Posts Tagged by cast iron cooking

Everything Pork Smash Burgers with Toasty Hoop Cheese

Published in Carolina Country Magazine May 2015

Smashburgers!  or Smash Burgers?  No matter which you way you prefer, they’re everywhere these days… but do you know what that actually means?  

My definition is a good old ground meat burger,  smashed somehow or other, and cooked so that you get a nice, uneven edge from “smashing” that has little nooks and crannies with crunchy little bits and pieces and a crusty bite to them.
The kind we love from our favorite hole-in-the-wall grills and diners!

Most smashburgers are made with ground beef.  But y’all know I don’t do “most.” That’s why I made these with good old NC ground pork!  If you can’t source from a local farmer, you can find ground pork in any grocery store… it’s what I use in my egg rolls too!  

When I was growing up, this is how mama made hamburgers, because she near’bout burnt everything she cooked… and our burgers were no exception. They were crunchy alright!  But actually real good.  Even if they were shriveled up little things… the steamed buns daddy insisted on (and me too to this day) made them tolerable while lost inside the bun.  They just didn’t have a “name” way back then. But now I know, she was cooking smashburgers!

For me, there are 5 things that make up a really great smashburger. The first three… the key to getting that crunch is the right fat ratio (at least 80/20 fat), making them not very big (3-4 ounces) so you can smash big and thin, and a very hot cooking surface… like a preheated cast iron skillet or griddle. 

These days, lots of folks have Blackstone griddles… found at varying price points here and there (self included), and I love that thing!  It’s perfect for making smashburgers and with this recipe, making the “toasty cheese” alongside them! You can cook these in a hot skillet indoors, but because of the high heat and grease, I highly recommend cooking your smashers outside.  If you don’t have a griddle, a cast iron skillet works great!

Number four… as for the cheese, you can use any kind of melty cheese, but I’m a big fan of hoop cheese! (Read about hoop cheese here at North Carolina’s Ashe County Cheese.)

I grew up with it. And it’s often seen… little slices wrapped in “cellophane” with saltine crackers by the register at country stores. Just right to grab for breakfast on the way to work, or a mid-morn or afternoon snack when taking a break from work on the farm.  Enough to “tide you over” till lunch or suppertime.

Mama, not being a cook, would sometimes melt hoop cheese in her cast iron skillet and throw some canned biscuits in the oven. Supper would be biscuits and cheese… spoonsful of the ooey gooey melted cheese over top of those split biscuits.  I can see that good stuff now… with that little golden orange ring of grease around the edge that cooked out of that melted cheese.

Last but certainly worth special attention… really good rolls are the crowning glory for your burgs.  You’ll want something that’s going to hold that luscious burger without it falling to pieces while you savor every crunchy bite!  My favorite are potato rolls, that only get better with the brushed-on butter and light grilling inside out, so you get a little soft with a little crisp too. 

As for toppings, offer up anything that suits your fancy. I like to keep those simple on my smashburgers, so not one bit of the crunchy goodness is lost. 

Memorial day is almost here… and a perfect time to fix a bunch of smashburgers and have a grand ole time with those you love! A Smash Bash… to celebrate and remember those who have served our nation to protect the land of the free… home of the brave!  

Fix some of my Smoky Okra Fries to enjoy alongside and Hummingbird Ice Cream Parfaits for dessert. 

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Get your burg on y’all!

Everything Pork Smash Burgers with Toasty Hoop Cheese

When the burger craving comes upon us, nothing else will do. Smashburgers: those delectable little patties with a bit of crunch — the kind we seek out at our favorite hole-in-the-wall burger joints. I used NC ground pork for these, topped with hoop cheese.

Course: Fun Food!, Main Course, Supper
Cuisine: American, Gluten Free, Grilling, Keto Friendly, Kid-Friendly, Southern, Summer Food, Tailgating
Keyword: blackstone griddle, burger, cast iron cooking, hoop cheese, smash burger, smashburger
Author: Wendy Perry
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds ground pork (at least 80/20 fat)
  • 2 tablespoons ‘everything bagel’ seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • salt (optional-due to saltiness in cheese)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil in bowl
  • Buns (potato or brioche)
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 1 pound wedge hoop cheese
Instructions
  1. Place griddle or large cast iron skillet on grate. Preheat grill (or griddle) to highest heat.

  2. Combine pork and seasonings and mix as little as possible. (The more you handle, the tougher the meat will be.)

  3. Divide into 12 balls. Roll in bowl of oil and place onto hot griddle or skillet. Do not move for at least 1 minute. Flip, then using the bottom of a mason jar, “smash” the burger to make it thin. Cook about 2 minutes, turn and cook the other side about the same to get a good sear. Stack in pan to the side to keep warm.

  4. For the buns, brush the insides with melted butter. Grill the buttered sides while the burgers cook. Place burgers onto “ungrilled” outsides of buns (buttered side out).

  5. Put mounds of hoop cheese into hot skillet or on griddle. As it melts, scoop a portion with spatula onto each burger and eat as is or add toppings.

Grunt?… or Slump? Campfire Blueberry Peach Fruit Grunt

So which is it…. Grunt? or Slump?  You might have seen these descriptions for fruity desserts and wondered…what the heck?  Well you will be happy to know that grunts and slumps are one in the same!  Now don’t confuse them with cobblers, crumbles and crisps, buckles, brown bettys, pandowdy or the regionally almost-famous North Carolina Sonker!  Are you fully befuddled now?  

