~ A surprisingly fantastic (and easy!) combination! Tacos meet burgers … in too-cute slider form! Simple enough for family cook-outs, yet impressive enough for a party. A great change of pace that’s secretly quick but looks really gourmet! The perfect mix-up of two fave foods! ~
This Recipe: • Includes Make-Ahead Steps •
You know how, sometimes, mixed-breed dogs are just the very, very best kind (even when you have no idea exactly what kind they are)?
Sometimes food is like that, too.
I have a lot of experience with both.
When my husband and I were a (young) married couple, we were surprised one day to find that we’d adopted a tiny puppy. (It sort of just happened without all of our usual calculated planning). We had no idea for sure what kind of dog he was – but our little Zero (long story on the name … that’s for another day …) spent his life being mistaken for an adorable black lab puppy. He made us a family, long before we had kiddos. His boundless affection and passion for every single part of life (except having his nails trimmed) filled our hearts. He was a fantastic runner and could hang in there – usually in the lead – for mile after mile after mile. He was a really special little dude.
Same mixed-breed story with our new dog. Allegedly, Finn’s a Jack Russell-Rat Terrier mix, rescued from a boutique breeder who dumped him at the pound. But who’s to say, really? And actually, who cares? He’s awesome – 100% heart mixed with 100% action. The perfect fit for our family. His little legs can’t run quite as far as Zero’s, but he can bang out a respectable 5k. Good enough for me! He’s also, at this very moment, curled up in my lap – all soft and warm and content. (THK’s HR Department really knows how to create a great work environment. 😀 )
Gretchen recently embraced the mixed-breeds-are-awesome ideology, too. In a completely uncharacteristic move, she suddenly got a bee in her bonnet last spring to add a puppy to her family, too. Within three days she had exhaustively researched and tracked down the perfect rescue pup … and driven over 5 hours to bring her little guy home. (Gretchen does nothing half-way. Go big or go home.) Little Murphy is part Shih-Tzu, part Jack Russell, and is a fabulously cuddly, hilariously spunky ball of fuzzy wonderfulness. When I can’t work at home with Finn in my lap, I can now work at Gretchen’s with Murph. (I’ve become really adept at typing with one hand while I pet a soft head with the other.)
So mixed breeds. Good stuff. Very good stuff.
Same with food!
These taco sliders are the perfect example.
They taste kinda like a taco. But they’re shaped like burgers … cute, tiny burgers. Sliders!
Yet, they’re not the same-old-same-old sliders. Certainly not! They’re served on deliciously sweet polenta … and the wonderful corn flavor of the polenta makes them taste even more like a taco!
So are they a burger? Or a taco?
A main dish or an impressively gourmet tapas-style appetizer?
Who knows? Who cares?!?
They’re awesome! Delicious and fun and a unique change-of-pace … easy enough for a weeknight dinner (yes, yes … of course we have make-ahead tips!), but special enough for guests.
Plus, we’ve got directions for outdoor grilling, or for whipping these beauties up indoors year-round!
Like most mixed breeds, they just sort of … happened.
A few months ago, I was perfecting the formula for our Tex-Mex Taco Burgers around the same time that I was monkeying with the recipe for our Grilled Polenta with Balsamic Tomatoes. It wasn’t a big leap … taco burgers met grilled polenta … and the rest is (scrumptious!) history. Lip-smackingly good, all-mixed-up history. The very best kind.
Oh – and if you happen to have a beloved, mixed-breed pup around your house, too – I can tell you from experience that he’ll be right by your side as you grill these up. Everybody loves them!
It’s Almost Labor Day! Want More Grilling and Picnic Ideas? How About:
- Layered Ribbon Jell-O Salad (In patriotic red, white and blue!)
- Four-Ingredient Grilled Corn Salad with Nonfat Chili-Lime Dressing
- Greek Yogurt Coleslaw
- Citrus Quinoa and Chickpea Salad
- Grilled Tropical Fruit with Almond-Ricotta Sauce (Surprisingly quick and easy!)
