Wednesday, May 20, 2009

bring on the birthday burgers - recipe: dana's homemade burgers

My little guy turned one the first week of May. I can’t believe how fast the year went by. For several weeks prior to the big day, I had been trying to come up with a theme for John’s first birthday party.

I know, I know, this probably sounds silly. My husband, David, shook his head whenever the topic came up and told me, “Hun, you know that you’re doing this for you, right? John won’t remember anything and he’s a guy, so even if he could remember, he wouldn’t care.”

Bah humbug. Grudgingly, I admit that David’s right — the party was probably for me, but it was a great excuse to plan a get-together. It was a small affair — just my immediate family, John’s great aunt Deb, my best friend Nichole, her hubby Steve and their little guy Charlie.

After much thought, I finally came up with a theme — bunnies! (Uh oh, John might resent me for this when he’s a teenager — I promise not to show the pictures of your first b-day party to your girlfriends or buddies, OK John?)

Why bunnies, you ask? Because our first set of real dishes for him have a Peter Cottontail motif (thanks Doug and Diane).

My favourite newborn outfits for him were also from the “guess how much I love you” bunny series (thanks Kim and Rob).

But it was mostly because John sleeps with a little stuffed bunny every night for comfort (again courtesy of Kim and Rob). So as you can see, the theme is indeed appropriate.

Now to the food... salads were definitely in order — I made a Boston bibb salad and a roasted carrot and olive salad.

I also served my homemade beef burgers. When reviewing the menu beforehand, my (pedantic) husband David reminded me that rabbits are in fact strict vegetarians.

When I replied that I could serve veggie burgers instead, he quickly changed the subject. He was relieved (if not a bit skeptical) when I informed him that arctic hares are known to occasionally eat meat (thanks, google!). Dessert? Carrot cake, of course!

Dana’s homemade burgers (makes 24 large burgers)

Yes, it’s a bit unbelievable, but this recipe does call for seven-and-a-half pounds of beef (Warning! Don’t skimp on the regular ground beef — I use a mixture of regular and lean for the tastiest results). You can halve the recipe if you like, but I prefer to make a 'whack' of burgers and freeze some for future use. Trust me, you’ll thank me on a busy weeknight when all you have to do is thaw them.


  • 4 pounds regular ground beef
  • 3 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 medium sized onions, finely diced (about 2 cups)
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3/4 cup oyster sauce
  • 1 3/4 cups good-quality smoky barbecue sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3-4 cups breadcrumbs salt and pepper, to taste


  • Finely dice onions and sauté in pan over medium heat until softened and translucent, about five minutes. Add garlic and cook for one to two minutes or until fragrant. Remove pan from heat and set aside to cool.
  • Transfer onion-garlic mixture to large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well to combine.
  • Shape into 24, five-ounce patties. Grill on barbecue over medium heat or wrap burgers individually in plastic wrap and freeze for future use.
  • Serve with an assortment of gourmet toppings and let your guests “build their best burger” — blue cheese, caramelized onions, smoked cheddar, sautéed mushrooms and slow roasted tomatoes are good choices.

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