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Behold: The House Burger

November 19, 2008

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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.

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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.

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House Burger
Yield: 6
Ingredients:
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
6 potato rolls
6 oz. blue cheese (Maytag, gorgonzola picate)
Onion marmalade
Dijon mustard

Directions:
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!

6 comments

  1. I started home-grinding my hamburger meat when I was pregnant and unwilling to make well-done burgers. I’ve been amazed at how much better they are than using store-bought ground meat. I now make a very large batch (my favorite cuts are a combo of ground chuck and top round) and keep a stash of patties in the freezer. I also have to say that home-made buns are now obligatory for me to eat burgers now. I’ve discovered, through Rose Beranbaum’s blog, that sweet potato buns are the perfect accompaniment to burgers.

    Clearly, you’re not the only one obsessed with burgers🙂 I can’t wait to try them with onion marmalade though! That sounds awesome.


  2. I noticed that your burger is somewhat pink in the middle. I am alarmed for your safety! You should never never ever never have any sort of ground beef that is not fully done! Not even a hamburger as alluring as that one.


  3. Cindy I hope you are joking. I just don’t know how to respond to that without being particularly snide. In fact, I even had to think about responding, but what you say is really not true, unless you are dealing with people who might have health risk.

    By far most bacteria are killed off at about 135F which is medium… which would be pink and warm center when serving meat. The highest risk is e. coli which would require me to destroy the burger on the very slight chance (well under .1% or 1 and 1000 risk). Furthermore, that is really only due to risk from mass grinding by machines that are not well cleaned. It’s typically when my wife has been pregnant I grind my own meat. At that point, you are even safer to eat a burger well bellow medium.

    Furthermore, your body is designed to fight off nearly all bad actors in food at the microbial level without even causing you a sniffle or an elevated temperature. Most of these bugs have to make it through the stomach acid portion of the digestive system before causing some serious problems.

    Finally, to get a non-pink center would destroy the whole burger experience. The fat is rendered out. The protein is tightened so tight that it becomes hard. So from unless you have an at risk person, meaning very small children, ill elderly, and people with autoimmune disease, the eating of pink burgers is pretty safe.


  4. I’ll have to add to husband’s response. The real danger is eating ground beef from the supermarket.

    The phrase “The meat of 1,000 cows” comes to mind when I think of supermarket ground beef. There is no doubt that I would cook supermarket ground beef into submission.

    But if you buy a nice 30/70 roundsteak, square steak, rhomboid steak or what have you and grind it by yourself, it’s the meat of ONE cow.

    Furthermore, e.coli live on the OUTSIDE and can’t live on the inside of meat. The trouble happens when much e.coli on the surfaces of many cuts of meat are all ground together in one industrial grindfest.

    Then they sit around, have many e.coli parties for many days while they wait to be handled, shipped and packaged by people who, umm, let’s say are not exactly specialists in food safety protocols. And, as party-goers do, they multiply. And divide, too! To the meat cutter disk-o music. (Don’t know if you knew, but “Bee Gee” comes from “Beef Grind”).

    To sum up: if you grind your own beef with a reputable cut from a dependable butcher and follow all hygiene requirements properly you could eat steak tartare every day for the rest of your life and still never harm me.


  5. I appreciate the desire to not be particularly snide. I also apologize for responding to this at such a late date. I am an Animal Science major and have had a couple meat science classes and am already aware of the points you both have made. Yes, E. coli lives on the outside of meat and the inside of cuts of meat are sterile. However, when you grind this is no longer the case, and ANY cut of meat is bound to have some E.coli on it, although I will concede that since you grind it yourself the live E.coli doesn’t have enough time to replicate before you cook it to reach infectious levels. I would also like to point out that E. coli is a natural coliform which colonizes the body through oral/digestive system route, so while the digestive systems is very well equipped to handle vectors of disease, E. coli is in turn particularly well equipped to handle you digestive system, and if you catch the stray O157:H7 you probably won’t die but it wont be much fun either🙂. As a burger fan I get the “burger experience” argument, but I usually just add more fat to the grind to balance out the toughening. So I guess what I am saying is even though you guys have taken a lot of good steps to prevent illness, I still think you are taking a calculated risk. I’m going to leave it at that, as I have already written too many essays on the subject already.🙂 I am not interested in getting involved in an flame war, and I can see how in my effort to keep my previous comment short I left myself open to be patronized. I enjoy your site and I think your recipes and pics are great.


  6. I am making that tonight, seriously. Amazing. Please be sure to check out our site at http://tinyurl.com/26okadh and review restaurants!



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