By Matt Stone
As some of you may or may not know, I worked extensively at the top of the culinary industry before one day getting “fed up,” walking out, and vowing not to return to the kitchen until I had explored other things. That day was in April of 2005.
Then of course I became obsessively interested in health and nutrition and spent the last eight years deeply entrenched in that field. But at the end of all that I’ve come almost completely full circle to believe what I did then – that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating good food prepared for maximal deliciousness and enjoying every bite of it to the point of satisfaction. Coming to such a conclusion, and?retiring my slingshot from a near-decade?perfect diet snipe hunt, has finally led to a reawakening of my passionate love affair with making and eating heavenly things. By the way it took about a year of not caring about food at all and eating mostly boxed cereal and things that could be delivered to my doorstep to get there, so if you?could care less about this kind of thing right now it very?well could be a natural part of the evolutionary process. Don’t fight it or feel too guilty for not caring much at the moment.
That behind us,?it’s time to delve into a new personal project of mine – using a lot of innovation for creating the perfect burger out of relatively ordinary ingredients.?Sure, we could talk about home-grinding up the perfect blend of sirloin and short ribs from aged Wagyu beef all day long, but I’m talking about making the best burger possible from the local Publix – the beacon of mediocrity that resides down the street from my house (I?will probably be exiled from Florida after saying such?a thing about Publix -?Floridians talk about Publix like it’s the family pet or their firstborn child).
I was thinking that this?might be something to discuss later on after I had made burgers a half dozen different ways to discover true perfection. But I got lucky?enough on attempt #1 that I had to share it immediately. Wasn’t even really planning on posting today until?my teeth sank into this beauty…
While what you are about to read may sound “weird,” – feedback I often get when I truly create something that is?far superior to anything anyone is eating in their home?on a daily basis (like Rice-Krispy coated French toast… pay attention to the part about textural contrast below), you have my personal guarantee that this will knock your socks off, and the hidden ingredients will be practically unnoticeable. No way I could wear socks after this, I know that much for sure.
While this is a very elaborate process for a burger, there are many valuable lessons that you can incorporate into your own hamburgery habits…
Directions (makes about 6 small burgers):
- Dice 5-6 large button mushrooms into tiny squares and get them going at high heat in about a half stick of butter. The smaller you cut them the better – as they enrich the?flavor of the burger and?give it a lighter’texture,?without making it unrecognizable as a burger. Let them start browning before you start tossing them around and stirring them?like some kind of noob.
- Dice up a little onion into tiny squares as well and add to the mushrooms once they have started browning a little.
- Dice?up?one beef hotdog into’teeny-tiny pieces and add to the pan?at the same time as the onions. Cook all of that’together until?brown and soft, adding plenty of salt.
- Add the’saut?ed stuff to a large bowl and add 1?whole egg, a handful of plain Panko bread crumbs, a pound?or so of fatty ground beef, a few ounces of hard cheese diced into small pieces (I used gorgonzola, other cheeses could be good), and enough salt to make all of it tasty.Mix well and fry up a quarter-sized sampler. Make sure it tastes very salty. Something’spicy like black pepper, cayenne pepper, or finely-minced fresh jalapeno?would also be nice.
Commentary – All of this stuff adds flavor while lightening up the texture of the burger to be more airy, fluffy, and soft. Texture should fall somewhere between the stiff hockey-puck like burgers most people make at home and a really good meatloaf.The added butter also makes’the burger much richer, as does the gorgonzola. It’s already approaching unbeatableness at this point, but several more additions take it to an elite level. Note:?You don’t have to like any of the individual ingredients. You’ll hardly know they are there, you’ll just think the burger is exceptionally tasty and the texture?and seasoning is flawless.
- I for one don’t like burgers that are all meat and overly thick.Not properly balanced. So I make the patties relatively small and thin for this reason and a couple of others as you will see.
- After shaping them into patties somewhere between the size of a large homemade burger (massive) and a typical sausage patty (tiny), press each patty into a plate covered with plain Panko bread crumbs.
- Fry in?a pan with plenty of butter until both sides are dark brown and crusty all over. Don’t flip it too much or play with it excessively. The more you disturb it, the more bread crumbs will fall off. Morrissey was right when he said “The more you ignore me the closer I get.” I assume he?was talking through’the eyes of something cooking in hot fat.
- Remove from pan and set aside, preferably on a paper towel to drain any excess grease, then put them onto a plate and quickly cover each patty with a slice of?American cheese and move to?a preheated oven (just for a couple minutes – your plate should be fine). If you?are too snobby for American cheese?a rind-ripened soft cheese like Brie, Camembert, or?Pave D’Affinois would be fine.
Commentary – Texture contrast is always important with any food preparation. Making the burger meat extra soft, but giving it an extra crunchy outer layer takes hamburgery to truly?higher dimensions. Adding a panko crust adds a tiny bit of girth to the burger, which is another reason to form the patties on the small side.
- Slice English muffins in half and pan fry them in the grease left behind from the burgers. Press on them to push them into the hot butter so they brown and get a?crispy crust – especially along the outer rim where it really counts (insert?perverted joke).
- Slap the?patty, covered with melted goodness, in?between the buns (insert another perverted joke).Traditional condiments are not just unnecessary but criminal in this scenario.
Commentary – The traditional hamburger bun is a mistake. When burger buns’soak up meat juice and such they get soggy and disgusting. Use something much denser like an English?muffin (reason #3 to make the patties smaller). English muffins?are spongy but retain their texture when wet.
And there you have it for Perfect Burger Attempt #1. I could probably win burger competitions and start a successful business built around this first?attempt already, but I’m going to keep toying around with it in the future. Thanks for humoring me on the food front. While food talk certainly isn’t going to take over this site, many readers do enjoy it, and I will do a food-related post at least once a month as long as my cooking passion remains afloat. Knowing how many health seekers have lost’their friendly?relationship with food, I know posts like this aren’t purely a form of entertainment, but something quite meaningful for many individuals.