Beer adds a lot of flavor in these sliders
Big provisions are required to watch the big game, and nothing's more substantial than a burger, even in its mini form — the slider.
Indeed, if you plan to serve a variety of dishes for the Super Bowl, sliders are more sensible than the full-sized guys. But they happen to be a little trickier to cook than a standard-issue burger. The slider's size makes it tough to put a nice crust on the outside while ensuring that it doesn't overcook on the inside.
These sliders are adapted from a burger I used to make a million years ago at a bar in Ann Arbor called the Del Rio — my first job as a cook. Dubbed the Det Burger, this marvel was dreamed up before I landed at the Del Rio by a cook named Bob Detweiler, who baptized the creation after himself. The heart of the original version was a quarter-pounder topped by "the Det mix" — canned mushrooms, canned olives, grilled onions, freeze-dried green peppers and Kraft Singles.
But there also was a secret ingredient: beer. The Det Burger was steamed in beer. If it wasn't quite "the burger that made Ann Arbor famous," it was undeniably a city-wide favorite.
A generation later, I assembled the same winning combo of ingredients — though in a fresher form — and then focused on the cooking process to make sure that these mini-burgers ended up both juicy and crusty. There are a few key points.
First, the sliders need to be about 3/4 inch thick, not only so they don't overcook, but so you can fit all of them at one time into the skillet. Second, the skillet needs to be large, a 12-incher. If you don't have a skillet that big, use two smaller ones and cook six sliders in each. And third, whichever skillet you use, the oil must be heated until it's almost smoking. At the start, you want the burgers to sear, not steam, which is what will happen if the pan isn't hot enough.
At first, the sliders will be crowded together in the skillet, but they'll shrink down as they cook, giving off fat and juices in the process. You deglaze the pan with beer, of course, which mingles intimately with the fat and juices released by the burgers to create a delectable pan sauce.
I recommend spooning some of this liquid onto the buns before sliding in the burgers, but my son proposes a more extravagant way to roll: pour the sauce into ramekins and invite your guests to dunk their sliders into it between bites. Whatever happens onscreen, you'll be winning at home.
Beer-steamed cheese and mushroom beef sliders
Start to finish: 50 minutes
Makes 12 sliders
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
3 ounces mushrooms (white, cremini or shiitake), finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped pitted green olives
2 tablespoons finely chopped, drained, canned green chilies
3 ounces sliced sharp cheddar cheese, broken into 12 equal pieces
1 1/2 pounds ground beef, shaped into 12 sliders, each about 3/4 inch thick
Ground black pepper
1/3 cup beer
12 slider buns
In a large (at least 12-inch) skillet over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onion and cook until golden, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onion to a bowl. Add another tablespoon of the oil to the pan, the mushrooms and a hefty pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid the mushrooms give off has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the onion. Reserve the skillet.
Add the olives and chilies to the mushroom mixture and stir well. Set aside.
Return the skillet to high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and wait until it is almost smoking. Meanwhile, season the sliders on one side with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the sliders, seasoned side down (it will be a little crowded in the pan), and cook them until they are just browned on the first side, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the top side of each with salt and pepper, turn the sliders over and cook for another 2 minutes.
While the sliders are browning, top each slider with a heaping teaspoon of the mushroom mixture, dividing all of the mixture among the sliders, then place a piece of cheese on top of each. Quickly pour the beer into the pan, all around the sliders, cover the pan and steam for 2 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let the sliders sit in the pan for another minute to let the cheese melt completely. Spoon some of the liquid in the skillet onto the tops and bottoms of the buns, transfer the sliders to the buns and serve right away.
Nutrition information per slider: 280 calories; 120 calories from fat (43 percent of total calories); 13 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 45 mg cholesterol; 370 mg sodium; 23 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 16 g protein.
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