Behold: The House BurgerNovember 19, 2008
The husband loves burgers.
I would like to say that I was his first love, but I know darn well that it was really the Big Mac. And now he’s moved onto bigger and better things. No, not me. Other burgers.
He’s sampled $10-$12 burgers in New York City’s finest burger joints. He’s hit every type of fast food burger from Sonic to Rally’s and back to McDonald’s (again). But he saves his true passion for the homemade burger.
Yes, he grinds his own meat. He experiments with different levels of fat, and different areas of the cow. He’s made lamb burgers, sirloin burgers, chuck burgers, blue cheese burgers, cheddar cheese burgers and who knows what else.
Now at last, he’s reached the burger pinnacle. A burger so good he has dubbed it, “The House Burger.” Cue the dramatic music.
Perhaps I’m being a bit playful. But there’s no joking about how good the house burger is. It is insanely good. I like a burger as much as the next guy (except if the next guy is my husband, who is, like, obsessed), and I can say, this is one of the best — if not the best — burgers out there. I have to give much credit to the delicious combination of sweet and biting onion marmalade, sharp Dijon mustard and pungent blue cheese. I also have to give props to the toasted potato roll, which no good burger should go without. But most important, the burger owes its deliciousness to my husband’s mad cooking skills. It is juicy, pink, moist and delicious.
If you can cook a mean burger, you can’t go wrong with this lovely combination of flavors. Add that onion marmalade. Slather on that Dijon. Top it with blue cheese. Behold, it is the House Burger.
And now, the husband’s take…
OK. I’ve discussed problems I’ve had with food in the past. There have been a few minor obsessions that have caused me to detour from common sense for, well, months at a time. The kitchen gets filled with an ingredient that gets used, abused, cultivated, and promoted.
Take, for example, pistachios. A couple of years ago I did several posts about these nuts: pistachio-date sticky buns, pistachio madelines with meyer lemon glaze, fried chicken with a pistachio crust, and, one of my family’s favorites, pistachio ice cream. I like pistachios, and they are only my second favorite nut to the pecan — ask my wife about driving through Georgia and stopping to get praline pecans… it wasn’t one of my finer moments.
But nuts can’t hold a candle to my obsession with hamburgers. I’ve eaten more than my fair share of burgers – good and bad – over my lifetime. (One highlight: When my wife and I lived in NYC, a slew of high-end burger joints opened, many in our neighborhood. Thus, we ate a lot of $10-$12 burgers.) Indeed, the burger madness extends to my own kitchen, where I’ve ground different combinations of meat based on various hypotheses and recommendations, trying to find the ideal burger. It’s unhealthy not just to my cholesterol, but also to broader mental health.
And yet, here we are at this post. This is the burger that has affectionately won the title of “the house burger.” It has onion marmalade, blue cheese, Dijon mustard, and a perfectly cooked patty of ground meat. It is served on a toasted potato roll. It’s a combination of sweet, savory, pungent, and spicy. It makes me happy every time I eat one.
When we have a barbeque, I make a stack of them and place them alongside the safer, more traditional burger offerings. And while some people may pause, ultimately the plain ones are left cooling on the plate while these burgers disappear.
So what makes it great? Answer: the onion marmalade. The rest of the ingredients are easy to get, and simple to come by. The only effort comes in making the onion marmalade. But it elevates it to something not simply good, but spectacular. Something worthy of the title “house burger.”
A quick note about burgers: If you have the time, make the patties by hand. Yes, the machine-shaped patties are easy to come by. But I think that one of the reasons so many burgers are dry and hard is that the meat is overhandled. So, if you have time, do it yourself and be gentle. Handle it just enough to shape the patty.
Regarding meat mixes: My favorite is simple ground chuck (80/20) combined with ground sirloin. Just make sure you don’t leave out the fat. This is where the flavor and moisture of the burger come from.
Finally, I keep my burgers small. Rarely are they over a quarter pound. I know people love big, but at some point, it’s just too much. Gigantic size causes many burgers to be less than delicious as you char and try to cook them to temperature.
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
6 potato rolls
6 oz. blue cheese (Maytag, gorgonzola picate)
1. Start with a quarter pound of meat. Shape the patty using just enough force to bring it together. Use the curve between pointer finger and thumb as the guide to shape roundness. Finally, press gently flat between both hands. Repeat for the five other patties. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Heat the grill or pan over medium high heat. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of the patty. Cook for four to four and a half minutes a side for medium.
3. After about two minutes on the second side, add the blue cheese and allow it to melt. If you are using the grill, this is also a good time to toast the buns. (Just watch for burning!)
4. Remove the burgers from heat once the appropriate temperature is reached. Allow them to rest for one to two minutes. Meanwhile, slather Dijon on the bottom of the bun. Add about 1 tablespoon of onion marmalade to the top. Add your blue cheese burger and close ‘er up. Serve with a napkin!