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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Friday Movie Food Night! The ULTIMATE BURGER!

In a restaurant I order everything I don't want,
so I have a lot to play around with while everyone else is eating.

Andy Warhol

Now here is how to have a meal:

Burger, burgers, burgers and more burgers! Seems everyone is eating burgers now!

Growing up I ate at Dick's Burgers (how appropriate) and at In-N-Out in California. McDonald is crap and we all know it, so I'm even going there. McDonalds is about real estate, not food.

Now there are so many burger places in New York it's mind-boggling. Lots of people are raving about these guys in town:

People from Jersey swear they are the most amazing burgers they've ever had. I'm excited. I want to try one but then...I don't.

Don't get me wrong - I love burgers. I was raised on beef. Beef and burgers. I'm all-American. But let's get really real, shall we?

Do you have any idea what is in most hamburgers you order in a restaurant? There is a reason, honey, those burgers are so moist.

Two words: FAT ASS.

Well, one word 'fat' but put it next to your 'ass' and that's what you'll get if you eat takeout burgers more than once a month. You know I'm right. That shit is awful for you. So what is the solution?

Make them at home!

Check out these easy homemade burger tricks. You'll love me for them...

First, all of the hardcore cooks will only eat burgers if they grind their own meat. Okay, you know what? That' s fabulous, it really is fabulous, but if you think anyone is going to the butcher on a Friday and standing over the food processor grinding sirloin so they have a great burger, then you are way too obsessed over food.

Not realistic.

Sure, grinding your own meat makes for a moist burger, but no one working a 40-60 hour week is going to do that on a Friday. I know I won't and I cook all the time.

In a screenwriting class I took with a famous teacher (who, turns out, was bipolar, which is why his lectures were so interesting), a student asked how they should choose which of their many stories to flesh out into full-length screenplays.

Mind you, this was for commercial studio films, so the idea was driven to mass interest, and this blog is for the average American, so it all applies...

The teacher said, "Imagine a married couple standing outside of a theater where ten movies are playing. They have been working all week. Managed the kids. Dealt with bosses, long days, a recession, depression, anxiety and all of the shit we have to deal with on every day...and when they look at the marquee, you want your movie to be the one they want to see over everyone else. Your want to write a Friday Night Movie."

That's what this meal and all others following are. The kind of ones you make on a tired Friday because you want to.

There are plenty of tricks you can use to make a great burger. The first trick it's not what goes on the burger but what goes in burger.

There is no need to get into the whole Cooks Illustrated science here (God, can they take the fun out of cooking or what?!). I know everyone wants a secret to cooking burgers and the exact measurements but it doesn't work that way.

BUT...there are guidelines.

Buy organic ground CHUCK. 85% lean is the best. Yes, it's fattier but that results in a better burger. You can always drain the fat as you cook. You can go with the leaner sirloin or ground turkey, but it will result in a less tasty burger. And again, you can drain and pat dry the fat off of the burger.

If you do go with ground turkey (I'll do a posting soon on the major benefits and pitfalls ground turkey) you must always buy 93/7 turkey (which means 7% fat). You are an idiot if you buy the 1% fat turkey. Dry as a bone.

I find one pound of meat for four people is fine. That means you are getting a 'quarter pounder' at home. You really don't need more meat than that, dear Lord.

Now you can add all sorts of stuff into the meat. This is one of my favorite combinations per 1 pound of meat:
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 slices of whole wheat soaked in 1% milk for 10 minutes
  • 1-2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary and thyme
  • 1 small red onion, diced very small
  • 2 shakes Worcester sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced very small
  • 2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese
  • Tiny, TINY pinch of nutmeg
  • 3 teaspoons pickled jalapenos, chopped
  • Pinch of salt
  • Healthy pinch of pepper
Neat, huh? Add very few extra calories but loads of taste.

Put the ground meat into a bowl. Very gently add the ingredients above. One of the biggest mistakes when making burgers is over-handling the meat. Treat the meat gently. Very gently.

Treat The Meat Gently. That could be the title of my bio.

You just want to mix until it all comes together. Making good, moist burgers reminds me of baking. Slow and easy does it.

Put the four burgers on a plate and put them in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Make your toppings. The logical route is to match what is INSIDE the burger with what is ON TOP of the burger.

Since I add jalapenos, I sometimes slice up Monterey Jack cheese...or will add more sliced jalapenos atop...of fresh, sliced white onions.

Here are my favorite will want to get these ready before you cook the burgers:
  • Romaine hearts, chopped
  • Fresh Beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
  • Slices/grated cheese (more salty the better, you got the great taste of Parmesan in this) - Bleu is a great choice as a tiny bit goes a long way
  • White onions, sliced
  • Jalapenos, picked or fresh
  • Gherkins
  • Dijon mustard
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • 2 slices cooked turkey bacon per burger, great place to save calories
ROLLS - I am not a fan of the ordinary hamburger rolls in the supermarkets. Not soft, not big enough for a 'meal'. My favorite, by far, are ciabatta rolls. They are in most supermarkets and all bakeries.

Just as you won't buy cheap meat for the burger, you CANNOT get a cheap bun. It will ruin the experience.

Now, when you cook them, there are a few tricks I always use and it results in a moist burger.

Take the burgers out of the freezer. Get out a large 12 inch skillet with a secure fitting lid.

Heat up 2 teaspoons olive oil in the pan for a full 2 minutes over medium high heat. You want it very hot. Gently lay the patties in the pan and let them cook until they are seared on one side for 2 minutes.

Gently flip them over, cook another 2 minutes, then move the pan to the back burner, cover, cook on medium-low for 5-8 minutes, depending on how rare you like your burger.

How can you tell when a burger is done? Well, the facts are the FDA says it must have an internal temperature of 160 degrees it's good to go. I think that's a bit much.

As you cook more, you can tell by touch. If you press down on the top of the meat and it's got a bit of give, it's medium. A bit less give, medium-well. No matter how many times I try to teach people how to check temperatures of a burger, they invariably cut a slit in the side of the burger to check for the level of pink they like, which is fine.

When they are done, gently remove them from the skillet and put them on your ciabatta rolls (you either toast or not; up to you).

Fabulous burger!

For sides you can do just about anything. Go healthy, make a side salad with my favorite fig balsamic and croutons with sliced onion.

Fries are an option - as are my white trash favorite everyone loves to make fun of:

I know, I know. Shoot me but I do love me some Tater Tots. I had them as a kid, love them as an adult. It's what I wrote before. A lot of our food tastes come from our childhood, don't kid yourself.

I try to limit my side dish to a healthier option when making them at home. Too many carbs and too fattening.

I'm Irish, so when it comes to making potatoes, God blessed me. Soon I'll post a potato cooking day that will knock your socks off.
Enjoy your burgers, darlings!


Mikey Bryan
Your Food Therapist


  1. OMG - tater used to make those....yuck and yum. And, don't you remember Kid Valley????? Those burgers rock in Seattle. Maybe you could survey Best Burgers? None here in Maine....XO