Eric Akis: Celebrate B.C. Day with a burger

On this provincial holiday, go local with fresh, Island-raised beef that will make a patty packed with flavour

Eric Akis

If you plan to serve burgers this B.C. Day long weekend, forget about cooking those frozen beef patties produced goodness knows where. Instead, celebrate your love of our province and a good burger by making one rich with B.C ingredients, from the meat to the bun and the cheese to the condiments.

That’s the approach I took when creating today’s recipe. I started the process by going to the Village Butcher (villagebutcher.ca) in Oak Bay, where I bought some Vancouver Island pastured-raised, grass-fed beef that was ground in-house.

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Other butcher shops around Greater Victoria, and up Island, too, sell beef raised in B.C. So do some supermarkets, such as Thrifty Foods and Country Grocer.

Because the meat I bought was so flavourful and contained the right amount fat, all I did for my burgers was to shape them into patties. I then simply seasoned them with salt and pepper. The meat did not need anything else to make it taste good.

My preferred buns for burgers these days are the deluxe brioche buns made by Saanichton-based Portofino Bakery (portofinobakery.ca), who sell their products at food stores around the Island. This rich-tasting bun is sturdy enough to hold the burger patty and its toppings, but soft enough to easily bite through, so things don’t slide out of it when you eat it. This bun also had a nice golden colour, which adds to the visual appeal of your burger when plated.

I sometimes like to spread my burger buns with a flavoured mayonnaise. In today’s recipe, I made a simple one by mixing mayonnaise with a made-in-Victoria product called Hee-Haw Redonkeylously Hot Horseradish. A company called Hee-Haw Horseradish makes this superb, palate-awakening product, which, of course, goes great with beef. I bought it at Peppers Foods in Cadboro Bay, but other grocery stores sell it, too. For a list of them, go to heehawhorseradish.com.

I also wanted to put some salad greens, onion and ripe tomato in my burger and bought, just-picked, locally grown ones at Victoria’s Saturday Moss Street Market (mossstreetmarket.com). While at the market I also bought some awesome, crunchy dill pickles to slice and put in my burger made by Maison Preserves Company (maisonpreserves.com). You’ll know when you’ve found this business’s stand at the market, because it will be surrounded by a crowd of people eagerly buying their wide range of excellent preserves.

The last thing I needed for my burger was some cheese. I chose Verdelait, made by Courtenay’s Natural Pastures Cheese Company. They sell their fine cheeses at food stores around the Island. They describe their Verdelait as a delicious and unique blend of cheddar, Dutch Gouda and Swiss Raclette styles of cheese.

Their Verdelait cheese is flavoured in different ways, with such things as Island-grown fresh herbs and garlic, cracked black pepper and Island-grown habañero peppers. As you can see by today’s photo, this cheese also melts really well, making it great to slice and set on a burger patty.

You can make my recipe as written, or have some fun and simply use it as a guide to create your own B.C.-ingredient-rich burger. Either way, have a happy and safe B.C. Day long weekend!

Beauty B.C. Burgers

These juicy, tasty, filling burgers are made with an array of B.C. ingredients. Make a fine summer meal by serving these burgers with Island-grown corn on the cob.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: About 15 minutes

Makes: Four servings

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 Tbsp hot, prepared horseradish (I used Victoria-made Hee-Haw Horseradish)

1 Tbsp butter

1 medium B.C. grown red onion, thinly sliced

1 1/2 lb. B.C. ground beef

1 Tbsp B.C. red wine (optional)

• vegetable oil for the grill

150 grams flavoured Natural Pastures Cheese Company verdelait cheese, such as cracked pepper or garlic and chives, sliced

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 B.C.-made burger buns, split and warmed, cut-side down, on the grill

1 1/2 cups B.C. grown mixed salad greens

4 large B.C. grown tomato slices

• B.C.-made or homemade dill pickles, sliced, to taste

Combine the mayonnaise and horseradish in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Melt the butter in a skillet set over medium, medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook and stir until tender, about five minutes. Add the red wine, if using, bring to a simmer and cook until the wine has almost evaporated. Remove skillet from the heat, season onions with salt and pepper and then set them aside for now.

Preheat your barbecue to medium-high (about 450 F in the chamber). With cold-water-moistened hands, divide and form the ground beef into four equal, loose balls. Now shape each ball into a 3/4-inch thick patty. Make a deep dimple in the centre of one side of each patty (this will help prevent the patties from puffing in the centre when they cook). Season each patty with salt and pepper.

Lightly oil the bars of your grill. Set on the patties and cook four to five minutes per side, or until entirely cooked through and the centre of each burger reaches 160F (71C) on an instant-read meat thermometer. Top each patty with some cheese slices and let them melt, about one minute or so.

Spread each bun with some of the horseradish-flavoured mayonnaise. Divide and set salad greens on each bottom bun. Top greens with a slice of tomato. Now set a burger patty on each bottom bun, and top with the onions and pickles. Set on the top buns and serve.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks, including seven in his Everyone Can Cook series. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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