THE CHEESEBURGER

You see all kinds of “burgers” these days. As a teenager, I worked at McDonald’s in 1966. Their menu back then was pretty similar to what In N Out’s menu is today…burgers, fries, sodas, and shakes. That’s was it! The fish sandwich was introduced in 1965.

I love burgers. I could live off of them if need be. But I have always been very vehement as to what goes into my burger. I truly believe that mixing anything into your ground beef makes it either meat loaf or Salisbury steak…but not a burger. Burger accompaniments go on the outside. And with that said, have at it! Honestly, I’m not a fan of adding any fruit (other than tomatoes) or even other protein (other than bacon). Any cheese will do, but sliced American is really the best choice…it melts better and just belongs on a burger.

The last burger I made (the one in the photo) was destined to be a tower of impossibility. In other words, good luck stuffing it into your mouth. This one made for a ridiculous picture…then a knife and fork! But it contains the rudimentary, and some of us say, required condiments: American cheese, sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, dill pickle slices, iceberg lettuce, and a burger sauce…in this case, it was an In N Out dressing clone. Yum! It is also flat grilled with a nice dark brown crust and cooked to medium (there was some pink inside). And, seasoned with Kosher salt and black pepper. That’s an 8 ounce 85/15 patty. Juicy and flavorful, as long as you don’t overcook it. The bun? It’s a home made griddle-browned brioche bun.

That’s my take on the Cheeseburger. K.I.S.S. method all the way!

BRIOCHE BURGER BUNS

I think I have had more fails than successes baking. But, this is one that turns out just right every time. Brioche burger buns can’t be beat…especially when you make them at home!

This recipe comes from Joshua Weissman and is really a brioche/Japanese milk bread hybrid. It starts with a kind of “water roux” called a Tangzhong. This step only takes a couple of minutes. Don’t Worry, it’s not some kind of starter that takes days and days of babysitting. You mix together flour, milk, and water and heat it in a small saucepan for about 2 minutes, whisking until it becomes a thick paste. Done. Just add it to the dough during the mixing process as described below.

Ingredients:

For the tangzhong:

  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp bread flour

For the dough:

  • 1/2 cup whole milk @ 95 degrees F
  • 1 tbsp Instant dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, room temperature
  • 3 tbsp softened unsalted butter
  • 1 egg with splash of milk
  • Melted unsalted butter

Directions:

  • Whisk together the 4 tbsp whole milk, 2 tbsp water, and 2 tbsp bread flour in a small saucepan. Place over medium ow heat and cook, whisking, until it thickens into a paste. Remove from the pan to a bowl and set aside.
  • Add 1 tbsp instant dry yeast to 1/2 cup whole milk @ 95 degrees F. Give a quick stir then let sit for about 8 minutes.
  • To the bowl of a stand mixer, add 2 1/2 cups bread four, 2 1/2 tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp fine sea salt. Mix with a dough hook until combined.
  • Add the warm milk and yeast and run for a few seconds just to get started. Then add the tangzhong paste. Then add 3 tbsp of softened unsalted butter 1 tbsp at a time. Run the mixer on medium low for 5-8 minutes, scraping down the sides if needed.
  • Remove the dough from the dough hook, it will be a little sticky. Fold it over itself a few times then form into a ball. Place in a large greased bowl. Cover with a wet tea towel and place in a warm spot for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size.
  • Punch down the dough. Remove to a lightly floured surface and divided into about 6 (100g) balls. Fold each ball over onto itself a few times then smooth into a uniform ball making sure the bottom is sealed.
  • Place the balls seam side down on a greased parchment paper on a sheet pan. Cover the pan with another sheet pan or a sprayed piece of plastic wrap and let rise 1-2 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Brush the dough balls with a mixture of egg with a splash of milk. Bake for 16-18 minutes until deep golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven a brush with melted butter. Let cool on a wire rack.

GROUND CHICKEN BURGER

I am not a fan of turkey burgers! I like turkey, but it just doesn’t float my boat. I love chicken…so, I decided to grind my own chicken.

