Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Case For a Great American Burger

James Beard Was Right

I once read that when asked about the state of American cooking James Beard bemoaned the loss of the great American hamburger.

I know hamburgers have a special place in the American psyche because nearly everyone you meet can tell a story or two about a great hamburger they ate somewhere. Whether it was in their old home town or on a business trip. It might be a "cozy" burger in Salina or a "white spot" in Anchorage. One of my last chats with my dad before he passed away had him glowing about a hamburger stand in Long Beach he went to back in the 1940's.

Beard pointed out that most of us now eat mass produced conveyor belt or microwave burgers that trade speed for quality.

This July 4th we were invited to a friends home and enjoyed a salmon burger. But I'll wager many of our friends had garden burgers or buffalo burgers, or even good old fashion beef burgers. Burgers on the fourth are one of the things that makes us uniquely American.

Here is the classic beef hamburger I make.

The patty has to be formed by human hands. When I cook beef I start with well marbled beef. This is not the time to use ground meat that says anything like "ultra lean". When I cook beef, it must actually sizzle.

For my burger the bar-b-que is the perfect burger grilling device.

I put a little seasoning in the meat before I cook it. I like Schilling's steak seasoning myself. Although some say salt in the meat dries out a burger I disagree. My burgers are never dry. I sometimes add a few minced dried onions or a little dry onion soup mix into the patty as well. I know some folks who swear that adding a little A-1 or worcestershire sauce to the meat before cooking also enhances the flavor. Others put a small pat of butter in the middle of the meat before cooking to keep the patty moist. I do put a few drops of bar-b-que sauce on my burgers - but I do it just before I take them off the grill.

Now assemble terrific things to go with your burger. I always start by grilling some Walla Walla, Maui, Vidalia, or Mayan sweet onions. Grilled mushrooms are great too.

Use only ice cold crispy iceberg lettuce. Put it in a bowl at the table to add just before eating. Never put it on the burger to wilt. Do not use any lettuce that sounds french, is soft, or comes in a bag. Save that for a salad you serve to someone else.

Rounding out the burger you can add sliced jalapenos, dill pickles, dill or sweet relish, tomato's, you name it. Add stuff to your heart's content.

Don't forget to caramelize the bun on the grill or in a skillet to seal it's surface and to keep it from getting soggy.

Here's another critical tip. If you have any bottles of Miracle Whip anywhere in your frig or pantry, gather them up and throw them in the trash. That crap, along with Velveeta, has no place on an American plate. Real burgers should get real mayonnaise, and/or a little mustard, and/or some ketchup. thats it.

Avoid anything that looks or tastes like 1000 island dressing. We aren't into "secret sauce" here.

If you want a cheese burger, use real cheese (your choice). Always use cheese that you actually have to cut. Never use the pre-sliced stuff. Put the cheese on the burger just before you take it off the grille so that it melts without burning.

Eat your burgers hot. Never stack patties in a pile waiting for a bun.

OK. Thats my burger. Regrettably the founding father's never got to taste one. Sucks for them.

Happy Independence Day!

Roadboy's Travels © 2009

No comments: