Few things are as tasty as a good burger. But those are so very hard to find. Through the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, we have been taught that a good burger must be too thick to bite easily and half-raw to simulate succulence. They are piled with every conceivable thing in the name of “foodie-ism” and are placed on stiff breads which either disintegrates from the watery burger or shatters upon biting.
I will have to give kudos to Guy Fieri since his show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, often goes to places who often aren’t corrupted by such madness. 🙂 When I first saw him on tv, I didn’t like him much, with his in your face frat boy attitude. He’s grown on me.
My husband makes me my ideal burger which we call “messy burgers”. You don’t need much equipment, just one good skillet, preferably cast iron, a lid and a wide flipper. Oh, and napkins, lots of napkins.
Most important, start with the right meat. We use, if we can find it, 73% lean / 27% fat hamburger. If we can’t find that, we use 80%-20%. I have nothing against 90% lean ground meat but that is for steak tartare, not a hamburger. Yes, Vel likes raw meat and would happily share a fresh kill with her beloved snow leopards. My husband makes wide, thin patties, about 7 inches wide and about a half-inch thick. Dusted with salt and pepper, they go into a hot cast-iron skillet for a good browning on both sides. With this fat content, they don’t dry out when cooked to well-done. This thin, they don’t need squished with the flipper. They do shrink so they will fit on a bun.
Next, get buns. Not ciabatta, not some frou-frou fig and feta artisan sourdough. You want a soft bun, right out of a bag from the grocery store. If you are lucky, you’ll have a local commercial bakery that makes toasted onion buns, with the bits of brown onions on top. Sometimes I grill them in a bit of butter, sometimes not.
Cheese is to be meltable, after a minute or two under a lid. Favorites are regular old American and blue cheese. The blue cheese does have to be a certain kind. It cannot be little crumbles that shoot everywhere off the burger and it does not need to be Roquefort or Maytag. For my burger, it must be Rosenborg/Castello Extra-creamy Blue Cheese Slices. I suppose you could get a chunk and slice your own but I like the convenience here. I like it since it is strongly flavored with a very nice funk. It also melts well.
Now for the other toppings. I chop everything into a medium-small dice. My teeth don’t shear as well as they could, so rather than having every bite a contest between me and a recalcitrant onion, tomato or bacon slice, I can just chomp right down. We make two kinds of onions, carmelized until soft and fresh diced. I’m a bit of an onion addict.
You’ll also see a pile of red on my burger. That’s the diced Campari tomatoes. I love these little guys, not as big as a regular tomato, but bigger than a cherry one. They have had excellent flavor since I’ve been getting them and they are easier to find than my favorite Ugly Ripes. I leave the seeds and goo intact though I think if I removed it, the bun might retain its integrity longer.
Finally, I love mayo (aka I love fat). We make our own (easy with a stick blender or regular blender) and both sides of the bun get a schmear, with a small squirt of ketchup on the bottom half for a little sweetness and piquancy. A shake of salt and pepper and I’m done.
My favorite sides are potato chips (with or without sour cream onion dip) and a cold beer. Pennsylvania is one of the largest producers and consumers of chips (a local brand I like, Martin’s.) We even have chips cooked in lard! I do like fries but they are a pain to make at home. We got a case of Sam Adams with Alpine Spring, Maple Pecan Porter, Double Agent IPL (yep, a lager), and I think their flagship. The IPL is good, the lager seems to tone down the intensity of the west coast hops, though it still has a very strong grapefruit aroma/taste. The Alpine Spring is also hoppy but from Tettnanger, so it’s quite a bit tamer in taste. Haven’t tried the porter yet.
No wonder it’s so hard losing weight with such things around.