August 6, 2009

Father's Office Burger, Imitation

After watching a marathon of Man vs. Food I was dying for a greasy burger. In-n-Out would have done the trick, but sadly, there are none anywhere near me :( McDonald's is right across the street (talk about temptation knocking at your door) and a Big Mac might have quelled my appetite but definitely would not have satisfied my taste buds. Plus, I would have just felt really gross, not to mention guilty, afterward. So what is a girl to do?

Make your own burger!

Now, what kind of burger to make? When I think of the perfect burger, only one comes to mind: the Father's Office burger. Oh baby... juicy, sweet, salty, deliciousness... taste bud heaven.

I won't even pretend that my burger comes anywhere close to the greatness that is the F.O. burger, but it did make me happy and was completely worth all the effort I put into it. And if you don't feel like spending $$ on a burger, try making these at home for you and some friends - you'll save money and be completely satisfied.

I did a lot of research, going through dozens of foodie blogs and recipe sites. In the end, I didn't find any one perfect recipe but this is what I learned about burger meat:
  1. DO NOT use preformed patties or ground beef. Preformed patties are made from poor quality ground meat that is compressed into a round shape, making them dense and chewy. Instead, buy quality beef chuck or brisket and grind at home in a food processor (or ask your butcher to grind it for you).
  2. Fat makes a difference. Ideally, you want an 80/20 ratio, meaning your meat is 80% fat free. Anything more and the beef will turn out dry and lose a lot of its flavor. If you're not being health conscious, try a 70/30 ratio for an even juicier and more flavorful burger.
  3. Be gentle! When forming the patties, don't squish all the air and water out of them. Instead, gently roll the meat in between the palms of your hand and lightly pat into a patty shape, about 1/2 inch thick. When cooking, resist the urge to squish the patties down with a spatula.
  4. Get chilly. If you've formed your patties correctly, you'll have a loose, fluffy patty of delicious beef. To help the patties hold together while they cook, chill them in the freezer first for 20 minutes.
  5. Get hot. To get that crispy char on the outside of your burger, cook over a very, very hot outdoor grill or cast-iron skillet if making these indoors.
Now that we've got the patties down, the next issue is toppings. F.O. tops their patties with a hearty dollop of salty sweet caramelized onions and melty gorgonzola cheese (or is it gruyere?). The onions take some time to cook down but can be made while the patties are chilling in the freezer. For the cheese, I used blue cheese but any strong flavored cheese, like gruyere or gorgonzola, will do. The best way to melt the cheese if you're cooking on a grill is to cook one side of the burger, flip it over, top with cheese, then close the lid while the other side of the burger cooks. If cooking indoors, do the same thing but tent the skillet with foil if you don't have a lid. If you decide to top with a tomato slice, use only very ripe tomatoes so the burger isn't watered down. For the final touch, I topped the burger off with a handful of crunchy, peppery arugula.

For the bun, I tried my hand at these Light Brioche Burger Buns. They were a little denser than I thought they'd be but were still very delicious and were strong enough to hold the burger together. I didn't think to measure the buns for size so they turned out a lot bigger than my burger patties. Next time, I'll just make smaller buns.

So what are you waiting for? Get cooking! Have one final cookout before the summer ends!

Beef Burger Patties
(makes 4 patties, 1/4 lb each)

2 lbs chuck or brisket
3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for grill
0.5 cup finely chopped onions (optional)
salt and pepper
  1. Place meat, olive oil and onions (optional) in food processor and pulse break down the meat and ingredients and just blended. Don't over work the meat.
  2. Divide the meat in half, and the halves in half to make 4 patties. Gently roll the meat in between the palms of your hand then lightly pat into a patty 1/2 - 3/4 inch thick. Don't squish.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in freezer 20 minutes before cooking (put don't let freeze). If not cooking immediately, chill in fridge instead and pull out when ready to cook.
  4. Prepare grill or heat cast iron skillet to high. Brush the patties with olive oil then season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. For med-rare, cook 3 minutes on one side. Flip. Top with cheese, cover, and cook another 3 minutes.
  5. Slide onto bun, top with caramelized onions, tomato and arugula. Serve immediately.

Caramelized Onions
from Barefoot Contessa

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large yellow onions, peeled, sliced in half rounds
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp sherry wine vinegar (or white vinegar)
1 tsp salt
0.5 tsp black pepper
  1. Heat olive oil and butter in large pan. Add onions and thyme, toss to coat. Cover and cook over med-low heat, 10 minutes, stirring occassionally.
  2. Remove lid and continue to cook another 25-30 minutes until golden brown. If onions are cooking too fast, lower the heat.
  3. Add vinegar, salt and pepper and cook another 2 minutes, scraping up brown bits from pan.
Read more about The Perfect Burger and All Its Parts, an article from the New York Times.

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