Over the last week or so, I’ve spent much of my spare time chasing the perfect burger recipe. This has led to many a burger-related post, all of which can be found here.
Of course, chasing the perfect burger concept is one thing, actually stepping up and creating the perfect burger is an entirely different matter altogether. For the past week, I’ve been posting about the perfect burger. A few days ago, then, it became time to put my money where my mouth was and dish up a set of perfect burgers for the perfect company. As could be expected if you’ve paid any notice to my other projects, this wasn’t to be an easy task accomplished in an few short hours. On the contrary, it turned out to be an all day task, involving blood, sweat and tears…
Laying down the foundation
One of the reasons why my perfect burger project became an all day ordeal, is that I insisted on making homemade brioche buns for my perfect burgers. As mentioned earlier, brioche is a French egg and butter based bread which can be made in as little as six hours on a good day.
Quite an effort, I’ll admit, but well worth it for the perfect burger experiment. The top two secret ingredients of a dinner for friends are, after all, love and time, so if you want to create the perfect burger for dinner, you’ve got to start early. 10 AM to be exact!
Luckily, much of the time involved in making brioche is proofing time, so having thrown the dough together using the recipe found here, I had plenty of time to hit the town to find the three major players of my perfect burger: beef, bacon and cheese!
Don’t be afraid to look your butcher in the eyes
First on my shopping list was one of the few spices I allow in my burgers: bacon! For this vital ingredient, I went to a local butcher whom I know to produce a very decent home-cured and home smoked bacon. Upon request, he cut me up ten really nice, thick and meaty slices of smoky pork goodness and wrapped them up for safe keeping.
I then asked the good man for a fair amount of ground beef with a decent fat to meat ration of about 20/80. And at that point something peculiar happened: he just stood there looking at me with this really strange, puzzled look before eventually going “I don’t even have anything that fatty on hand that I could chop up for you!”
To which I went “that’s all well and fair, that’ll be all then” and headed out to get my beef elsewhere, leaving the poor man puzzled and frustrated behind. Like I stated elsewhere, a good burger patty needs to be at least 15-20% fat and if your butcher can’t deliver or refuses to grind to order, don’t be afraid to look him in the eyes and tell him you think it’s time to see other butchers. I’m no food snob, honestly, but if I’m made to top dollars for beef, I reserve the right to be picky.
I eventually found another source for beef and while I was out and about anyway, I picked up a healthy chunk of Apple-smoked cheddar from the cheese monger. I just love the stuff on burgers, it has both a nice punch and a subtle, sweet, smokiness that plays well with every other element of a good burger. Try it some day!
Having exhausted my miniscule shopping list, I returned home to tend to my buns…
The dough had risen beautifully in my absence, so I punched it down, portioned it up and allowed it to rise again while I cooked up my toppings of choice: caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms. I also whipped up a quick mayo while I was at it, simply because it’s a sin not to. The beef, I seasoned with salt, pepper, a bit of chili, Worcestershire sauce and coriander seeds. I formed it into nice, big patties and let it rest in the fridge for a few hours while I finished up, baked my buns and got ready for the evening.
At around 5 PM, I welcomed my first guests, Frandsen and Morten who had showed up early to help with the cooking, which I now understand to be guy talk for “drink beer and talk about women”, but that’s okay, that happens to be one of my favorite things to do beside cooking. So while I got the last few things ready, the guys helped with the cooking and we were almost completely and utterly not done with things by 6:30 when we were joined by Frandsen’s beautiful wife Caroline and her equally beautiful friend Sara.
After some final adjustments and some goofing about, we were ready for what I’ve come to refer to as “fashionably late dinner service”
Sides, where we’re going, we don’t need sides!
While my diners got seated, I served my patties up cooked to juicy, medium perfection on a split brioche bun slathered in mayo. I topped each with two slices of smoked cheddar and two rashers of bacon. For the boys, I added caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms. The result was as beautiful as it was ginormous. I mean, I’ve heard of quarter pounders even half pounders, but these were probably more like 2/3-pounders to be honest.
And as such, I had probably not needed to even consider sides, but I love my friends so I still served up my perfect burgers next to some thick cut fries and my new favorite vegetable: my homemade Caesar’s Salad! (raw egg yolk and Parmesan cheese are vegetables, right?)
It could have ended there, really. As a matter of fact, it should have ended there, possibly even before the sides, but no… As I served up these ridiculously large bad boys on my fancy Royal Copenhagen plates, Morten jumped up and grabbed my shaker of edible leaf gold that I keep around for emergency gold shortage purposes, and gave every single burger a light dusting. You know, just to kick it up a notch. After all, when’s the last time you’ve heard someone ask “hey, you want onions, cognac fried mushrooms and gold leaf on that?” – the end result was obscene, over the top and absolutely gorgeous!
And what of the tears?
I think I mentioned in my opening statement that my efforts included blood, sweat and tears… Well, I lied! There was very little blood involved, and no tears, save maybe a few tears of joy from some. I certainly had some pretty happy and ecstatic diners at hand just a mere few bites into these burgers.
Were they perfect? I don’t know, how does one define perfection? They were certainly the most extravagant burgers I’ve ever had thanks in no small part to Morten’s surprise attack with the gold leaf shaker… And I’ve had quite a few famous burgers, including a Michelin-starred version!
As for flavor? Well, given that fat is a great carrier of flavor and that each serving contained about 30 grams of butter and half an egg in the bun alone, plus a not so lean beef patty, two rashers of bacon, some cheese and some butter sautéed mushrooms and onions… Well, I thought it was pretty finger licking good – as did my guests, I’m happy to report. One referred to it as “one of the best, nay THE best burger I ever had”, one was still talking about the meal four days later and one went so far as to state that “this is definitely something else than McDonald’s”.
“And what about the gold?” you ask. Well, to be honest it adds absolutely nothing to the party in terms of flavor. It has no purpose other than to show off. Or, in this case, have your friend show off on behalf of you. Still, though, it was awfully fitting for the perfect and most extravagant burger. And there’s just something adorable about watching girls eat gold leaf for the first time with an ecstatic, slightly bemused “there’s shiny things going into my tummy” look on their faces. Good times!
Would I do this again? For the right people, surely! I may even try to further perfect and complicate a few things. After all, it’s not only the research, the ingredients and the tender loving care that makes the perfect burger, it’s also the company in which you enjoy it and I can think of a few more who might be deserving of a perfect burger.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little quest for the perfect burger as much as I have. And I hope that you may have found some inspiration in my ramblings and far out musings. I think I’ll give burgers a rest for a while, but fear not, I’m probably not quite done playing around on the subject.