Dad's hamburger

The Fourth of July, the Summer Solstice, and Father’s Day. What do these three holidays share in common? Why, an excuse for burgers and margaritas. While two of these holidays are behind us, don’t let that dampen your enthusiasm. I have some storied recipes to liven up the third.

A couple years back my family planned a trip to Bar Harbor, Maine. I had caught a whiff of the New England nostalgia from my coworker whose family vacationed there every summer. His stories were irresistible. Ponds, lobsters, and white clapboard cottages—it sounded like a Norman Rockwell painting, with seafood! I had to go.

And so, we went—well, except for my brother. The transcontinental flight to a rocky island with only bicycles and crustaceans for entertainment lacked a certain appeal for him. It was his loss. The trip was epic. We sea-kayaked. We slept in. We explored Rockefeller’s nearly century-old carriage roads. We rented a dilapidated tandem bicycle dubbed “The Divorce Maker,” and lived to tell the tale (marriage intact). We ate lobster claws bigger than Mike’s fist.

One morning we even greeted the sun from the top of Cadillac Mountain, the first place the sunrise is visible in the Eastern United States, our teeth chattering in the pre-dawn wind. Aurora’s orange and pink began as a pinprick over the Atlantic and crept up the skyline, illuminating the rock-studded archipelago of Maine’s coast, which looks so similar to the San Juan Islands of my home state it’s uncanny.

Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain

But if you were to ask me the best recipes I discovered in Maine, they came from far closer to home: My father. In fact, his turn in the kitchen of our rental cabin rivaled the lobster pound for our best meal of the trip. We recently whipped up his famous burgers and margaritas and they immediately brought that taste of vacationland into our backyard.

Burgers al fresco

My dad, as an engineer-cum-entrepreneur, has dexterous hands, big visionary ideas, and an appetite for red meat. So I shouldn’t be surprised he set out to build a better burger.

For example:

Problem 1: overcooked burgers with a dry texture.

Solution: mix in moisture with capers, sun-dried tomatoes, an egg, and breadcrumbs to bind them together.

Problem 2: burgers always shrink up, leaving no space for toppings.

Solution: divet a crater; it gives you a place to put the cheese and will flatten out as it cooks.

The margaritas? That was a stroke of sheer luck. The rental cabin had a bartending book prescribing what I now consider the quintessential margarita. One note about the margies though: Don’t plan to drive anywhere soon. You know those tacky t-shirts with witticisms like “1 tequila, 2 tequila, 3 tequila, floor”? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Dad's margarita on the rocks

Dad’s Margaritas on the Rocks

Tequila – preferably a silver (plata) variety

Triple sec, Cointreau, or—in a pinch—a splash of orange juice

Limes

Salt

Ice

Rim a glass with salt. Mix together 2 parts tequila to 1 part fresh-squeezed lime juice to 1 part triple sec or Cointreau. Shake with ice and pour into the salted glass. Serve immediately.

Dad's hamburgers

Dad’s Hamburgers

Makes ~ 12 sliders or 6 regular patties

1.5 pounds ground beef

2 slices of good bread, toasted and chopped (a food processor works well) (or roughly 1 cup bread crumbs)

1 egg

1 tbsp capers

¼ cup sundried tomatoes, oil drained and diced

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Don’t be squeamish. Wash your hands and use those to blend the meat mixture so it binds together. Form hamburger patties to your preferred size. (I like making sliders with a ¼ cup measuring tin.)

Use your thumb to form a small crater in each patty. Grill on the BBQ crater-side down, then flip the patties, top with cheese, and finish cooking to desired doneness. Serve on toasted brioche buns with toppings of your choice. I highly recommend the following, sliced thinly:

white cheddar | avocado | red onion | red bell pepper | lettuce greens | tomato

Don’t forget the Dijon mustard.