perhaps there are things in life to which we will never attain. a washboard stomach after two kids and a c-section (although it doesn't stop me from trying), perfectly straight hair during a fog filled evening (the frizzing of my curls MUST NOT BE DENIED) and the perfect hamburger. what is that, anyway? i mean, what is perfect to me may not be perfect to you, right? i might like a cheese that you don't like, condiments that make you gag, sides that can either make or break the entire meal in either of our opinion. however, this book i decided to use on monday night claimed i would be making, if not the PERFECT burger, the BEST BURGER, courtesy of the Williams-Sonoma family of cookbooks called ESSENTIALS OF GRILLING: Recipes and Techniques for Successful Outdoor Grilling by, yes, the staff at Williams-Sonoma. i have several such odes to perfect cuisine courtesy of this retail fabulosity, however, i chose this one for that evening because, well, just because, i guess. we were bound and determined to have a burger and while i have a personal recipe i always use from memory, since i'm on this quest to use up my cookbooks (dammit!), i decided to use a recipe. uh, huh.
and, so, here is what The Best Burger consisted of or, certainly, TOLD me it consisted of:
2 1/4 pounds freshly ground (minced) beef chuck
salt and freshly ground pepper
6 crusty rolls
sliced cheese, such as mild cheddar or monterey jack
sliced mild onion
sliced dill pickle
cooked bacon slices
tender leaf lettuce
good-quality tomato ketchup
dijon or whole-grain mustard
what to do:
1. prepare a charcoal or gas grll for direct grilling over high heat off the grill rack.
2. divide the meat into 6 equal portionas. dampen our hands, then pat each portion into a patty 4-4 1/4 inches in diameter and about 3/4 inch thick. take care not to handle the meat more than necessary or to compact the patties too much. salt and pepper all sides.
3. for charcoal: grill the burgers over the hottest part of the fire, turning once, until nicely charred and cooked to your liking, 4 1/2 to 6 minutes per side for medium. about 1 minute before the burgers are done, place the buns, cut sides down, at the edge of the grill where the heat is less intense and grill until lightly toasted.
for gas: grill burgers directly over the heat elements, turning once, until nicely charred and cooked to your liking, again that 4 1/2 to 6 minute rule per side. do the same things with the buns.
4. assemble the burgers in the buns with the embellishments of choice. serve at once.
here's what we did:
FIRST of all, i need to tell you this about the burger universe -- do not, i repeat, DO NOT press down on your burgers as they cook. all the yummy juice will just squeeze out and you will have what is similar to a hockey puck on your hands. i know you see people do this at grills all the time, burger places and the whole deal. do not do this. PLEASE. also, i need to tell you this -- when i saw the list of condiments for THE BEST BURGER, my first thought was "who are you to tell me which TWO cheeses i can use here?" as well as "what if i don't WANT crusty buns?" then i got off my high horse and realized this is merely a GUIDELINE for the best burger. dress for your own success.
but, there's more. i am one of those people who has discovered quite a happy peppy little formula for my burgers that makes my sons rather happy. i did not do that at all here. i chose to make the burger, for the most part, just like it said to make it in the cook book -- salt and pepper ONLY in the seasoning. HOWEVER, i did not just season the outsides. i mooshed up the whole thing with some kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, formed the patties then seasoned them again. the REASON they tell you not to put salt INSIDE the burgers is that belief the juices will run out in horror at the sodium monster. just for the record, it's been my experience that if you don't overly handle your meat, your juices will not fear your salt. they will embrace the salt and become very good traveling companions. but that's my experience after a lot of years of doing this shit. if yours is different, then, please, do what works for you.
to this burger i added sharp white cheddar cheese slices, a yummy sesame bun that we toasted and a lovely slice of fresh lettuce. i topped it all with whole-grain mustard and some ketchup. i baked some french fries drizzled lightly with olive oil and tossed with a little salt, freshly ground pepper, and dried herbs and garlic (375ºF for about 15-20 minutes, i guess). to this we added some wonderful pears and the evening was complete.
The Best Burger? hmm... i don't know if that's really the case. it was quite a good burger. my sons were happy little campers as they devoured it, so that says a lot.
happy campers make life a lot easier.