I had a massive craving for a home made hamburger with Cajun fries over the weekend, but to do it right I had to pick up some essentials. I’ve been lost in the kitchen without my cast iron skillet to cook with because I left mine back in California. I find the consistent heat of an iron skillet crucial for creating a great burger. Get it smoking hot, add a dash of extra virgin olive oil, and lay your patties away from you so you won’t get splashed. Fifteen seconds on each of the outside layers of your patty with encase all the juice in a nice crust and make for a juicy evenly cooked burger. Continue flipping every fifteen to twenty seconds for even temperature on the entire patty. I usually pull them off the fire and left them rest at right around two minutes for a medium to medium rare depending on thickness. Let them rest for a minimum of the amount of time they cooked.
Lets backtrack and talk about patty construction. Since finding quality ground beef here in the Philippines can be a bit of a challenge I bought two kilos of sirloin steak and requested for the butcher grind it fresh for me. There are many great choices for which cuts of meat to use for example chuck, rib eye, and sirloin are all classic picks. I’m pretty sure the butcher lady thought I was crazy when I asked her to try to keep all the strands of beef aligned as they came out of the grinder. Imagine a pack of spaghetti noodles. So here is a simple trick to the perfect patty. Assuming the beef is laid out in horizontal strands, place about a kilo worth on a long strip of nice wide cling wrap. Salt the meat well , and with a little time this will keep all those strands from falling apart, and it’s the only binder you need.
Delicately form into a roll inside a cling wrap cylinder and twist the ends tight like a sausage casing. Refrigerate for an hours to let the salt do its work binding the meat together and for the shape to set. Remove the ‘log’ from the fridge and slice your burgers right through the plastic film. When you cut the patties and lay them flat and the strands of the burger will then be vertical. So, just like cutting a steak against the grain, when you bite into the burger it will be super tender. I’m a fan of a small circumference super thick patty vs. a thin huge wafer. Its so much juicier and more tasty that way, even if it looks a little funny until you squish it all down before your first bite.
Burgers are all about a combination of flavor. Standing alone the majority of each of my individual ingredients can be a bit strong tasting. But I think I planned the final combination well enough to achieve that “fifth” umami taste sensation.
I didn’t want to do lettuce. Gem lettuce is nice on a burger but usually ends up looking like wilted greens and tasting like not much at all. Ice burg is basically just water. I’ll save my romaine for a salad. I wanted something peppery, and with crunch. The ingredient that wouldn’t get drowned out by all my other strong contenders, and one of my favorite greens is Rocket Arugula.
Sprouts on this burger would provide that clean crispness to perk up some of the stronger aromas. I don’t care if you don’t like alfalfa sprouts. My mom put them on my sandwiches as a kid, so in my mind a burger is ‘missing something’ without them.
Next is avocado. Maybe I was in Cali too long, and avocado is not something for every burger, but if I’m going with sprouts, I’m going with avocado. I think they go great with lemon pepper, so I made a spice blend of dried citrus rinds paired with crushed red and black peppercorns plus a little Maldon sea salt. That also went onto of the most aromatic red tomatoes I could find. I almost did tomato compote, but I was going to be getting enough acidity from my aioli so I just went with thick fresh vine tomato slices.
So on to the condiment. I hate mayo…unless it’s homemade that is. Combine egg yolk, groundnut oil (because its neutrally flavored) and a spoon of a wholegrain horseradish mustard for a little bit of nasal heat. Whisk until you get it emulsified. Mince a garlic clove with some salt, the mash it with the side of your knife. Add the garlic paste to your mayo. Voila Aioli.
So ok now lets talk cheese. Don’t get me wrong I love the cheapest processed cheese usually to achieve that nostalgic burger. But for this combo of flavors I needed something funky, and with a little bit of blue. I wanted to really make one bite of this burger make your brain hurt trying to figure out what the hell it tastes. I personally don’t like blue cheese. So I went to Santi’s and tried a few different cheeses. Brie de Meaux is cool, great texture and pretty funky. A creamy Gorgonzola is ok…a little too much like wet dog for me though. I found something that looked a little scary, it had a lot of veins of blue but the texture was creamy yet thicker than a Brie. I gave it a taste and the flavor profile took a journey from milky to sour. Then it went from velvety, to aromatic and odorous. The mouth feel was perfect, like all over the place. The name of the cheese is Fourme D’ Ambert and it is now in my top favorite cheeses right up there with freaky Taleggio.
So last but not least bread. You know what, with burger buns I suggest keeping it simple. A toasted white sesame bun will always be a classic with me. It will never be too soggy, and never too overpowering. Brioche is popular but it tends to melt into a sweet wet batter halfway through the meal. Toasted sourdough get a little scratchy, and tough. While there are a ton of good options for buns, try to pick something that really lets what is in between the bread shine. Smear both sides with that aioli and you are in business.
I suggest a smooth ice-cold Belgium wheat beer to drink with this delicious meal. It’s a great pairing and really cleanses the palate of all the strong flavors. Allagash White Ale all day long. Fried potatoes, burgers, beers, yea that sounds like a good end of the week to me.
I did not take the Allagash picture, I wish I had access to all those varieties in the Philippines. Click here for the original photo.