Whether it’s ground chicken or ground turkey, it will be much leaner than a standard 80/20. Ground beef patty. I used boneless chicken thighs. And, it does require some marinating to add flavor. Plus, I ground it in a food processor with a little bread crumbs and an egg. The recipe is below. Also, no medium rare burger here…165 degrees to properly and safely cook it.

It was surprisingly flavorful and tender! Certainly a different profile than GB, but really good…and not as fatty for sure.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, 3-4 small thighs
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 3 brioche hamburger buns
  • Shredded lettuce
  • 1 thin sliced tomato
  • Sliced onion (opt.)
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Pan spray

Directions:

  • In a small bowl, mix together the paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. In another bowl, add the olive oil, minced garlic, chopped parsley, and spice mix.
  • Place the chicken thighs in a large sealable freezer bag then pour over the marinade. Press out the air, seal the bag, and massage the marinade all over the chicken so it all gets coated. Place on a plate in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  • Remove chicken from the marinade and place in a food processor. Pulse until the chicken is completely ground. Remove the blade then using gloved hands, scoop out 1/3 lb patties. Using patty paper or parchment paper on a plate, press into 1/2 thick patties the size of your buns with a small divot in the center. Season lightly with Kosher salt and pepper. Note: they will not shrink like ground beef patties.
  • Mix together the mayonnaise and the Dijon in a small bowl.
  • Heat a flat griddle over medum high heat. Spray generously with pan spray. When the griddle is very hot, add the chicken patties and cook about 3 minutes then flip over and cook another 3 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
  • Lightly coat the buns with butter and griddle to golden brown on another flat griddle or large skillet.
  • Spread the mayo/Dijon mix on the top of the bun. Place a cooked patty on the bottom bun. Add some shredded lettuce to the patty then the sliced tomatoes. Add the top bun and serve.

BOB’S BIG BOY HAMBURGER

The Bob’s Big Boy near our school was a high school hangout. They had car hop service and roller-skating waitresses with mandatory bee hive hair do’s. Needless to say, I had a few of these Big Boy Combination Plates in my teens in the 60’s. Started in Southern California in 1936, Bob’s was one of the first diners.

Finding a 3-piece bun was pretty fruitless, so I improvised using another bottom bun for the center. This Big Boy menu specialty sold for 65 cents in the 50’s and 60’s. Now, about $12…minus the iceberg wedge!

Here, to the best of my memory (and some internet searching) is how to construct a Bob’s Big Boy hamburger and Combination Plate.

Ingredients:

  • 3-piece sesame seed hamburger bun
  • Two (2 ounce hamburger patties), smashed to 4 inches
  • Finely shredded lettuce
  • Mayonnaise
  • Red burger relish (recipe below)
  • Wedge of iceberg lettuce
  • 1000 Island dressing (recipe below)
  • Slice of American cheese

Directions:

  • For the thousand island – In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 tbsp Sriracha or chili sauce, pinch of sugar, pinch of garlic powder, 1 tbsp ketchup, Kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
  • For the Red Burger Relish – In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 tbsp dill pickle relish, 1 tsp Sriracha or chili sauce, 1/2 tsp of white vinegar, pinch of sugar, pinch of garlic powder, 1 tbsp ketchup.
  • Lightly butter the bun sections and griddle them to a golden brown on a flat griddle. Fry the burger patties.
  • To build the burger, from the bottom up – Bottom bun, mayonnaise, shredded lettuce, slice of American cheese, burger patty, middle bun, burger patty, red burger relish, top bun.
  • Serve with French fries and a chilled iceberg wedge with 1000 Island dressing.

BIG KAHUNA BURGER

“I hear they got some tasty burgers!”

So said Jules Winnfield (Samuel Jackson’s character) from Pulp Fiction. Full disclaimer: I’m just guessing what is in that Big Kahuna Burger from watching the movie dozens of times. Truth be told, there is no Big Kahuna Burger, it’s a fictional L.A. Hawaiian burger joint dreamed up by Quentin Tarantino and actually mentioned in a couple of this movies (Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs). Also, if you research “Hawaiian Burger”, you’ll find that it has grilled pineapple and teriyaki sauce along with the ketchup and mayo seen in the movie. Not gonna happen here! No pineapple, no teriyaki sauce on my Big Kahuna Burger! This one is a double smash cheeseburger with ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise.

