A Salute to a Classic
Posted on June, 05 2015
If you’re a fan of the humble burger, you already know the joy of biting into a soft bun, through leaves of crisp lettuce and sinking your teeth into a perfectly cooked, juicy patty … it’s enough to make my mouth water just thinking about it!
Believed to be loosely inspired by a dish first crafted in Hamburg, Germany, where revered local beef was chopped, seasoned and molded into patties, the burger we know today is really a distant cousin.
Beginning in the 1800s, variations on the Hamburg Steak
– as it was called – started popping up in restaurants along the East Coast, and was often prepared with lightly pounded or minced cuts of beef mixed with onions, garlic, salt and pepper. But this dish
was found in finer establishments where the diner was required to eat at a table with a knife and fork.
In the mid 19th century, the rise of factory workers brought about demand for quick, portable meals that could eaten while standing. While the true origin of the burger we know today is widely contested, we do know that placing the beef patty between two slices of bread suddenly made it accessible to the working masses and forever changed the burger’s future in America.
Today, burgers come in many sizes and with varying types of protein standing in for the beef. We’ve seen menus offering ostrich, elk, buffalo, and even kangaroo burgers. Meatless variations include tofu, grain-based patties, or fish. In the summer months, we often offer an Island Ahi Tuna burger — inspired by our stays in the Hawaiian islands. But if I’m craving a classic beef burger I’ll make the following recipe, which I created when Laurent and I were vacationing in Italy.
We (and Bobby Flay
) recommend an 80/20 split (80/20 lean-to-fat ratio that is) of the best beef you can buy, but ground chicken, turkey or venison would also work beautifully here. The Lake Como Burger Serves 4 generously For the patties:
1 ¼ lbs. 80/20 ground beef
½ cup cubed Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
¼ cup julienned basil
2 shallots, finely diced or grated
4 cloves garlic, finely diced or grated
Olive oil - just enough to sauté
Cracked pepper to taste (I like a lot)
Salt if desired – remember, Parmesan adds salt
4 superior buns Optional trimmings:
Seasonal, vine-ripened tomato
Sliced raw or sautéed red onion
Crisp lettuce Directions:
- Sauté the shallots and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until soft
- In a bowl, combine the ground beef, Parmesan, basil, cracked black pepper, shallots and garlic just until loosely incorporated
- Gently form 4 evenly-sized patties
- Grill the burgers on high until slightly charred on underside, about 3 minutes for beef and 5 minutes for poultry; flip
- Cook the burgers on the second side an additional 4 minutes for medium rare, or 5 minutes for medium
Allow the burgers to rest for 5 minutes before assembling. We suggest hollowing out the buns a little, to create a “nest” for your burger. (Note: A good bun is a critical ingredient. It should be freshly baked, and soft to bite into. Get them from a bakery if you can!)