If you are planning to pair a burger with wine instead of, say, beer, our Wine of the Week, Kenwood Vineyards 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($20) is a great choice. Undercurrents of spice meander through seductive fruit — red raspberry, black raspberry, dried strawberry and a hint of olallieberry — as an earthy succulence forms an engaging foundation, a resonance with a burger whether it is grilled over coals or cooked on a griddle. There’s plenty of acid to keep you refreshed throughout your burger indulgence.
It’s absolutely perfect with wild Pacific King Salmon. Add some cherries — as salsa, as relish, as a simple salad with shallots and basil — and you have a match made in food lover’s heaven. It is also delicious with duck so if you happen to have some ground duck on hand or can grind some duck thigh and leg, you’ll be thrilled when you pair this wine with a duck burger. A lamb burger is a great match, too.
For today’s recipe, I’m suggesting sliders, bite-sizes burgers that have become extremely trendy in the last few years. Here, with a nubbin of flavored butter tin each patty to keep grass-fed beef moist, they are a perfect match with the wine. The addition of butter, which is an excellent technique for any sized burger, melts as the meat cooks, lubricating it and distributing the flavors of the butter. It is the best defense against dry meat, especially if you prefer your burgers cooked medium well.
Hamburger Sliders with Pinot Noir Butter
Serves 2, easily doubled
1 small shallot, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
— Black pepper in a mill
— Pinch or two of sugar
½ cup pinot noir
1 stick (4 ounces) local butter, at room temperature
¾ pound grass-fed beef (preferably chuck), ground
6 little (no bigger than 3-inches across) rolls, split in half
— Best-quality mayonnaise or cherry ketchup (see Note below)
— Onion jam, homemade or commercial
2 or 3 leaves of butter lettuce, torn in half
Make the pinot noir butter at least two hours before preparing the burgers. Put the shallot in a medium bowl, add the half teaspoon of kosher salt, several turns of black pepper and the sugar. Pour the wine into the bowl and set aside for about 15 minutes. Add the butter and mix vigorously until it is smooth and all of the liquid has been incorporated. Turn it out onto a sheet of wax paper, roll it into a cylinder about 1 ¼ inch in diameter and chill until firm. (You will have a lot of butter left over; wrap it tightly and store it in the refrigerator for up to a week and in the freezer for a couple of months.)
To finish the burgers, set the meat on a clean work surface and divide it into 6 equal portions.
Cut 2 coins of pinot noir butter about 3/8 inch thick and cut each into 3 wedges.
Shape the beef into patties that are about ½-inch thick and press a wedge of butter into the center of each one, being certain to fully enclose it with the meat. Season the patties all over with salt and pepper.
Heat a grill pan, stove top grill or a griddle until very hot.
Toast the rolls or heat them in an oven.