Take note, aspiring restaurateurs of America. Fewer things can ruin a dining experience than A. a server who doesn’t know the menu and B. vaguely named entrees (what exactly is Luau Margarita Sunset Chicken, anyway?).
This intersection of chaos and destruction landed in my lap recently at a local pub, where Beer Cheese was featured as a special on the menu. With a soft gaze and a polite tone, I asked my server to explain to me exactly what beer cheese is. His unsatisfying response? “I dunno, it just got put on the menu today. You know, it’s like cheese with beer in it. It’s good, though; you’ll like it.”
Enter the smart phone, the saving grace for curious modern minds. (I think phones at the dinner table are tremendously rude, but the circumstances offered no other solution.) Google came through in the clutch with an answer: Beer cheese is a smooth spread that’s reported to have originated in Kentucky and is made of, simply enough, beer and cheese. I could dream up all sorts of evocative descriptions of warm, peppery spices melded with piquant garlic all mounted on a foundation of extra sharp cheddar cheese. But let’s be real here: It’s a cheese spread. A delicious, spicy, garlicky cheese spread.
So I ordered it and decided I needed something to drink. (Googling is exhausting on 4G.) “Do you guys have any seasonal beers on tap?” “Yeah,” my ever-informed server responded. “We got that October fiesta beer.”
Oktoberfest Beer Cheese Burgers
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
For the beer cheese:
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
6 tablespoons Oktoberfest beer
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
Few dashes Tabasco
1 garlic clove, finely chopped or grated
Few dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1 1/3 pounds ground beef (80% lean, 20% fat)
Salt and ground black pepper
Lettuce, for serving
Sliced tomato, for serving
4 soft hamburger rolls, split
In the bowl of a food processor, combine all of the ingredients for the beer cheese. Pulse the machine to chop everything up and then run it until the cheese is smooth, 30 seconds. Reserve.
Place a large saute pan or cast-iron skillet over medium heat with the oil. Season the ground beef with salt and pepper, and divide it into four equal portions. Shape each portion into a patty that’s about 3/4 inch thick. Cook the burgers to your liking (about 3 minutes per side for medium).
Serve the burgers on split rolls with lettuce, tomato and a dollop of beer cheese.
NOTE: This will make more beer cheese than needed for the meal. Store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to four days and try to resist spreading it on everything you possibly can. I dare you.
Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Marc Forgione, Bobby Deen and Paula Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following him on Instagram at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.