I was trying to think of what to stuff in this mini bacon-wrapped meatloaf, and then my husband brought in a bunch of poblanos from the garden. Usually I stuff the poblanos with meat and cheese, so it was just a matter of turning the whole thing inside-out. Traditionally, you wouldn’t use bacon with stuffed poblanos, but I didn’t expect the stuffed poblano police to stop by, so I didn’t worry about it. Smoking takes time, and ground meat needs a fatty buffer, like bacon, to keep it moist during the longer cooking. It took about 2 hours to smoke to the point that a little cheese started to melt out of one end, and a thermometer registered 165º-170º in the center (of course, the center was pepper and cheese).
I only used 1 lb of ground meat for the two of us, and there were still leftovers. You’ll have to consider how much to make for your group. Usually, for example, I would use 1 lb of ground meat to make four burgers, and we would have one left over. Personally, I prefer less than a quarter pound for my burger, but I’m probably unusual. You could make several of these rolls for a larger group of people. I cut our one roll into six thick slices.
I made a woven mat of bacon to wrap the filled meatloaf in, using my favorite local thick-sliced bacon. It’s very thick and so you can’t stretch it like the typical thin commercial bacon. I made the mat 6 strips wide, but had to add partial pieces into the weaving to make it fully woven. I’m not sure you can see those half pieces in the photo. After wrapping the roll, I sealed the edges with another strip and put that side of the roll down on the grill grate. I didn’t worry about having beautiful ends, but I did pinch the rolled meat together to hold in the cheese for as long as possible. I wrapped it all tightly in plastic and refrigerated it for about an hour to try to convince it to stay in that nice loaf shape. The lesson here is this: Don’t fret about the appearance too much. Just take your time and keep handling it until it all seems to hold together. Believe me, the gorgeous smoked bacon on the outside and the gooey cheese on the inside will overpower any construction flaws.
meat filling mix
Peel and seed peppers
Filling and bacon mat
About half way through
Center of finished roll
Inside-Out Stuffed Poblanos. Smoked. With Bacon.
- 1/2 lb ground beef, 93% lean
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut in small dice
- 1 tablespoon garlic, mashed or grated
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ancho pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, and seeded
- 2 long 1/2″ wide sticks of Monterrey Jack cheese, each about the length of your meat roll (it doesn’t matter if you have to use smaller pieces)
- 1 pkg thick-sliced bacon, at least 12 strips
- On a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper, make a mat of woven bacon, about 6 strips wide and using as many pieces as you need to weave in the opposite direction. If you make it too big, you can always remove pieces, as needed. Set aside.
- Mix the first eleven ingredients together in a large bowl—meat, breadcrumbs, tomatoes, and spices. Form the meat into a log about the length of your bacon mat, then pat it out on a piece of plastic wrap to make a square. It was easy enough to pat it out with my hands, but I’ve seen videos of people using rolling pins and even large plastic bags. Just make it even and squared off at the corners so you don’t end up with a football shape.
- Lay out sections of poblano peppers to fit the meat, but don’t worry about getting them out to the ends, because you want to pinch them together after rolling.
- Lay sticks of cheese on top of the peppers lengthwise and far enough apart that you can roll them up in the meat. But this isn’t rocket science—fill the roll as full as you like with as much as you can cram in there.
- Roll up the meat, using the plastic wrap to help you. Roll rather tightly and firmly, using pressure from your hands to mold and keep it all together. Pinch the ends together to cover the filling and pat the ends kind of flat so you have a neat cylinder.
- Set the meat roll on the mat of bacon and use the plastic wrap to bring the bacon up the sides—if you’re lucky the bacon will meet or come close to meeting and you can weave in a last piece to hold it together. Wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about an hour. Bring it out about 30 minutes before the grill is ready, but leave in the plastic wrap.
- Set up the grill for slow, indirect heat with a 2 X 2 charcoal snake and a few handfuls of wood chips scattered over it. When your starter coals are ready and you’ve started the snake, set the roll on the cooking grate above a drip pan and close the grill. Cook and smoke for about 1 1/2-2 hours. The bacon should be browned and glossy with crispy areas, and the center will probably reach at least 165º, but keep in mind that you are measuring melted cheese in the center.
