Pancetta Cheeseburgers with Tomato, Basil and White Bean Salad

I wouldn’t consider myself a burger grilling master but I know the basics.

I know to buy the chuck (80/20) for its fat content (making the burger juicier). I know not to touch the burgers for a while (resisting the urge to take a peak) so it doesn’t crumble when you try to flip. And I know to make the patties with a small dent in the middle so they don’t end up with a bubble on top.

But, what I didn’t know was that I think, for all these years, I have been buying the wrong meat. 80/20 chuck is certainly the right meat, but I think pre-packaged was the wrong move. Sure, it is cheaper and easier, but I am not sure it makes for the best burger. When I tried these Martha Stewart Pancetta Cheeseburgers I went to Fresh Market and bought fresh ground chuck (to order), and not only was the color of the meat magnificent, but it was probably the best ground chuck I have ever had.

Not to mention this particular recipe is a clear winner – it has a bit of a kick, lots of flavor and a great crunch with the baked pancetta. My only alteration would be to perhaps make more than one pancetta piece per burger (ok, I know it isn’t the healthiest alteration but pancetta might be the best thing on the planet!). In addition, the bean salad that was recommended to be served alongside the burgers was fantastic, and is a great summer dish. I also couldn’t find fontina at my store so I used provolone. I don’t know if it was better or not, but I do know it was darn good.

Happy grilling!

PANCETTA CHEESEBURGERS
Serves 4

4 thin slices pancetta (I would even recommend 8 if you love pancetta like me!)
1 1/4 pounds ground chuck
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Freshly ground pepper
4 ounces fontina cheese, thinly sliced
4 hamburger buns, toasted if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pancetta on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, flipping the slices halfway through, until crisp, about 15 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Meanwhile, using your hands, combine ground chuck, salt, chili powder, and paprika in a bowl, and season with pepper. Shape into 4 patties (about 4 inches in diameter).

Preheat grill to medium. (If you are using a charcoal grill, coals are ready when you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill for just 5 to 6 seconds.) Grill burgers 4 to 5 minutes. Flip burgers, and top with cheese. Grill 3 to 4 minutes more for medium-rare. Remove, and let rest 5 minutes. Top burgers with pancetta, and serve on buns.

TOMATO, BASIL and WHITE BEAN SALAD
Serves 4

2 cans (19 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 pound small roma (plum) tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 small garlic cloves, minced

Combine beans, tomatoes, basil, and salt in a bowl, and season with pepper.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Pour over bean mixture, and gently toss. Let stand 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld. Salad can be covered and kept at room temperature up to 4 hours.

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