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Last Best Place Burgers (with Wild Mushroom-Sage Pesto, Skillet Lilies and Smoked Mozzarella)

Growing up in San Diego, I’m not even sure I knew exactly where Montana was, but I did know it was part of the Wild West and the land of cowboys. Having lived here for over ten years, I now know why it is called "The Last Best Place." It is a land of rugged, but spectacular beauty; mountains, plains and incredible national parks (Glacier and Yellowstone).
The people are welcoming and friendly and believe we have the best of the best. My "Last Best Place" Burger is a tribute to the place I now call home. For these burgers, I’ve incorporated many local offerings of the area – Montana beef (the first thing you think of when you think Montana cuisine), fragrant fresh sage, wild mushrooms, etc. These juicy burgers, like Montana itself, are robust and laden with an earthy richness drawn from the hearty spirit of the West.

Ingredients 

Patties:
2 pounds ground beef chuck
1 tablespoon Weber Grill Creations Gourmet Burger Seasoning
1/2 cup drained and chopped (oil packed) sun-dried tomatoes
1/3 cup grated red onion
3 tablespoons Sutter Home Pinot Noir
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary and/or thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wild Mushroom-Sage Pesto:
1/4 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup Sutter Home Pinot Noir
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, stemmed
2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil – divided
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup fresh sage leaves, firmly packed
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley
2 large garlic cloves
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup Treasure Cave Crumbled Blue Cheese
Salt, to taste

Skillet Lilies:
2 tablespoons Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 whole shallots, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack
6 slices fresh smoked mozzarella cheese
6 Kaiser or good-quality hamburger rolls, split
6 red leaf lettuce leaves

Instructions 

Preheat a gas grill to medium-hot or prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill.

To make the patties, combine the beef chuck, Weber Grill Creations Seasoning, tomatoes, onion, wine, rosemary, thyme, and salt in a large bowl, handling as little as possible. Shape into 6 patties to fit the bun size. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside.

To make the Wild Mushroom-Sage Pesto, place dried mushrooms in small glass bowl. Heat wine in a small fire-proof saucepan on the grill until boiling. Pour over dried mushrooms and let stand 20 minutes. Brush the cremini mushrooms with 2 tablespoons olive oil and cook on the grill, until golden brown and soft, 4 to 5 minutes each side. Cool slightly and coarsely chop.
Remove the dried mushrooms from the wine and place in food processor. Add grilled mushrooms, walnuts, sage, parsley, garlic, and lemon juice; process until finely chopped. With machine running slowly add the 1/3 cup olive oil until blended. Add blue cheese and pulse a few times to incorporate. Season with salt. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

To make the Skillet Lilies, heat a large, heavy nonstick fire-proof skillet on the grill. Add olive oil, onion, and shallots. Cook until onions and shallots are golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and cook until caramelized, about 5 minutes more. Stir in balsamic vinegar and chives. Remove pan from grill and set aside.

When the grill is ready, brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once, until done to preference, 5 to 7 minutes on each side for medium. Place the cheese slices on the patties during the last 3 minutes of grilling. Place the rolls, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly during the last 2 minutes of grilling.
To assemble the burgers, spread the Wild Mushroom-Sage Pesto over the cut sides of the rolls. On each roll bottom, layer lettuce, a cheese-topped patty, and an equal portion of the Skillet Lilies. Add the roll tops and serve.

Makes 6 burgers

Comments 

While this recipe may seem like it requires a number of ingredients and steps, each component is as straightforward and direct as Montanans themself! I enjoy serving this burger with a glass (or two) of food-friendly Sutter Home Pinot Noir, its earthy and herbal flavor, complement the wild mushrooms and fresh herbs deliciously.