I tend to forget about cherries outside of July. When out of season, fresh cherries lean way too heavily to the tart side and are priced upwards of eight dollars a pound. It’s like paying for foie gras and getting a load of Spam. But around the 4th, the fruit starts raining from the trees and overflowing farmer’s markets and grocers with perfectly ripe, sweet and sour cherries. The first of the summer stone fruits, the group will soon grow to include sloppy-delicious peaches and nectarines as August closes in.

With their dual citizenship in savory and sugary universes, cherries are an especially versatile fruit for cooking and baking. Cherry pie? Um, sure. If you’re feeling like winning a boring contest in your kitchen. How about topping crostini alongside fresh market chevre and a hint of cracked pepper? Maybe a Pinot-cherry pan sauce to drizzle over grilled duck? Finding savory uses for fruits and berries in the summertime keeps the proteins coming off the grill more interesting, and gives you more flexibility to use up leftovers from baking and canning projects. I love working sweet produce into barbecue sauces, marinades, kabobs, and in this case, hidden deep inside a hamburger.

This Cherry and Fromager d’Affinois hamburger is a balsamic-hued bomb of flavor that adds a welcome dose of sophistication to your summer paper plates. Fromager d’Affinois is a soft-ripened, tangy cheese that retains its silky-butter texture even when melted. It can be found at any decent cheese counter, but if you find yourself in the middle of some hole without a decent cheese counter, pedestrian brie will work too. Be careful not to overstuff, or the filling will spew out all over your grill. And then you’re stuck with a holey hamburger and cherry charcoal.

Grilled Stuffed Hamburgers with Cherries and Cheese

1 ½ lbs ground beef (80/20% fat ratio)

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper

½ cup cherries, pitted and halved

4 oz wedge of Fromager d’Affinois, cut into slices with the rind removed

4 pub buns

1 cup lettuce

4 slices bacon, cooked
½ tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp balsamic vinegar

Mayonnaise for buns (if you’re a mayonnaise person. I am, proudly)

Prepare your grill of choice.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together ground beef, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Mix by hand with a claw-like motion, taking care not to overmix—just until the sauce has been incorporated. Form 8 thin patties in your palm, about 4” in diameter and ¼” thick. In the center of 4 patties place 3-4 cherry halves and a slice of cheese. Keep ingredients close to the center, leaving a hefty margin around the patty’s exterior. Top with second patty, pressing the edges together to seal. Pat 4 finished stuffed burgers very lightly with your palm, then grill for about 6-7 minutes per side.

While the burgers are grilling, whisk the olive oil and balsamic vinegar together in a bowl. Toss in lettuce and stir to coat. Prepare buns by splitting in half and spreading the tops with a thin layer of mayonnaise. Place a slice of bacon, split in two, on the bottom half. When burgers are complete, place one atop each bacon-laden bottom half and top with vinaigrette-dressed lettuce. These burgers are a spectacular pairing with chilled rosé.

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