- 18-ounce tube refrigerated, prepared polenta
- 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon cumin
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon oregano
- 1 pound extra lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup shredded, reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped black beans (rinsed and drained)
- 1/4 cup mild thick and chunky salsa (see note)
CREAMY SALSA DRESSING
- 1 5.3-ounce container (just over 1/2 cup) nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup mild thick and chunky salsa
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Using a sharp knife, cut polenta into 16 even rounds. The easiest way to do this is to cut the log of polenta evenly in half, then cut each half in half again, so you have four quarters. Cut each quarter in half and then cut those two rounds in half again, so you have 16 polenta rounds.
- Lay polenta out on a baking sheet or large tray and brush lightly with ½ teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle ⅛ teaspoon salt and 1/16 teaspoon black pepper lightly across the rounds. Flip the rounds, brush again with the remaining ½ teaspoon of olive oil, and sprinkle evenly with the remaining ⅛ teaspoon salt and 1/16 teaspoon pepper.
- In a small bowl, combine spices for spice blend: chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt, and oregano.
- In a large bowl, crumble ground beef gently, and then sprinkle with spice mixture, cheese, beans and salsa. Mix until thoroughly combined, being careful not to overmix. Form mixture into 16 patties (see note).
- Preheat your grill on medium heat. (Although it's not necessary to use a grill tray for this recipe, it can be helpful since tiny sliders can easily slip between grill grates when flipped.)
- Arrange the burgers and polenta on the preheated grill. Grill burgers on the first side until nicely browned and mostly cooked through (about 6-8 minutes). Grill polenta on the first side until they begin to develop some light grill marks (generally a slightly longer cook time than the burgers – about 10-12 minutes).
- When they are each ready, flip the burgers (gently – these are a bit delicate) and the polenta rounds. Continue cooking the burgers until they're just cooked through (about 4-5 minutes more), being careful not to overcook, which can cause the burgers to be dry. Continue cooking the polenta until the second side begins to develop grill marks (about 8-10 minutes).
- While the burgers and polenta cook, mix the dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl.
- Serve your slider burgers on top of the polenta rounds, drizzled with creamy salsa dressing.
Salsa: Be sure to use thick and chunky salsa, as opposed to much thinner and runnier regular salsa.
Forming burger patties: We typically advise you to just lightly press your burgers together, as overworking the meat mixture or compacting the patties too firmly can cause your burgers to be tough. However, these burgers have so many ingredients that you do need to be more firm in packing the patties together so they don't fall apart when you flip them. As long as you're relatively firm in shaping them and don't make them too thin, you should be just fine.
Grilling: Remember that grills vary widely in temperature settings, so the settings and times you use may need to be adjusted according to your specific grill.
Make-ahead options: You can combine the spices and wrap the bowl until you're ready to use them, and you can also mix up your creamy salsa dressing ahead of time and keep it, tightly wrapped, in the fridge. You can also prep the slider patties earlier in the day or up to a day ahead and then store them, tightly wrapped in the fridge, until you’re ready to cook them. To prep further ahead of time, you can freeze the uncooked patties and then thaw prior to cooking. These burgers also reheat surprisingly well after cooking, as the salsa keeps them really moist.
Alternate indoor instructions: You can also make these indoors year-round by cooking the burgers over medium heat on a nonstick grill pan or in a skillet, and cooking the polenta under the broiler. The sliders will cook on the first side in about 6-8 minutes in a covered skillet, or 8-10 minutes in an uncovered grill pan. After you've flipped them, continue cooking for about 5 minutes more or until they've reached your desired level of doneness, being careful not to overcook. For the polenta, preheat your broiler as needed. Then, once you've brushed both sides of the polenta rounds with oil and sprinkled them with salt and pepper, broil them for approximately 8-10 minutes on each side, flipping them when they begin to get a bit golden brown.
Slider sandwich option: You can also serve these as slider sandwiches on slider buns, instead of on the polenta rounds. Check the size of your slider buns before you shape the burger patties, though - you may want to make 12 slightly larger burgers (instead of 16), depending on how big the buns are.