Beef and Bass Double Cheeseburger
By Chef Jack Hennessey
The weather—between sunshine, rain and tennis-ball-size hail—fluctuated throughout our week spent fishing early July in Northwest Ontario. It seemed once conditions were ripe for fish, we could hear Mother Nature above, atop a throne of soot-black clouds, rolling the dice.
On the 4th of July, my dad and I barely made it off the water before a 30-minute hail storm indiscriminately pelted cabins, boats and cars. Luckily, no one was hurt.
At the end of it, I inventoried only one busted rod tip. My brother and his car weren’t so fortunate. A lightning crack ran vertical up the passenger side of his windshield, and the hood, with all the dimples, looked a saltine cracker.
Anglers know best—Fortuna is the original femme fatale.
Next night, the walleye were biting consistently off the dock, then the sky gradually turned a shade of bruise and started dropping buckets. We waited out the rain, but the walleye didn’t—not a nibble since that first glob dimpled the water.
In the late evening cool, perhaps out of boredom, my dad started slinging a crazy crawler, a lure with which he claimed to never have success.
Within a handful of casts, a beefy bass hit topwater—17 inches, 3 pounds. Having not had an immense amount of success up until that point, we filleted the fish and forgot about him.
On our last night, we found ourselves with a situation, what some might call “a good problem to have.”
We had brought too many perishables and instead of having border patrol toss them, we wanted to waste as little as possible. Additionally, we still had that bass sitting at the base of the refrigerator. I worried freezing the fillets days later would result in a less-fresh-tasting fish upon thawing.
That night the “Beef and bass double cheeseburger” was born. It isn’t refined, nor very complicated, but it satisfies taste buds.
Makes four servings.
4 5-ounce frozen beef patties
2 bass fillets, yielding 8-12 ounces
2 medium yellow onions, julienne
8 slices American cheese
4 potato hamburger buns
Salt & pepper
Custom Cabin Cajun Spice Blend
2 tablespoons salt
1-1/2 tablespoons black pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon dry thyme
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon cayenne
To caramelize onions: Heat a large skillet on medium-low. Lightly coat skillet with olive or canola oil. Cut both onions julienne and add to skillet. Lightly salt and pepper. Stir often, allowing onions to cook down and caramelize for minimum 45 minutes. (Yes, 45 minutes) Onions are done when soft and brown and have a caramel flavor.
To cook burgers and bass: Heat outside grill to 350 degrees. Add frozen beef patties around center of grill. Lightly salt. Place bass fillets lightly seasoned with Cajun spices just outside circle of beef patties and cover grill. Flip frozen patties once they start to sweat, after approximately 5 minutes. Cover and allow to cook another minute. Once bass is cooked and flaky, add first slice of cheese to burger patties. Use a pair of tongs to pick off 3 to 4 ounces of bass and ladle that amount atop each cheeseburger. Top bass with cheese. Cover grill and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer.
To assemble burgers: Add your favorite condiments to undersides of hamburger bun. Place beef-and-bass burger on bottom bun. Top with a hefty amount of caramelized onions.
About the Chef: If you attended the recent National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic held in Minneapolis, MN, you’ll recognize Jack Hennessey as one of the featured chefs who showcased his culinary skills on the wild game cooking stage. Hennessy is a passionate denizen of the outdoors and is the author of the food blog Braising the Wild.
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