Each one of these baked goods are delicious in their own way, but are not the same… and traditionally include fruit, flour, sugar and butter. What can be wrong about any such thing? So, let’s have a quick lesson to un-confuse ya. 

Let’s start out with the grunt, aka slump, since this post’s recipe is just that!  Featured in June’s Carolina Country Magazine, you will find my Campfire Fruit Grunt recipe down below you can easily print out and make for your crowd this July 4th!

Originally an English steamed fruit dessert, a grunt/slump is basically a cobbler, but cooked covered on a campfire or grill… or stovetop, rather than inside the oven. This kinda sorta steams the topping (typically a biscuit type dough)… and when it cooks, it makes a “grunting” noise around the edge and topping… thus, the name “grunt.” And once done, it “slumps” down into the skillet…. voila, “Slump!”  I’m particularly fond of crispy crunchy things, so you will find the topping on my grunt/slump recipe below to have a bit of those features rather than a softer biscuit dough as you will find with traditional recipes.

Cobbler… the name comes from the “cobblestone” appearance of the baked topping of a cobbler. Traditional cobblers are cooked casserole style and topped with biscuit dough and once cooked resemble cobblestones you may see on an old street…. not pie crust as many folks do these days. If you are served cobbler with pie crust on top, that’s pie, not cobbler! Sometimes you might even see a “crust” bottomed cobbler too. The filling cooks down into a fruity syrupy goodness. Nowadays you might see cobblers topped with such things as cookie dough and even cake batter.

Crumbles and Crisps... as the name says, this crumbly-topped fruity baked goodie is topped with an oatmeal struesel mixture…. thus, you have a “crumbly” topping.  Nowadays these have become one and the same. Originally, the main difference was that crisp toppings had oats while crumbs did not. Other toppings might have nuts, graham crackers or cookies in the mixture.

Buckles… these are kind of a cake with fruit on top of the batter and a crumb topping.  They are kinda sorta like a coffeecake, but have a softer and more buttery texture. And of course the name…. because it buckles when cooked!

Brown Bettys…. from Colonial days, this dessert usually features layers of sugared apple slices and buttery crumbs, most often made from stale bread.  Our ancestors wasted nothing and of course, would turn old bread into a sweet treat! 

Pandowdy… this is basically a pie without a bottom crust. Pieces of crust dough are scattered about the top and as ready to serve, broken up into the fruit with a spoon a bit and “dowdied” up so to speak.  Traditionally made with apples, pandowdy can be made with any sort of fruit. Molasses is sometimes used as sweetener in Pandowdy, or Pan Dowdy, spelled both ways.

NC Surry County Sonker… The Sonker is indigenous to North Carolina and so loved that it has it’s own festival (1st Saturday in October) and “trail.”  Over in Surry County, the rich heritage of the Sonker is celebrated and showcased on the trail in cafes and restaurants. Sonkers are cooked casserole style, like a deep dish pie, in a rectangle baking dish. Back in the day, it was often cooked in a big bread pan so there would be a plenty to feed all the farm hands that day.  As for its composure, you will get differing opinions on that. Some say it has a bottom crust while others say only side crusts. Either way, the fruit is often covered with a lattice pastry top.  Pretty much any sort of fruit can be used, combination of fruits…. and some even have vegetables like sweet potatoes… one of the most popular kinds of sonker.  No matter the crusts, a milk “batter” is poured over top, and the cooked sonker is served with milk “dip.”
I could go on and on about the sonker and will one day do a post just on that topic. For now, you can read more about its history at Our State Magazine.

And for a traditional Sweet Potato Sonker, here’s a recipe I prepared and styled for this piece a few years back when at Our State Magazine as food stylist and recipe developer. (This is not my recipe.)

There are other similar fruit desserts, but will save those for another time… like Clafouti, Shortcakes, Boy Bait, Long Cakes, Bird’s Nest Pudding and some I may not even have heard of.  Today’s post will get you started…. so throw yourself together this Grunt/Slump I recently created for Carolina Country’s June edition. I declare, here in mid-blueberry/peach season in North Carolina with folks camping and grilling all around, there’s no reason not to!  So stop by your local peach and berry farms or farmers’ market and get some fresh summer fruits… your favorites, and GRUNT!

Campfire Fruit Grunt

Grunts (also called Slumps) were born in New England and are a steamed cobbler that “grunt” when cooking and “slump” as they settle. This treat will make you the envy of the campground!  Great as a dessert, but also enjoyed as a breakfast treat as well.

Course: Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine: Southern
Servings: 8
Author: Wendy Perry
Ingredients
  • 12" cast iron skillet
  • about 3 cups each fresh blueberries and sliced peaches
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup self-rising flour
  • 1/2 cup self-rising corn meal mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice
  • pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons butter softened
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup milk
Instructions
  1. Prepare coals or heat grill to medium high heat. Put fruits, sugar and cornstarch in skillet and stir to combine.

  2. Put all dumpling ingredients except milk into zippered plastic bag. Squish with fingers until butter has been incorporated and you have a crumble mix. Blend in milk.

  3. Add dollops of dumpling batter on top of fruit, leaving space for it to bubble and “grunt.” Close grill lid to cook. If cooking on open coals, cover with foil.

    Cook over indirect heat for about 15 minutes until hot and bubbly.