When we first moved to the Pacific Northwest we fell in love with the annual Filbert Festival in a neighboring town. Free admission but plenty to do; a perfect day out for a young family on a grad school budget. It was also something of an introduction to our new home. I had grown up in the sunshine among the citrus groves and strawberry fields. The woodsy bitterness of the filbert seemed to fit perfectly with the musty forests of the Pacific Northwest. For the uninitiated, “filbert” is the European name for the common hazelnut. Most Americans encounter hazelnuts via Nutella, weird Starbucks coffees, and perhaps as the mixed nut that’s usually left in the bowl. In the Pacific Northwest the hazelnut shows up all over the place on restaurant menus: crusted onto baked salmon, sprinkled across cheesecakes, and even as a finishing feed for heritage breed pork. Hazelnuts are even the foundation of our favorite Thanksgiving stuffing.
But it never would have occurred to me to include them in burgers, were it not for A Treasury of Prize Winning Filbert Recipes. I picked up this cookbook at a bookshop in Lincoln City, Oregon many years after my last Filbert Festival. The book was published by the Oregon Filbert Commission, now the Oregon Hazelnut Commission, in collaboration with a local Portland news channel. The cookbook opens with a surprisingly sophisticated history of the filbert, quoting ancient Chinese texts and the Greek physician Dioscorides, and working through to the present day. There’s a brief summary of the current industry, as of 1973, and an overview of various (culinary) uses for the hazelnut. The cookbook portion includes some two hundred recipes – primarily snacks and desserts – submitted by Pacific Northwest Homemakers. They are quite literally Prize Winning Recipes, as judged by the Auxiliary of the Nut Growers Society of Oregon and Washington.
Western Filbert Burgers is one of the few main dishes in A Treasury of Prize Winning Filbert Recipes. It wasn’t the first recipe to catch my eye, but it was the first to make its way onto our meal calendar. The month of October is a chaotic blend of sports and school activities, with kids coming and going at odd hours. As such I do my best to make meals that can accommodate different family members eating at different times. Burgers fit the bill, and Filbert Burgers sounded like fun.
The whole secret to the Western Filbert Burger’s in the name: hand-formed burger patties with a healthy dose of chopped, toasted hazelnuts folded in, the same way you might make a bleu cheese or caramelized onion patty. The hazelnuts soften a little bit during the cook, soaking up some of the beef fat and adding a little bit of texture to the patty. Not a crunchy texture, but more like the extra chew from a coarser ground beef. The filberts also change the burger’s flavor, lending some nutty richness that’s almost like having an extra condiment. The filbert flavor won’t play nice with some of your typical condiments: pass on the mustard and stick with mayonnaise or a creamy Russian-style dressing. Bacon and cheese round out the “Western” experience.
I’m personally a big fan of the Western Filbert Burger, in part because it’s a close cousin to my favorite local burger: the Peanut Butter Pickle Bacon Burger. Now if this burger idea horrifies you don’t worry: the Western Filbert Burger isn’t quite as nut-forward as the PBPB. The Western Filbert Burger takes some of that nutty goodness and packages more like an In’N’Out burger, albeit with an impossibly large patty. Consider it a gateway to the PBPB. Nuts and beef are amazing together.
As mentioned above, this isn’t an all-purpose burger. The beef-and-hazelnut patty has a distinctive flavor profile and not all of your usual accoutrements will work properly. The first time you make it I highly recommend following the recipe to a T: bacon, pepperjack, and a simple Russian-style dressing. The second time around feel free to follow your tastebuds. I’d personally steer clear of mustard or hot sauce, but plan to hit this with some sweet Kansas City style barbecue sauce on the next go around. Or maybe sour cream with citrus and dill. And while I’m usually a big fan of American cheese on burgers, stick with a ‘real’ cheese like pepperjack or cheddar. Serve with french fries or potato chips. Enjoy!
For the burger patty:
For the accoutrements:
- 6 slices thick cut bacon (cooked crisp and drained)
- 6 slices pepperjack cheese
- 6 large hamburger buns (sliced and toasted)
- sliced tomatoes
- crisp lettuce (such as romain hearts or iceberg)
For the Russian-style dressing:
- Add chopped filberts, salt, and pepper to ground beef in a large mixing bowl. Mix with your hands until filbert bits are evenly distributed. Hand form into six large patties, about 7 oz each.
- Whisk together the ingredients for the Russian dressing. Keep chilled until ready to serve.
- Cook patties under the broiler for 8-10 minutes, or as needed to reach desired doneness. Top each slice with cheese and broil for about one minute more.
- Assemble burgers.