- Remove to a cutting board; let rest for a few minutes; then cut in thick slices.
I ended up burning only 1/3 of my charcoal snake, so today, I’m smoking some ribs with the remainder.
This recipe makes eight large empanadas—I’m freezing four for later—but you could easily make smaller, snack-sized empanadas. I used half venison and half ground beef in the filling, but you could substitute any other ground meat combination, or even a filling with no meat. Because you need a cool filling, you should make it early in the day or the day before, so it has time to cool before filling the dough—this also cuts down on the commotion of rolling and filling dough at dinnertime.
For the dough, I’m using the one from Martha Stewart’s “Basic Empanadas” recipe. I recommend this simple dough, which is buttery and tender and easy to handle, considering all the rolling and shaping you need to do. I recommend watching the video on the page, especially if you haven’t made this sort of a hand pie before. The one thing I did differently was to use the food processor instead of mixing by hand—even with that, the dough remained tender. I felt, though, that I had to add way more than the one cup of cold water in the recipe for the dough to come together, maybe as much as an extra half cup. The video tip to let the dough rest before rolling seemed like a good idea, keeping the dough from trying to shrink as you roll it. Here are the simple ingredients for that dough (follow instruction on the site):
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 stick butter
- 1 cup cold water
- egg wash for sealing and for brushing on tops
Herbs and spices
Cooled filling on dough
Filled and ready to bake
At least one always leaks
Time to eat!
Venison Empanada Filling
- 1 lb ground venison
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup garlic, minced
- 2-3 roasted red peppers, diced
- about 6 canned plum tomatoes, diced, plus enough of the juice (maybe 1/2 cup) to moisten the meat
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed or ground dried juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
- 1 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup dried cilantro
- Brown the venison and beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Use oil if you think you need it, but the beef should provide plenty of fat. Remove any excess fat, so the final mixture is not greasy.
- Add the onions and garlic and cook until they begin to soften.
- Stir in spices, red peppers, and tomatoes. Bring to a low boil, then simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Remove to a large low dish, like a 13″ x 9″ baking dish. If you think the mixture is too wet, remove it from the skillet with a slotted spoon. Most of my liquid cooked off.
- Cool the filling, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to fill the empanadas.
Baking: The filled empanadas bake for 30 minutes at 400° on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Frozen ones will take about 40 minutes and do not need to be thawed first.
. . . if you use a griddle, of course.
I hope you haven’t tried it right on the grill grate, but I’d like to see the pictures if you did. 😉
It means my husband won’t be getting his beloved thick rare burgers, but maybe he’ll like the crispy bits on all the edges of the burgers—and smashed burgers are pretty much all surface and no middle. I’m having good old American cheese slices melted all over mine. If you’re confused about the authenticity of American cheese and have time for a long read, see this article on Serious Eats: “What is American Cheese, Anyway?”
I divided a pound of 80% lean beef into 8 slightly flattened balls, figuring two thin patties per sandwich—both with cheese (just on mine). I have a large stainless spatula, but it has slots in it, so trying to smash with that would be like smashing on the grate. I thought about wrapping it in non-stick foil, and I still think that would work, but I’m concerned that all the little crinkles in the foil would cause something to go wrong in the smashing. So I’m using a flat-bottomed bowl that is about the size of the buns to do the pressing. I think I can safely get two patties on the griddle at a time. My griddle is cast iron, so it should hold the heat pretty well through the four servings, after it sits over hot coals in a 400° grill for at least ten minutes.
Here are the 2 oz balls
First press on a clean griddle
Second round of burgers
Don’t forget to scrape up all the bits of burger and cheese that stick to the griddle—I ate most of those by hand, but added the rest to the sandwiches. That’s why you need a spatula with a fine, almost knife-like edge. I thought about using my metal dough scraper, but the spatula worked, with a little elbow grease.
on smashed burgers
Smashed Burgers on the Grill
Be ready to work quickly! It looks like a lot of steps, but you really need to memorize them and have your assembly line ready to go, because there’s no time to read and smash.
