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Johnny D's Mudbug Burgers with Smoky Bold Fontina Topping

Hamburgers and crawfish have always been in my Top Ten favorite food list, but I had never thought about combining the two until I read about this contest. So I asked myself, "Will these two foods make a compatible and interesting combination?" I wrote down my recipe on a legal pad at work and then came home and tried it. Other ingredients came to mind and soon I had a nice burger which was different but not so weird that it was way in left field. I "edited" as I experimented. This recipe represents my best effort. What else can I say? Hope you like them as much as my friends and I do.


Smoky Bold Fontina Topping:
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded, finely chopped
1/4 pound shitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound Fontina cheese, cubed (about 1 inch)
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
8 ounces packaged crawfish tail meat, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (around 24% fat)
6 tablespoons red onions, finely chopped
1 sweet red pepper, medium, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 egg, shelled
Spray oil, for greasing the grill rack
Olive oil for toasting the buns
6 Whole wheat hamburger buns, or 6 Kaiser rolls (4 1/2-inch), split


DIRECTIONS: Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or pre-heat a gas grill to medium-high heat. To make the Fontina topping, put on a pair of rubber gloves and split the jalapeno pepper lengthwise. Carefully remove the seeds. Finely chop the two halves and set aside. Discard the rubber gloves. Do not wash the mushrooms. Instead, wipe them gently with a paper towel. Coarsely chop and set aside. Place the Fontina cheese cubes into a 1- quart double boiler. (Place water in the bottom portion of the double boiler and the cheese in the top portion for melting. Place the top portion into the bottom portion.) Put the burner on very low heat. Add the jalapeno peppers, the mushrooms, and the liquid smoke. Mix with a wooden spoon and allow the cheese to melt, stirring gently every 30 seconds for about 2-3 seconds. Once the cheese melts, continue to stir regularly to prevent scorching. To make the patties, in a large mixing bowl, combine the crawfish, ground beef, onions, red peppers, Cajun seasoning, salt, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, panko, and egg. Mix the cocntents with your hands, handling as little as possible to avoid compacting it. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions, first forming large balls that you slightly and gently flatten with your hands into patties. Spray the grill rack with the spray oil until it glistens (3-5 seconds). Transfer the Fontina cheese topping from the stove to the grill in the double boiler so you can continue to monitor while you are grilling the burgers. Continue to gently stir the cheese mixture every 2-3 minutes. Carefully place the patties on the grill rack, close the cover, and grill until browned on the bottom, about 5-6 minutes. Turn the patties with a sturdy metal spatula. (NO NOT press the patties down with the spatula as this tends to dry out the juices in the meat.) Grill until the patties reach the desired degree of doneness. (Usually about 3-5 minutes longer for medium) During the last 3-4 minutes of grilling, brush the "insides" (tops and bottoms) of the 6 buns with a light coating of olive oil. Place the buns with the "insides" on the rack's surface. (If the rack will not accommodate all 12 bun halves at the same time, toast them in small groups as quickly as possible.) To assemble the burgers, remove them from the rack and place in a large platter for about 3 minutes to "rest." Then place a pattie on a toasted bun bottom and then top with 2-3 tablespoons of the Fontina cheese topping. Add the bun tops and serve immediately.


These crawfish-beef burgers are delicious by themselves but are even better with the Fontina cheese topping. I tried other cheeses when developing this recipe, such as a smoky cheddar, which was too "elastic" and rubbery. I saw on a cooking show that Fontina melts very well, and that is why I tried it. The overall taste of Fontina was perfect for the other ingredients. In this recipe, the Fontina topping put this burger "over the top."