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4th of July Foods with a Twist

It’s the Fourth of July and you’re planning a gala barbecue for 25 of your closest family and friends. What’s on the menu? Burgers and hot dogs, of course, and all the trimmings that go with them.

But while hamburgers are the most common menu items for a summer picnic, they can get a little boring, even for the most avid barbecue aficionado. So perhaps it’s time to think outside the box and add a little twist to your Fourth of July fare by offering burgers that are a little different from the usual.

In many cases, changing the taste of a hamburger merely involves being a bit more clever about what goes inside and on top and offering condiments other than ketchup, mustard, and relish.

“Cheese” burgers

If you’re a cheeseburger fan, chances are you never pass up a chance to enjoy a juicy circle of ground beef topped with your favorite variety of cheese. The cheese of choice for most burger lovers is a simple slice of American, but there are so many other great choices that’ll give your burger an extra “bite”.

Try offering your Fourth of July guests something a little more exotic. There are many cheeses that are great melting varieties and they’re ideal for this purpose. For example, Emmental, a medium-hard yet fairly mild Swiss cheese variety, works wonderfully with hamburgers. Or how about Brie, that French creamy cheese that’s usually a dessert cheese but adds some extra pizzazz when melted atop your burger? Also consider a thick slice of smoky provolone or even a slab of fresh mozzarella. Blue cheese (including Roquefort or gorgonzola) is also a great alternative and definite adds a little tang.

Mix-Ins

Many people purchase pre-made burgers for their Fourth of July parties, but if you take the time to make your own, there are more ways for you to add a few fireworks to your burger creations.

So, when you’re mixing your top-quality ground beef with eggs and bread crumbs, considering adding something like crumbled cheese, Worcestershire sauce, teriyaki sauce, ginger, chopped pecans or walnuts, chopped onions and/or peppers, or a blending of your favorite spices.

Toppings

Lettuce, tomato, or onions are fine for the ordinary hamburger, but if you add something a bit more unusual, your guests’ taste buds will give a patriotic salute. How about crunchy cucumber slices, sprouts, or perhaps avocado? Roasted red peppers are a big favorite these days and go great with mozzarella or provolone cheese. Sautéed mushrooms are always a hit as are other grilled or sautéed vegetables like eggplant.

For something really out of the ordinary, top your burgers with fruit. Pineapple slices, from our 50th state, are juicy and sweet and are best when paired with teriyaki sauce and cheddar cheese. Apples and cheese also work well, or you can go a bit more exotic and top your burgers with mango or papaya for a tropical flare.     

Sauces and other condiments

Remember, you aren’t limited to ketchup and mustard. There are a number of other convenient bottled or jarred sauces and condiments you can place atop your all-American burger including salsa, a variety of chutneys, pizza sauce, salad dressings like Thousand Island or ranch, pesto, guacamole, or aioli - a mixture of garlic, oil, and egg.

The Bun

A popular fast food restaurant encourages diners to “think outside the bun”. That’s a great idea! When serving hamburgers at your next Fourth of July bash, give your guests a choice of breads like pitas, crusty ciabatta rolls, croissants, bagels, or English muffins.

While many of these “ethnic” items may seem foreign to a Fourth of July meal, remember that the United States of American is the ultimate melting pot and you can celebrate its diversity while enjoying a meal with family of friends, all of whom – no doubt – have ancestors that hailed from different places around the world.