Here’s a recipe for 2 of my version of The Big Kahuna Burger from Pulp Fiction. The most basic of basic burger.

The fries are hand cut (3/8 inch) Russet potatoes. Par-boiled by placing in a saucepan of cold water, then bringing to a boil and cooking for 3 minutes. Drain thoroughly and place in the refrigerator to cool. Dry the fries completely. Then deep fry at 350 degrees for about 3 1/2 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound ground beef, divided into 4 (2 oz) balls
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 slices of American cheese
  • Mayonnaise
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • 2 small hamburger buns
  • Unsalted butter

Directions:

  • Heat a cast-iron griddle over medium high heat. Lightly butter both sides of the buns and lace on the griddle, letting them get golden brown. Remove to a cutting board. Spread mayonnaise on the bottom bun, mustard on the top bun.
  • After forming your ground beef into 4 (2 oz) balls, place on the griddle over medium high heat. Add a little canola oil. Place the ground beef balls on the griddle and smash with a sturdy spatula or meat press. Yes, we’re making smash burgers here.
  • Let them cook until you see some fat appearing on the surface, about 2 minutes. Then using that sturdy spatula, scrape the burger off the griddle and flip, allowing it to finish cooking, another minute. Add the sliced cheese to each slice then pile one patty on top of the other, cover with a large pan lid, and let the cheese melt for about 30 seconds.
  • Place each double stack on the buns, add ketchup to the top of the cheese, and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

CRISPY SPICY FRIED CHICKEN SANDWICH

Sure, Crispy Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwiches have been around forever. But the past few years has seen a strange obsession with this fast food icon. The deal is, the Crispy Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich went from a drive-thru sensation to an upscale dining item. They’re everywhere now! And there are hundreds of variations. This one is pretty basic: a boneless chicken thigh marinated in a spicy buttermilk, then dredged in a spicy seasoned flour and deep fried. One of the things I did not do is drench the cooked thigh in hot sauce before putting it on the bun. I think that’s a bit counterintuitive, ie, making your nice crispy chicken thigh soggy, not to mention the soggy bun result. That’s just me, I guess. No matter how you like your crispy spicy fried chicken sandwich, they’re here to stay I think!

Ingredients:

Buttermilk marinade:

  • 1 cup of buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s Louisiana Hot sauce
  • 2 boneless chicken thighs, fat trimmed

Garlic Tarragon Aioli:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • Pinch of black pepper

Seasoned flour:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprtika
  • Canola or peanut oil for frying
  • 2 brioche burger buns
  • mayonnaise
  • 1 cup shredded iceberg
  • 2 slices tomatoes
  • Dill pickle slices

Directions:

  • Mix together the buttermilk with Frank’s hot sauce in a bowl. Add the chicken thighs to the buttermilk and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Heat oil to 350 degrees in a medium saucepan or skillet, at least 2 inches deep.
  • Set up a 2 bowl breading station. One for the buttermilk, one for the seasoned flour. Take a chicken thigh out of the buttermilk and dredge in the seasoned flour. Carefully place the breaded thigh in the oil and fry about 2-3 minutes on one side, then turn and repeat on the other side until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Place on a plate in the oven to keep warm while you cook the other thigh or thighs if making more.
  • To build the sandwich, lightly butter the buns then griddle to a golden brown on a flat griddle.
  • Spread some mayonnaise on the bottom bun then place 3-4 pickle slices. Add a cooked thigh. Top the thigh with shredded lettuce then a tomato slice. Spread the garlic tarragon aioli on the top bun and top the sandwich. Serve immediately.

UNSLOPPY JOES

So, when I make Sloppy Joes, I kind of cop out. I do the knife and fork version. But my good sport wife, Loretta, likes it the old fashioned way.

