In honor of DFW.com's "2011 Battle of the Burgers", I decided to throw my hat in the ring by making a burger over the July 4th weekend. And not just any burger would do. I pulled out all the stops, with Kobe beef, sautéed onions, Shiitake mushrooms, Provolone cheese, mushroom dust, burger juice, Cognac and a homemade roasted garlic mayonnaise (Aioli). I also made some hand-cut Rosemary fries.
There's a lot to cover so let's get started.
The first thing I made is some "Burger Juice". One way to help make juicy burgers is to add cold water to your meat. The cold water binds with the cold hamburger meat to give you extra moisture and a juicy burger. Usually it is a quarter to half cup of water per pound. I really don't like the idea of adding water when you could be adding liquid flavor instead. So I came up with "Burger Juice." Take a third cup of Worcestershire sauce, a third cup of soy sauce, a third cup of either beer, red wine or Cognac (brandy) and a tablespoon of brown sugar. I used Cognac -- this being an extra fancy burger. The reason we are making the burger juice first is that it needs to be cold so it will bind with the meat. Mix it all up and put it in the freezer for a quick chill.
Next is the "Mushroom Dust" -- a dry rub made with dried mushrooms. It is great on pork chops or anything you would like to add a little earthy, mushroom flavor. I picked up an ounce of assorted dried mushrooms at Central Market in the bulk area. Don't let the price tag of $70 lb. scare you. Dried mushrooms are very light. After putting a couple of scoops in a bag I was having trouble getting the scale to register any weight. It ended up running a buck fifty after adding another scoop to get enough weight on the scale to register. I also picked up a little bit of dried onions to add to the rub. To make the rub, grind up the mushrooms and onions in a coffee or spice grinder to a fine powder. Now you have mushroom dust.
Time to make patties, so it is time to talk about the meat: 80/20, or 80% meat to 20% fat, is ideal for juicy burgers. Try to get fresh ground if you can. I was lucky, Central Market had ground Kobe beef on sale for just a couple of dollars more than chuck. Kobe beef is very tasty due to it's marbling of (good) fat, but is normally a lot more expensive. I picked up a pound and a half (score!). When working with hamburger meat make sure everything is cold including your hands. You do not want any of the fat melting or your burger will lose its texture and dry out when cooked. So run your hands through some cold water before touching the meat.
I added the mushroom dust and a half-cup of burger juice to the meat in a bowl and lightly worked it in with my cold hands. I split the meat into thirds to make three half-pound patties; quarter it if you want smaller burgers. Make patties a little larger than the buns you are using. When they cook they will shrink a little. Also try to push the burger in a little in the middle so the outside is higher than the inside. Burgers tend to expand in the middle when cooking, this will help keep the burger flat when cooked. Once you make your patties put them in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (got to keep that fat from melting).
Slice up some onions and Shiitake mushrooms to sautée for toppings for the burger.
Time to grill.
Put a couple of cast-iron griddle pans on the grill and turn the grill up for high heat. Put a quarter stick of butter on each pan and sautée the onions and mushrooms. I finished them with a little bit of Cognac, some of the left over burger juice and a little fresh cut thyme.
Now it is burger time.
I added another quarter stick of butter on each pan, salt and peppered the patties and put them down for 3 minutes a side. Now move the patties off the pans to the grill and grill them for another 5 minutes a side. Now that the burgers are grilling, I put buns on the griddles to toast them up.
Check the temp of the burgers with an instant read thermometer. My target temp is 145º for medium. 160º is your target for well done. Add cheese a minute before you pull the burgers. Pull buns off the griddles when burgers are done.
To assemble the burger, I spread an Aioli I made (link here) on the tops and bottoms of the toasted buns. Placed the burger down on the base of the bun, then spooned some of the onion mushroom sauté on top then added the top bun. Now that is a mushroom burger! I served it with some rosemary fries (link here) with the Aioli as a dipping sauce. Everything turned out great.
Now how do I get in on this burger battle?