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Fairly delicious: Cheeseburgers on a Stick

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Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

I've always loved the Minnesota State Fair. It seems there's something for everyone at the Great Minnesota Get-Together, but for many, the main attraction seems to be the food.

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The Minnesota State Fair was practically in my own backyard as I grew up in a northern suburb of St. Paul. Rainbow ice cream cones and foot-long hot dogs were always the first snacks I'd seek out on my annual trip to the fairgrounds. Next, it was the crisp onion rings from a booth right outside of the Food Building. A couple of summers when I was in high school, I worked at the Pancake House that used to be at the fair, waiting on tables, watching people eat stacks of pancakes, always wondering why those fair-goers would want to fill stomach space with pancakes when there was all that good fair food lining the streets.

In recent years, the new incredible edible at the Minnesota State Fair is anything on a stick. The corn dog has been around for as long as I can remember, so the idea of fair food on a stick is nothing new. It's what goes on a stick that is getting all the attention. From deep fried candy bars and dill pickles on a stick to spaghetti and meatballs on a stick, it seems each year the array of "stick offerings" gets a bit more outrageous.

Oh, sure, you can find some lean meat or fish on a stick, but who wants that when there's a deep-fried Twinkie or cheesecake on a stick sending out whiffs of greasy temptation?

I missed the Minnesota State Fair this year. I created Cheeseburgers on a Stick to help buffer my disappointment. They can be made as a fun appetizer or snack or they can become a meal, depending on how many you choose to eat. They are juicy and flavorful hot off the grill. With a bamboo skewer handle, they are easy to grab and gobble.

Homemade Chipotle Catsup is a great way to use up some of those fresh garden tomatoes. It takes more time than effort to concoct this smoky and slightly spicy catsup that becomes hotter the longer it sits.

I took these Cheeseburgers on a Stick to a picnic last weekend. I shaped the meat mixture into cylinders the night before, placed them on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper and stored them in the freezer overnight. The next day, I put the frozen cheeseburger logs into a plastic container with waxed paper between the layers, and then into a cooler along with a jar of Chipotle Catsup for the 2½-hour drive to the picnic site. The log-shaped cheeseburgers were ready to grill when I pulled into the picnic spot.

Cheeseburgers on a Stick with Chipotle Catsup are great for end-of-summer picnics and will be perfect for tailgating parties at football games this fall.

But I still have a taste for my State Fair foot-long.

Cheeseburgers on a Stick

1 pound ground beef

1 egg

½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons minced onion

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat grill.

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Divide meat mixture into 10 to 12 equal portions. Shape each portion into a cylinder shape. Cook the cylinders over medium heat in a covered grill, turning once to brown both sides. Remove from grill when meat is cooked through. Poke a bamboo skewer into one end of each beef log, being careful not to push all the way through the other end. Serve with Chipotle Catsup for dipping.

Chipotle Catsup

3 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes

1 red bell pepper

2 garlic cloves, sliced

2 shallots, sliced

¼ cup canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped

Position oven rack close to broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Mist lightly with non-stick cooking spray.

Use a sharp paring knife to remove the stem end of each tomato. Place on prepared baking sheet along with the whole red bell pepper. Broil until tomatoes are charred. Turn tomatoes over and char the other end. Keep turning the pepper until it is completely charred all around. When pepper is all black, transfer to a glass bowl and seal tightly with plastic wrap. As it steams in the bowl, the skin will loosen and it will be easy to peel.

Place charred tomatoes with their skin in a large saucepan. Add garlic and shallots. Remove stem, peel and remove seeds from red pepper. Chop the roasted pepper and add to saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chipotle chiles and cook an additional 30 minutes. Strain the mixture in a colander or pass through a food mill. If using a colander, press the ingredients against the sides to extract all liquid. Discard the solids. Return the sauce to the pan and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with Cheeseburgers on a Stick.

Tips from the cook

--Shallots are often preferred by cooks because they combine the flavors of onion and garlic in a delicate, yet distinctive way. They can be sliced and tossed into salads or cooked in dishes when a subtle but emphatic touch of onion is needed. Those that we can find in our grocery stores have a thin brownish skin. Most often they are packaged in little mesh bags, but some stores carry them in bulk so you can choose your own. They're a bit expensive. You can substitute the white part of green onions.

--Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are smoked chile peppers, typically jalapeno, in a red tomato-based sauce. Find them in cans with the Hispanic foods in the international aisle of most grocery stores.

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