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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ijj's Gourmet Basil Burgers

I don't cook burgers that often... maybe two or three times a year.  They're a surprisingly large amount of work, they're very messy and greasy, and they make the house smell like cooked meat for a half a day.

But they can be delicious.

As most often, some of my best creativity in the kitchen is when I've got a few disparate ingredients needing to be used up.  In this case, I had some bread chunks from an olive loaf we bought at the farmer's market on the weekend, and some fresh organic basil - also from the farmer's market.

So, I decided to make some gourmet hamburgers.

Basil wouldn't have been my first go-to herb for red meat, but I have done it before, and the juxtaposition of the sweet, fragrant, fresh basil with something hot and spicy like an habanero pepper is incredible.

So, the ingredients for tonight's gourmet burgers, in order of concentration, are: ground beef, breadcrumbs, basil, onion, garlic, a small pepper (habanero), and an egg to bind it.

First thing was to make the breadcrumbs.  I had taken out the chunks of bread early, and let them get a little dry on the counter all day, but (as you'll see in a minute) they didn't really get dry enough.

But I didn't know that yet.

So, I put them in my cusinart, and chopped em up good.  They didn't get as fine as I had hoped.

So, I pulled them out, and toasted them in a large frying pan for about 5 minutes.  That totally did the trick, and the crumbs were nice and fine, as well as being nice and toasty.

So, those got set aside, in that medium mixing bowl, for later, and I next began to chop up all the prep ingredients.


And then mixed them in with the bread crumbs, and cracked an egg in with them.

Then, using a fork and not a whisk, I mixed it all together until it sort of resembled tabbouleh.

Next I squished in (literally, using my fingers) the ground beef, and veritably kneaded the mixture until it was all uniform.

Next, I rolled out the whole mix with my hands, on my cutting board, and then cut it into four (relatively) equal parts.

Then it was a simple matter to shape them into patties.  I used the buns (adjacent) to judge an appropriate diameter.  If your buns are smaller, just make the patties thicker (and change cooking time accordingly).

This season I've seen a lot of 'burger presses' in stores.  I don't know if they've always been around and I've just not noticed them, or if they're doing a big push for them this season, but I've seen many, and of differing brands - not to mention shapes and sizes.

I can't imagine ever needing one.  There is so much junk out there for kitchens.  Junk which is supposed to make your life easier, but in fact just takes up space in your (surprise, surprise) junk drawer.  Like garlic presses.  And mushroom washers.  And avocado de-pitters.  The list is long.  Unfortunately.  Unlike these devices' lifespan or journey to the land-fill.

There are a few things like this that I condone.  For example, my garlic keeper, and my citrus zester.  Junk that is not really needed, but isn't completely useless.

Anyway... back to the burger press.  Sure it looks cool, and promises to make your patties perfectly round and uniformly-sized every time.  But the thing looks like a bitch to clean, and I just have to ask: how hard is it to form a patty using your hands?

The answer?  Not very.

There's a reason you put some binding agent (egg) in with your mix.  It makes it sticky.  It's like playing with play-dough.  If you wanted to be extremely meticulous, you could really sculpt some masterpieces.

I thought my patties were OK looking, but I am admittedly biased.  What do you think?  Yay or nay?


Anyway... this was a day that I didn't get a firm ETA from the wife on her coming home from work, so I wrapped these patties up and let them chill in the fridge until she got home.

This is easily done - and if you ever want to impress company or guests, this looks pretty professional - just grab a sheet of parchment paper and cut it into quarters.

So, in the meantime, I prepared everything else:  I got my pan ready, I cut up some slices of cheese (I've topped burgers with all manner of cheeses, but today we went with just good, old-fashioned, old cheddar), and brought out my salish salt.

When the wife did get home, I put on the fire, and let my big pan heat up under medium-high heat.  I've heard varying advice for the optimal cooking heat for burgers, but I myself recommend about a gas mark 6.

A small drop of becel oil in the pan, spread about using a heat-resistant brush, and the pan is ready.

If you never knew this trick, brushing the oil in the pan works wonders at keeping the oil dispersed throughout the pan, rather than just pooling.  It's awesome, and especially useful for large surface areas.

So... in go the burgers, all at once, together.

And, on top, ijj's trusty splatter guard.


They really only take a few minutes.  I myself like my burgers cooked to medium or even medium-well.  So, it was about 4 minutes on the first side, and about 2 minutes on the second.


So, immediately upon flipping, I sprinkled a generous pinch of salish (smoked sea salt), and placed a slice of cheddar, on each patty, covered, and let cook for another couple of minutes.

Yes, there's a fair bit of grease, but what do you expect, they're burgers!

I did make a nice, healthy green vegetable to accompany them, however... can't just have burgers, after all... even if they DO have a fair bit of veggies inside.  Heh heh heh.

Some lightly steamed asparagus with a pinch of salt and pepper, and a tiny drop of olive oil.


But not even remotely as mouth watering as...


And here's one smothered in ketchup:

And here's one horribly mauled (by me):

So freaking good.  

Too good, in fact, for words.

I'm truly, legitimately, painfully, sorry for you that you didn't get to eat them.

1 comment:

  1. Mouth watering indeed!! I'd say .. "where are the baked brown beans and potato salad??" Makes me want a picnic!