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?

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!