Photo: Ben Fink, The Kosher Carnivore
I love a slab of prime rib, sometimes have a hankering for charred lamb chops, or get a yen for Korean ribs; but there’s only one food I can actually say I crave – and that’s a burger. The trickle of juice that oozes from a perfectly prepared burger is a badge of honor as it runs down my chin and lands smack dab in the middle of my shirt. I don’t even stop the motion of the bun to my mouth to wipe it off; I plow through and take that first anticipated bite. It almost never disappoints. So, when I tell you, as The Kosher Carnivore, that I can guide you to a great grilled burger, you will have to trust me.
As a purist, I don’t like burger gimmicks. Straightforward freshly ground beef, a pristine roll, possibly a slice of a beefsteak tomato or a ring of red onion is all I need, and it’s all you’ll need if you choose the beef correctly. For those with a good Kitchen Aid standing mixer and a grinder attachment, you can easily grind your own. Make sure the meat is very cold, even pop it into the freezer, makes grinding easier. For the remaining 99%, here’s what you ask your butcher for.
I like a blend of ground chuck from the top of the shoulder and brisket, a balance of 70% chuck to 30% brisket is perfect. You’ll get just the right fat content and a terrific flavor from both meats
Form your patties from about 1/3-1/2 pound of the freshly ground meat. You’ll want to gently handle the ground beef (I’m begging you not to call it chop meat). I like volleying it between my palms so it is loosely packed.
For me, kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper is all it needs, but you can add a dash of Worcestershire Sauce for a sweet/spicy kick
Make sure your grill is hot and place those burgers down on the heated grill and then only turn the burger once per side. 4 minutes should do it for medium rare. Resist the urge to push down on the burger with your spatula, all you will do is release the precious juices into your grill, making your coals angry and your burgers dry.
Cook on the flip side till done (internal temp should be at least 165 degrees), but you can always eat it more rare at your own discretion.
For a change of pace, substitute bison (buffalo) meat for the ground beef. It is leaner and has a slightly gamier taste. But, because the fat content is low, you’ll want to cook it for less time and be sure to keep it medium rare to rare or it will be dry and its texture will have a strange mouth feel.
Another great choice is lamb. I love making lamb sliders and adding grated garlic, oregano, salt and pepper as well as chopped parsley, chopped scallions and a dash of cumin to the meat. Cook them till pink and serve them in mini pitas or on slider buns, with your favorite middle-eastern toppings.
If you need some ideas for toppings, here are two of my favorites…
Guacamole Cream Aioli: Like it’s cousin a Mexican staple of chunky guac, this simple to make aioli (a fancy term for a mayo with garlic), starts with a ripe avocado. You can choose your avocados by color and feel. They should be brownish green with a few wrinkles on the outside, too brown and they’ll be too soft, too green and they’ll be too hard. They should feel soft but not mushy to the touch, the way a ripe peach feels. Please don’t be that person who indents 12 avocados to find the one perfect one. Don’t cut them ahead of time, they will brown, so use them immediately after opening them. Try cutting them around their circumference and then twist them open. The pit can be scooped out, or for the brave, hack your knife into the pit, it should grab your knife easily. Wrap a towel around the pit to release it safely from your knife.
Pit and scoop out 1 avocado, drop it into a blender or food processor along with 1 large garlic clove, juice of 1 lime, ¼ cup mayo, ¼ cup cilantro or parsley, salt and pepper. Process till smooth and generously spread on the toasted buns.
Tomato Jam: Way better than ketchup, but so easy to prepare, make extra to keep in the fridge. The plum (Roma) tomatoes should be firm to the touch, but not hard, a warm red/orange color.
Peel, core, seed and dice 1 1/2 pounds of plum tomatoes. Drop them into a saucepan and add 1 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, pinch cayenne pepper. Bring everything to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low and simmer about 45 minutes. Remove the cover, give it a good stir and cook until it thickens to a jam, 15-30 minutes longer.
So, stoke those coals, ignite the propane or pull out your indoor cast iron skillet – but get your grill on and enjoy a burger. Beer, flip flops and onion rings are optional.