This recipe is very traditional, something resurrected from my childhood. But the fun thing about Sloppy Joes is that it’s open to interpretation. I know a lot of people who sneak in some BBQ sauce, chipotle sauce, more heat…you name it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 cup white onions, diced
  • 1 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 4 small hamburger buns
  • 8 slices of American cheese
  • 1 cup French’s fried onions

Directions:

  • Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add 1 tbsp canola oil then crumble in the ground beef, the onions, and the bell peppers. Cook, stirring, until the ground beef is done and the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Drain the excess oil and return to the skillet.
  • Add the ketchup, Worcestershire, brown sugar, garlic powder, onions powder, dry mustard, salt, and pepper. Mix together thoroughly, cover, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • To serve, lightly butter and toast the buns on a flat griddle. Place the two halves on a plate, add a slice of cheese, spoon on some ground beef, add another slice of cheese. Place under the oven broiler until the cheese is completely melted. Top with fried onions.

THE PUB BURGER!

So, what the hell is a Pub Burger anyway? Well…almost any burger you want to call a Pub Burger is exactly that…a Pub Burger. It’s a trendy name given out to some burgers served in American Pubs a few years ago. That’s right, I said “American Pubs”. Apparently, no authentic British pub owner in Britain knows what the hell a Pub Burger is. I guess any burger in an English pub in England is technically a pub burger. Like French Fries in France are just called…fries? Actually, French Fries were invented in Belgium, but don’t tell the French that! Point taken. With that known, let’s push on.

One thing usually agreed upon is that a Pub Burger must be made from fresh-ground beef, usually brisket is involved. The actual patty is right around 1/2 pound or more. And, it should be well-seared and not gray inside. That’s right…it should be medium-ish…with a little pink inside. There is also something called Pub Burger sauce that is quite distinctive. It’s made with mayonnaise, soy sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire, and fresh chives and garlic. In my “pub”, it also has blue cheese, crispy onions, and is served on a brioche bun, that, with any luck, will be fresh made at home! So, wish me luck on that last thing. I’ve always been a glutton for punishment.

For cooking the patty…if I owned a fire-breathing gas barbecue, I would char-broil it on that. If I owned a charcoal barbecue, I would cook it on that. That leaves me with two choices. I could crank up my Pit Boss smoker to “fire-breathing” levels, or…sear the hell out of it at my stove on my cast-iron ribbed skillet. The latter being my choice as the temperatures around here are supposed to hover around 105 for a few days when I plan to make this…I don’t want to be outside during this time!

Minimal condiments, though that is entirely up to you. A fresh-ground, 8-10 ounce patty will be the star of the show. Don’t overcook it, beyond Medium is frowned up with pub burgers! And, I’m afraid a fork will be necessary…but, have at it by hand if you’re eating at home. Lots of napkins!

Ingredients:

  • Choice, fresh-ground beef – I used brisket, chuck, short ribs
  • Brioche buns
  • Crispy Onions
  • Crispy Bacon

For the Pub Sauce”

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp ketchup
  • 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp Worestershire
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Directions:

  • In a small bowl, mix together all the pub sauce ingredients. Chill in the refrigerator.
  • Grind your beef using the coarse chili grind die. I use my grinder attachment for the Kitchenaid. You can also use a food processor and pulse the beef until it is coarse ground. Don’t let it get mushy. If you don’t want to grind your own, at least have your butcher grind some fresh for you. Ask or a mixture of brisket, chuck, and short ribs. He will love you for it!
  • Weight out 8-10 ounce patties. Don’t smash or compress too much, but make them slightly wider than your buns. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Heat a cast-iron griddle over high heat (I used a ribbed griddle). When the griddle is smoking hot, put on your patties. I used a press to keep it against the griddle. When you have achieved a dark crust or grill marks, flip over and cook until the internal temperature reaches your desired doneness. Do not over cook. I cook mine Medium (130 degrees) with some pink in the middle.
  • When you turn over the patty, add a handful of blue cheese crumbled then cover the patty with a pan lid to help melt the cheese.
  • Lightly butter your brioche buns and griddle until golden brown. Slather some pub sauce on the bottom bun.
  • When your patty is done, place on the bottom bun. Top with some crispy fried onions, I used French’s this time though I sometimes make my own.
  • Place a few half slices of crispy bacon on the onions then place the top bun.
  • Grab a handful of napkins.
  • By the way, the pub burger sauce is also an excellent French fry sauce.

HOW TO MAKE BACON CHEESEBURGER SOUP

Bacon Cheeseburger Soup. It’s got everything a Bacon Cheeseburger has except the lettuce, and, I have seen recipes where they put lettuce in it! Arrrgh! Can you say, “Ewww…soggy lettuce?” Onward.

