How To Build A Better Burger

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a freshly grilled burger with all of your favorite toppings. Being someone who likes to play with his food, I’ve tried a few twists when it comes to the “perfect burger”.

Grinding your own meat is definitely one of those ah-ha moments that’s worth the trouble. I use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the food grinder attachment. This combo will take just about any cut of meat & turn it into a perfect ground consistency. While I’m a big fan of grinding Brisket I have recently found a good chuck roast will yield acceptable results at about 1/2 the cost.

Unless I’m feeding a large crowd (in which I may cut a back a bit) I aim for 8oz patties that are packed firmly and wider than your bun by about 25%. This gives you the right amount of meat to bun ratio and has enough mass to keep the patty from drying out while cooking. I always keep the seasonings to a minimum. A light dusting of seasoned salt or plain old salt/pepper is all you need.

I have two methods for cooking the perfect burger. Outdoor over charcoal (first preference) or indoor on a well seasoned cast iron pan (backup plan in the case of inclement weather). Both methods create, in my opinion, the perfect result.

Since you’re grinding your own meat the risk associated with commercial ground meat is greatly reduced. I typically cook my hamburgers for 5-minutes per side (flipping only once) on a medium-high grill (or pan). This yields a juicy burger that’s just cooked through.

When it comes to condiments I like to keep it simple (only 2-3 at a time), usually mayo, onion and a little mustard. My wife turned me on to olives with burgers. The saltiness of the olive goes nicely with the juiciness of the burger. About the only this missing right now is a cold beer!

How do you do your burgers?

The Right Tool For The Job

Most of my friends know one of my passions is cooking.  Well, actually it’s food in general.  Some people eat to live, but I live to eat.  I really enjoy learning new techniques and cooking for friends and family.

One of my favorite kitchen tools is an 8″ chefs knife from a Japanese company called Global.  A great knife makes all the difference when it comes to prepping a great meal.  The Global line of knives features a one-piece design that not only makes it very to clean, it feels great in the hand after a lot of use.

A sharp knife is a safe knife, so I make sure to use a honing steel before each use as well as take advantage of affordable sharpening services from the local gourmet store at least twice a year.

If you’re in the market for a new set of kitchen knives or you’re looking for a perfect gift for the cook in your family, I really recommend you check out Global knives (available at fine kitchen stores and on-line).

Kentucky Gumbo?

This morning while reading an article in the April 2008 issue of Food & Wine, about the Kendall-Jackson winery, I came upon a recipe for Chicken-and-Sausage Gumbo. It’s a favorite of vintner Jess Jackson when he visits his horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky. Yes, they’re serving Gumbo in Kentucky!

Since it’s a cold and rainy morning in Central Indiana I thought I’d give it a try (actually turned out to be a nice day!). What kind of gumbo can you actually get in the Bluegrass State? We’re going to find out!

One of the main ingredients that makes this a gumbo (vs. a soup or stew) is andouille sausage (a little difficult to find in Indiana). It took me a while but I finally found what I was looking for at a local chain store & headed home to give it a shot.

I took a few pictures with my Treo 700wx but they didn’t turn out very well (note to self, break out the Nikon when taking pictures for the Blog). I pulled out my favorite Le Creuset dutch oven and got to work.

The basic steps of the recipe are:

  1. Brown Chicken & set aside (remove the skin after browning)
  2. Brown sausage & set aside
  3. Cook vegetables & add some flour
  4. Deglaze with chicken stock & add diced tomatoes
  5. Return everything to the pot for a 30-40 minute simmer
  6. Shred the chicken, slice the sausage & add some cooked rice
  7. Enjoy!

Overall it’s a pretty easy recipe only requiring a few ingredients. While not true Gumbo it’s pretty darn close.

About 30 minutes later it was time to pull the chicken from the vat of boiling goodness & shred it up (easier said than done with a mass of protein that’s been in 200-degree liquid for half an hour…

The article recommended a side of Cream Biscuits with Dill (these were AWESOME) as well as a bottle of Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay (nice wine!). Might as well go for the full effect! The wine was easy enough to locate at my neighborhood chain grocery store but it was almost double the estimated price in the magazine article…

The dish was a big hit with the family & we even had enough left over for lunch the next day (it reheats very well). If you’re looking for something a little different, give this recipe a try. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

South Side Soda Shop and Diner – Goshen, Indiana

Located in a neighborhood setting south of the Goshen courthouse, the South Side Soda Shop and Diner was my destination for lunch this rainy Thursday.  Because of the location parking is at a premium, but I lucked out and found a close spot.

Made famous to non-locals by the TV show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network, this place seems to be a destination for locals and foodies.  As a case in point, I overheard an older couple in the booth next to be going on and on about the real lemon zest in their lemon meringue pie (only foodies do that).  Naturally I had to order a slice to validate their claim, but we’ll cover that later.

When I was waiting to be seated, a gentleman paying his bill commented on how good the “real grilled tenderloin” was.  Looking for a light lunch, once seated I opted to go the pork route.  The “grilled” pork tenderloin sandwich ($4.80) is actually done on a flat top grill, not over an open flame as I was assuming.  It comes with Lettuce, tomato and mayo. Making the order a “Basket” ($1.25) added a nice portion of shoestring fries and a small cup of coleslaw.  Knowing I was probably going to have to verify the zesty claim I opted for a diet soda ($1.40) like it matters at this point.

I’ll have agree with the gentleman I mentioned earlier, it was a really good sandwich.  The fries were nice and crisp and the coleslaw had a nice tang.  Now that I’ve devoured the sandwich and sides it was time for desert.

I don’t really have a sweet tooth but I had to taste this lemon zest for myself (that’s my story).  The lemon meringue pie ($2.25) was a pretty decent sized slice with a nice pile of chewy browned meringue on the top.  How did it taste you ask?  VERY lemony & quite delicious (good call grandpa)!

Total bill for this visit was $12.48 ($10.48 + $2.00 Tip).

The South Side Soda Shop and Diner is located at 1122 South Main Street.  They are open Tue-Sat from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.