Ground beef, 80/20% lean to fat—allow 2 oz per burger, 2 burgers per sandwich
Salt and pepper mixture in a small bowl, ready to season burgers
American cheese slices—allow one slice per burger
- Divide ground beef into 2 oz servings. Shape into balls, lightly flattened with straight sides. This is a good shape to ensure a round shape (if you care) after pressing.
- Have the burgers, cheese, seasoning, pressing device, and spatula lined up and ready to go next to the grill.
- Set up grill for direct heat at about 400°
- Place griddle on grill grate over direct heat at least 10 minutes before cooking burgers.
- Place two burger balls on hot grill (it better sizzle). Immediately press down evenly on each burger to flatten—or smash—to a paper thin patty. Season with your salt and pepper mixture
- It will only take a minute to char. It’s probably ready to turn after you season it.
- Scrape up the burger as well as you can and flip. You want to get all the crispy bits, but if you miss some, just keep going and get the rest later.
- Add cheese right after flipping. If using American cheese, it will melt incredibly fast.
- Scoop up the burgers and all the cheese that melted onto the griddle. Stack them in twos on a serving plate.
- Before you put the next two burgers down, scrape up any bits of burger and cheese and toss onto your serving plate to go into the sandwiches (unless someone eats them).
- On my square griddle, I alternated between opposite corners with each pair of burgers.
This is my favorite kind of burger, all surface crispness and very little middle. Although my husband likes a thick rare burger, he enjoyed these very much, because the resulting beef is full of flavor, even without cheese (lactose intolerance). I made a quick burger sauce with mayo, lime juice, chili garlic sauce, cumin, maple syrup, and salt.
Personally, I think the term patty melt is stupid, well, maybe not stupid, but not very creative. Wikipedia doesn’t seem to know its derivation, but does trace it back to the 1940s, at least. I’m guessing it was developed in some diner one day, when someone insisted on giving the sandwich a name, and the cook just yelled out “Patty Melt” from the kitchen. Its obvious relationship to a grilled cheese sandwich makes me wish that grilled was part of the name. I suppose the patty part is always beef, isn’t it? But why patty instead of burger? I’m sure the French could come up with a better name—I can’t think of one myself. What would you call them?
Anyway, I didn’t want to wash the griddle, so I figured out how to make one on the grill. It’s all about getting the process in the right order, whether using the griddle or the grill, but I like those grill marks, and the dripping cheese just gets burned/scraped off later.
Toasting both sides of the bread is key.
1. Cook the burger
2. Toast the inside
3. Build the sandwich
4. Oil the outside
5. Grill the sandwich
Patty Melt on the Grill
Set up a charcoal grill for two heat zones, direct and indirect.
- Seedless rye bread—try to find one with a good texture, not too soft. I used “Al Cohen’s New York Open Rye” from Buffalo, NY
- Thin sliced Swiss cheese—I used about 8 slices
- Ground beef, shaped in patties, not too thick
- Olive oil or melted butter for brushing on bread
- Sliced onions, grilled until soft and browned
- Grill your vegetables first. We had asparagus, as well as the onions for the sandwich. Grill those over direct heat, then move off to the side to keep warm.
- Grill the burger(s) for the patty melt over direct heat. I will eat a medium rare burger, but prefer one that is cooked longer in this kind of sandwich, because I only want cheese dripping down the sides, not blood. Set aside the burger. Clean the grate.
- Prepare the bread by brushing some oil or butter on the inside of each slice. Grill over direct heat until toasted—probably less than 1 minute per side. Remove to area where you can build the sandwich.
- Build the sandwich on the toasted side of the bread—lots of cheese, burger, onions, lots more cheese. Cover with the second slice of bread, toasted side on the inside.
- Brush the outside of the sandwich with oil or butter. Grill both sides of the sandwich over direct heat until nicely toasted and the cheese is melting.
I like Swiss cheese, but you could obviously use any other cheese that melts well, like American or cheddar, and a hearty white bread would work well, too. My rye bread was already sliced, or I would have sliced it a little thicker.
The last step of the meal for me was grilling my husband’s burgers, which he likes very rare—that’s why you have to figure out the order of steps.