Burger with Balsamic Grilled Asparagus there, I would use Bruno’s wax peppers, Genova Bakery rolls, old vine Zinfandel from Lodi and, of course, fresh Delta asparagus. I can find adequate substitutes in the Tampa Bay area that still give me the taste of home and am happy to share them with my family here.


Herb-Lemon Mayonnaise:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
3 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pounds ground chuck
1/4 cup Zinfandel wine
1 large shallot, peeled and minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped pepperoncini, stems trimmed, seeds removed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup Italian flavored dried bread crumbs
For asparagus:
18 medium asparagus spears
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Non-stick spray
9 medium slices Mozzarella cheese
2 baguettes, cut into six-inch lengths and split


To make Herb-Lemon Mayonnaise, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley, basil and salt in small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make burgers, place all ingredients, except bread crumbs, in medium bowl and mix together gently by hand. Do not overwork the burgers or the meat will be tough. Divide mixture into six equal portions and form into 1/2-inch thick patties to fit the baguette lengths. Place on a platter in a single layer and sprinkle both sides evenly with bread crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Prepare the asparagus by trimming and discarding the woody ends, leaving about 5 inches of stalk. Set aside. Mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and mustard in a shallow bowl.

To prepare the asparagus, heat the gas grill to medium-high. Place a large, stainless steel skillet on the grate and fill with about 2 inches of salted water. Let it come to a boil. Blanch the asparagus for about 2 minutes. Remove and dry with a paper towel.

Dip the stalks into the vinegar mixture and place on grill. Cook for about 3 minutes, turning and basting frequently. Set cooked asparagus aside and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. (Do not cover tightly or asparagus will steam and become limp.)

Coat the grill grate with non-stick spray and add burger patties. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes and flip. After about 4 minutes on second side, top each burger with 1 1/2 slices of Mozzarella (enough to cover burger).

To assemble burgers, spread about 1 tablespoon of Herb-Lemon Mayonnaise on both bottom and top of split baguette. Add Mozzarella burger and top with three asparagus spears. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 burgers.