The perfect burger
Using bold flavors can make for some mighty delicious burgers.
Burger Photo: Thinkstock
‘That was the best burger I ever ate,’ several of my American friends exclaimed
after a cooking demonstration.
We were not in the US, the land of
burgers, but in Paris. The French chef happened to be teaching how to make steak tartar. When he saw that the students were not tempted by the classic dish of
raw beef, he asked, “Who would like his portion cooked as a burger?” Everyone
lined up at the stove. The burger’s superb flavor was due to the excellent
quality of the meat and the seasonings – Dijon mustard, capers, onion and plenty
of freshly ground black pepper.
Although some purists prefer burgers that
are lightly seasoned, using bold flavorings can make for some mighty delicious
burgers. Rachael Ray, author of The Book of Burger, suggests ways to prepare all
sorts of out-of-the-ordinary burgers.
One way to do this is to create
burger versions of familiar dishes. Ray makes burgers based on French boeuf
bourguignon (beef stew in red wine sauce) by mixing ground beef with wine,
chopped shallot and fresh thyme and serves the burgers on mustard-spread rolls
topped with pâté and cornichons (small cucumber pickles).
The recipe is
on the right.
Based on a childhood favorite, she makes even more
unconventional patties – spaghetti-and-meatball burgers, which she prepares by
mixing cooked spaghetti in garlic-basil tomato sauce with the meatball mixture
and forming it into burgers; she serves the cooked burgers in garlic
In her husband’s honor, Ray cooks a hearty meat-lover’s burger
from beef mixed with salami, other cold cuts and smoked meats. On a more exotic
note, she makes satay sliders, or mini-burgers, based on Indonesian-Thai kebabs
that are usually served with peanut sauce. The burgers are made from ground
chicken flavored with peanut butter, soy sauce and garlic and served in small
rolls with cucumber-mint relish.
Fresh ginger, soy sauce, garlic and
sesame oil flavor Ray’s Hawaiian turkey burgers, which are topped with hoisin
sauce and fresh pineapple slices.
Her Middle Eastern lamb burgers are
sandwiched with baba ghanoush (eggplant tehina salad).
Of course, burgers
don’t have to be made from meat. Ray’s “everything bagel salmon burgers” are
flavored with poppy and sesame seeds and dill and set on cream cheese-spread
poppy seed rolls. To make Mediterranean veggie burgers, she combines lentils,
chickpeas and couscous with pine nuts, currants, mushrooms and other vegetables
sauteed in olive oil, and serves the vegetarian patties with provolone cheese
and arugula in a ciabatta roll.
While Ray prefers to cook her burgers on
a griddle or in a cast-iron skillet, Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, authors of
The Gardener & the Grill, focus on the outdoor barbecue. To make burger
sandwiches appealing, they advocate adding plenty of grilled vegetables. For
their tandoori turkey burgers, they sandwich the patties with thick slices of
grilled red onions and grilled tomatoes in a roll and moisten them with
cumin-flavored sauce. To embellish their beef burgers, they grill olive
oil-brushed tomato slices and add them to the rolls; the rolls are first spread
with garlic chive pesto.
Adler and Fertig turn grilled vegetables into
sauces too. Chicken burgers gain pizzazz when served with their rich romesco
sauce made from grill-roasted red peppers, ground almonds, red wine vinegar and
extra-virgin olive oil. They smoke tomatoes on the grill to make tomato aioli
(garlic mayonnaise), a flavorful sauce for spreading on fish or turkey burgers.
Their grilled green onion mayonnaise, which they flavor with lemon juice and
zest and fresh basil, is perfect for fish burgers.
FOR SUCCESS in burger
making, writes Ray, “I have very few rules, but I am true to them.”
using a griddle pan or skillet, let the pan get hot over medium-high heat before
cooking the patties.
• For more even cooking, when forming patties, make
the center of each patty thinner than the edges, because patties plump when you
• Before you form patties, bring the meat to room temperature
and pat off the excess liquid with a paper towel. Form an even mound of meat in
a bowl and score the meat with the side of your hand into equal portions to help
form burgers of equal sizes.
TURKEY BURGERS WITH GARLIC, CUMIN AND HOT PEPPERS
These burgers are enriched with olive oil, seasoned with Middle Eastern spices and served in rolls with hot pepper garlic relish. If you like, spread the rolls with thick tehina sauce instead of mayonnaise.
You can cook the burgers on the barbecue or in a skillet.
Makes 4 servings.
Hot Pepper-Garlic Relish (see note below)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1⁄2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin
1⁄4 tsp. turmeric (optional)
1 1⁄2 tsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
600 gr. (11⁄3 pounds) ground turkey or chicken (about 3 cups)
4 round rolls, split, toasted lightly if desired Mayonnaise (optional)
Lettuce leaves (optional)
Thin cucumber slices (optional)
Grilled red pepper strips (optional)
Pitted green or black olives (optional)
Mix garlic with salt, pepper, cumin, turmeric and coriander.
Add to turkey. Add olive oil and mix lightly to blend. Shape into 4 patties.
Prepare grill with rack about 15 cm. (6 inches) above glowing coals; or brush a heavy skillet lightly with olive oil and heat it over medium-high heat. Grill patties, turning once, about 7 or 8 minutes, or until they are springy when pressed and cooked through; if using a skillet, cook patties about 3 to 5 minutes per side. If you’re not sure, cut one and check the color inside; the burgers should be completely cooked.
Spread rolls lightly with mayonnaise. Put lettuce leaves on the roll bottoms, then add burgers. Top each burger with a dab of relish, a few cucumber slices, pepper strips and olives. Set roll tops in place.
Serve remaining relish separately.
Note: Hot pepper garlic relish: Puree 3 garlic cloves and 1 or 2 jalapeno or other hot peppers in a blender or mini food processor until finely chopped. Add 1⁄4 cup small sprigs of cilantro (fresh coriander) and process until chopped. Add 450 gr. (1 pound) ripe tomatoes cut in pieces and puree just until blended. Transfer to a bowl. Add salt to taste and, if you like, 1 tsp. cumin.
BOEUF BOURGUIGNON BURGERS
This recipe is from The Book of Burger. Author Rachael Ray prefers to make beef burgers from chuck (shoulder meat) and notes that if you are using a leaner cut, it’s best to reduce the cooking time by 1 or 2 minutes so the meat doesn’t dry out. Instead of the shallot, you can use a green onion.
Makes 4 servings.
700 gr. (1 1⁄2 pounds) ground beef chuck (shoulder)
1⁄2 cup red burgundy wine
2 Tbsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped or grated Kosher salt and pepper Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
4 round rolls, split and toasted
1-cm. (1⁄2-inch) slice (about 110 gr. or 1⁄4 pound) mousse-style pâté, cut in 4 equal pieces
4 tender lettuce leaves
Grainy mustard or Dijon mustard
4 cornichon pickles or baby gherkins, thinly sliced lengthwise
Heat a griddle or large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.
In a large bowl, combine the beef, wine, thyme and shallot; season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Score the mixture into 4 equal portions and form them into large patties.
Drizzle the patties with olive oil. Cook the burgers 10 minutes, flipping once, for medium. (Adjust the timing for rarer or more well-done burgers).
Place the burgers on the roll bottoms; top with pâté and lettuce.
Spread mustard on the roll tops and scatter the sliced cornichons over the mustard. Set the roll tops in place.
Faye Levy is the author of Faye Levy’s
International Chicken Cookbook.