Words by Sara Moulton, Special To The Washington Post
The Italians don’t “do” burgers, but as an American equally in love with burgers and Italian cuisine (I’m just back from a visit to that “bel paese”), I thought it might be fun to engineer a kind of marriage.
What makes this burger Italian? The crispy prosciutto (we would have used bacon), followed by the mushrooms sautéed with rosemary and garlic, topped with Taleggio (one of my favourite Italian cheeses), all of it piled onto large slices of bruschetta instead of buns. This is a certifiably rich combination, but the ingredient that takes it over the top is the truffle oil. Italians might agree that the touch is “un po troppo”; you can use it or lose it.
These burgers are pretty easy to prepare, especially when you buy the mushrooms already sliced. You can sauté them a day or two ahead of time and then just bring them to room temperature before mounding them on the burgers. Likewise, you can grate the cheese and crisp the prosciutto a few days ahead, then stash them in the refrigerator, wrapped separately, until it is time to start cooking.
If you can’t find Taleggio, fontina will do the trick. If you would rather roll with classic burger buns or English muffins instead of bruschetta, go ahead … although it means you’ll be kissing off the bruschetta’s garlicky crunch.
Serve with grilled corn and/or a tomato and cucumber salad.
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
8 ounces assorted sliced mushrooms
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced garlic, plus 1 clove cut in half
1/3 cup dry red wine
Freshly ground black pepper
Twelve 4-inch-wide slices rustic bread
1/2 teaspoon good-quality truffle oil, or as needed (optional)
Six 6-ounce burger patties (80-20 ground beef or ground chuck)
6 ounces Taleggio cheese, coarsely grated (may substitute fontina; semi-soft cheeses like Taleggio are easier to grate when you put them in the freezer for 30 minutes beforehand)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the prosciutto on it in a single layer; bake (middle rack) for 12 minutes. Cool completely, during which time the prosciutto will crisp up.
Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (about 450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, use a metal chimney to prepare your briquettes; once the charcoal is grey and glowing red, distribute the briquettes evenly under the cooking area. The grill should be ready when you can place your hand about 6 inches over the grate for 3 to 4 seconds without pulling it away.
Heat the 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the mushrooms, rosemary and a pinch of salt; reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms have started to turn golden. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Pour in the wine; cook until it has evaporated, then season lightly with pepper and remove from the heat.
Brush both sides of the bread slices lightly with extra-virgin olive oil. Place on the grate and grill (uncovered) for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until they are nicely marked. Rub one side of each grilled slice with one of the cut sides of the garlic clove. Place 2 grilled slices of bread on each plate.
Stir the truffle oil, if using, into the cooled mushrooms.
Brush the burger patties lightly with extra-virgin olive oil and season both sides lightly with salt and pepper. Place the burgers on the grate; grill (uncovered) for 3 minutes. Turn the burgers over; close the lid and grill them for 2 minutes.
Working quickly, top each burger with the crispy prosciutto, one-sixth each of the mushroom mixture, and, last, the cheese. Close the lid and cook until the cheese has melted, 1 to 2 minutes.
Sandwich the burgers between the grilled bread and serve.
The USDA recommends cooking ground meat to well done. These burgers will be medium to medium-rare, which is how I like them. If you do, too, buy the meat from a reliable source. Or DIY grind it. If you don’t own a grinder, cut shoulder or chuck meat into 1-inch cubes and freeze it for 30 minutes. Pulse it, in thirds, in a food processor until ground to 1/8- to 1/4-inch pieces.