In Desperate Need of a Burger

Ever since our plane touched down at JFK on our way back from Culebra, I’ve been craving a burger. The question has been…where to get one? Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know NYC has become overrun with burger enthusiasts. Burger joints have been popping up all over while the NY classics continue to get more press. Whether you sware by Shake Shack or prefer the Pat LaFrieda blended black label burger at the Minetta Tavern, it’s easy to agree on why we love burgers. So I did what I always do when I’m faced with a restaurant decision dilemna…I made my own.

One of the most overlooked pieces to having a tiny kitchen, particularly in NY, is ventilation. So in order to cook a good burger in-house, you need solid air flow. Otherwise your neighbors will be calling 911 for fear of the constantly ringing fire alarm. I’ve pretty much mastered this issue however. Windows open, and hand towel waving station set, smoke is no longer the problem.

The other big question for home cooking burgers, at least for me, has always been what the hell to cook them in. Standard pans never seem to do the trick and cast iron can be a bit hard to monitor. Unless your cooking thinner patties, it is easy to end up with a blackened crust and a rare center; not exactly burger perfection. Luckily for me I’ve found the perfect solution. This Mario Batali grill pan with press (another great holiday gift) manages to produce an exceptional burger.

Great, right? But what about the taste…Well, over the years I’ve seriously changed my approach to flavoring my burger, including bun choice and toppings. I used to add a number of seasonings, raw or cooked onions, and even sauces to the meat itself before cooking. Those were not burgers. Those were meatloaf patties. My current recipe: 85/15 ground grass-fed beef (no substitute), salt, pepper. That is it. The flavor of the meat is phenomenal when cooked this way, particularly when paired with a few choice toppings. In this case, melted sharp cheddar cheese, butter leaf lettuce, and a slathering of pesto mayo (I used that broccoli and arugula pesto!) all crammed between a toasted english muffin, by far the best bun available. The english muffin manages to soak in the juices of the burger (Nooks and Crannies!) without getting soggy while adding way more flavor than any potato roll or burger bun.  This burger was amazing!

But what’s a burger without great sides. I paired my burger with another version of that bean salad I have been working on. This one had black beans, red beans, and leeks all pulled together by a bit more of that pesto and red wine vinegar. This may be the easiest side dish ever. For those of you who aren’t big into cooking but need to bring a side dish to a dinner party, this is the one. Also on the plate was a simple slaw I made by shredding (thanks to the food processor) red cabbage and broccoli. This may be reason enough to purchase a food processor, particularly if you have picky kids. Shred just about any vegetable and whether you use it in a slaw or pretty much anything else, you’ll be sure to sneak in some nutrition. My slaw was rounded out with a handful of raisins and a simple dressing of apple cider vinegar and a bit of mayo.

So did I quench my burger craving? You better believe it as this was certainly the best burger I had ever made. And I know I’ve been saying “the best I’ve ever made” a whole lot recently but this can only mean one thing. Okay well maybe two things. But having an insane ego isn’t on my to-do list. So it must mean my vacation did exactly what I intended it to do. Enjoy the weekend!

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