The 40 Minute Family Meal: Alder Smoked Hamburgers with Fennel Salad and Tomatoes

Img_7115_2It sounds fancy, but it was born of laziness. In a half-hearted attempt to increase the flavor factor of some burgers I merely flipped a half charred plank of alder conveniently (messily) still on the grill from the previous night’s alder-smoked salmon. I heat the grill up and let it smolder and combust and kiss the burgers (free range and grass fed, obvy) with its second hand smokiness. We had no buns, which was just fine, as we had a loaf of “whole wheat” from one of the bakers at our farmers market. This thing was as white as most baguettes, so I have no clue what made it “whole wheat,” but without its crusts it made for a dainty, none too starchy vehicle for our smoky patties. Here’s pic of a kids’ portion, with a little shaved fennel salad and some sliced tomatoes (dressed with a titch of olive oil and sea salt). Introduce your kids to such things early enough and they won’t be bugging you for McDonalds and the like.

Oh yeah, the quasi recipe, if you actually need it. It’s more an idea than a recipe really: make some hamburgers (all the better if you happen to have a half-charred piece of cedar, or alder, or something like that sitting on the grill from an earlier dinner. Leave it there. It’ll start smoking when the grill gets going. If it bursts into flame, spritz with water from a spray bottle). Grill with the cover down to keep the smoke concentrated on the patties. After the first burger flip, top with gruyere. Meanwhile, slice some fennel thinly (I used my benriner, mandolin-style slicer). Slice some cherry tomatoes in half. Dress them lightly with olive oil and salt and perhaps a spritz of lemon juice. For a break from burger bun monotony, serve on some other sort of neutralish quasi white bread with the crusts trimmed off. You can taste the burger itself much better this way.
—Hugh

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