Two of the methods in mine that are different from most recipes are : #1 – I cook the ground beef like a smashburger to get that green brown crust on the beef, and #2: I “minced” the vegetables and the bacon in a food processor before sautéing. My cheese of choice are Velvetta and cheddar, however here is where you can experiment with your own favorite cheeses…I’m trying smoked Gouda and Gruyere next time!

Have fun with this recipe. It’s a little cut down in size…add more ground beef and potatoes if you want. And, it is definitely a full meal soup…maybe a salad on the side and a slice of garlic bread.

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 thick slices bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, cubed, and cooked potatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup Velvetta, cubed
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • Garnish: shredded cheddar, chopped tomatoes, diced green onions

Directions:

  • Place the onions, carrots, celery, and bacon in a food processor and pulse a few times until it is minced.
  • Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add1 tbsp butter then the vegetable and bacon mix. Sautee until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper and add the garlic powder. Add 1 more tbsp of butter then sprinkle in 2 tbsp of flour. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the stocks and bring to a simmer, cover, lower heat and cook for 20 minutes.
  • Mold the 12 ounces of ground beef into two balls. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the ground beef balls and smash like a smashburger. Cook until crusty then flip and repeat. Remove to a plate a chop.
  • To the saucepan, add the cheeses, the cream, and the sour cream and bring to a simmer. Cook until all the cheese is melted and all the ingredients are combined and smooth. Add the cooked potatoes and the cooked ground beef and heat through. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • To serve, ladle into bowls an garnish with shredded cheddar, chopped tomatoes, and diced green onions.

The Smash Burger

The Smash Burger…really, its should be called a Smash Cheeseburger, but, let’s move on.

This long-time, O.G. diner method of cooking a burger is still the best method. It’s a purist burger-lover’s burger. Nothing added to the GB except S&P. Only a couple condiments. Basically, you take 4-ounces of 80/20 ground beef (80% lean, 20% fat), very loosely shaped it into a ball. This step is very important, do not compress the meat, leave it loose. After seasoning all over with S&P, place it on a very hot flat griddle or cast-iron skillet with a small amount of canola oil. With a rigid spatula or meat press, smash the burger down to about 3/8-inch. Let it cook until you start to see moisture appearing on the surface of the patty. Don’t move it around or peak! Now flip the burger and let it cook for about a minute. You’re aiming for that jagged, crispy edge on the patty that adds so much flavor. Add a slice of American cheese (of course, you could use a different cheese, but that would be against the law in some states). Let it cook about 1 1/2 minutes longer as the cheese melts. Lightly butter a small potato bun or brioche bun. Make sure it’s a small bun as you don’t want to overwhelm the taste of the beef. Griddle the bun until golden brown and dark brown around the edges. The build order is below as is the all-important burger sauce recipe and minimal condiments. Let’s go!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1-lb good 80/20 ground chuck (this makes 4 burgers)
  • 4-small brioche or potato buns
  • Unsalted butter
  • canola oil
  • Burger sauce (recipe follows)
  • 4-slices American cheese
  • Dill pickle slices
  • Finely shredded iceberg lettuce
  • Crispy onions (I use French’s or you can make your own)
  • Whole mayonnaise

DIRECTIONS:

  • After griddling your patties as described above, build the burger in the following order from top to bottom: BUN, BURGER SAUCE, CRISPY ONIONS, SHREDDED ICEBERG, 3-4 DILL PICKLE SLICES, AMERICAN CHEESE SLICE, BURGER PATTY, MAYONNAISE, BUN.
  • Burger sauce recipe: 1/4 cup whole mayonnaise, 2-tbsp ketchup, 2-tbsp dill pickle relish plus 1-tsp juice, 1-tbsp Sriracha, S&P. Mix all in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • A few reminders: Make sure you leave the ground beef ball loose. For a nicely browned surface, don’t touch the patty until it is ready to flip. Let the cheese melt. Use 80/20 ground chuck. Use small buns. Don’t skimp on the burger sauce. Make sure the griddle is very hot. Serve immediately!