Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Food Night Cheeseburger

One of Food Night’s most crowd pleasing and easy to make dishes is…. The Cheeseburger. Food Night’s “slider” is inspired by the cheeseburger at the 112 Eatery. Simple, tasty, and guaranteed to turn a vegetarian into a carnivore (at least for one night), the slider comes together in no time.

But before we get into the how-to, let’s go over the fundamentals. Food Night’s Four Burger Commandments, if you will (and even if you won’t);

1). CAST IRON. It’s how Food Night cooks burgers. Grilling is great of course, particularly in the summer, but try cast iron. Mkay? A pan costs $18 and lasts for life. Or longer.

2). FAT. Moderation makes every good thing better by preserving its “wow” factor. Not this gal’s version of moderation, but ACTUAL moderation*. If you are going to make a burger… make a REAL burger. Don’t make some 95% lean crumbly dry beef frisbee. Fat is part of a proper burger. And as such, there will be fat in this recipe. Do not be afraid. Embrace it, and treat yourself once in a while, in moderation.

*Food Night is obviously not happy about anyone’s misfortune… but it kiiiiiiinda seems like Paula Deen contracting Type 2 Diabetes is about as surprising as getting wet while taking a shower. If Food Night is remembering things correctly, “gluttony” is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, while “moderation”… is not.

3). THE ENGLISH MUFFIN. Can you use your favorite hamburger bun instead? Of course. Will it be as good as an English Muffin? No. Get a nice thick English Muffin like Wolferman’s, available at Kowalski’s in the Twin Cities. Brands like Thomas and Crystal Farms are great for toasting and holding your favorite morning preserves… but will fail miserably as a burger delivery system.

4). GARNISH. Quality Triple Cream Cheese and pickles. The End. Nothing else. Bacon, ketsup, mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato, fried egg, foie gras… all wonderful things. All don’t go on this burger. Food Night uses a super delicious Delice de Bourgogne, also available at Kowalski’s. You want a cheese that isn’t overly salty (there is plenty of salt in the burger already), and has some ripeness/acidity/tartness that will cut through the richness of the burger. The Delice de Bourgogne is a fabulous choice.

The Food Night Cheeseburger is rich, decadent, and delicious. Please do not operate heavy machinery after consumption, as the consumer of said cheeseburger has a tendency to nap shortly after consumption. Kinda like this guy.........

The Food Night Cheeseburger
Serves 4

For the Cheeseburger
1lb ground beef (80% lean, at most)
4 egg yolks
3T butter
1 medium shallot, finely diced
1T fresh tarragon, finely chopped(optional, but encouraged)
Kosher salt
English Muffin
Triple Cream Cheese

For the Pickles
1 English or pickling cucumber
Rice wine vinegar
1 Fresno chile

1). Make pickles. Slice cucumber and Fresno chile as thinly as possible on a mandolin. Layer cucumber in a very small bowl, add small pinch salt and as much sliced chile as you like. Add additional layer(s) of cucumber and chile and salt. Add enough vinegar to mostly submerge. If your bowl is small enough, you should only need ½ cup or so of vinegar. When your burger is ready, the pickles will be too.

2). In a large bowl, add beef, yolks, tarragon and salt to taste (don’t be bashful with the salt, Food Night uses about 2 teaspoons for a pound of beef, perhaps more). Saute the shallot in the butter over medium heat until translucent, and add the butter/shallot mixture to the beef. Mix everything together with your hands. Let stand at room temp for 20 minutes.

3). Heat a well seasoned 12’’ cast iron pan over medium-low to medium heat (maybe 4 out of 10). Form beef into thick ¼ lb patties.

4). When hot, but not smoking, place burgers into the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan. If you made the burgers thick enough, you will have enough room to cook all 4 at once. Cook for approx 3 minutes per side, a tad longer if you must. The goal is to achieve a nice crust on the exterior and a medium (hot pink) center.

5). Remove burgers to a plate when done, turn the heat down to low-ish on the pan , and put the cut* side down of two English muffins in the pan. Press down, cooking until caramelized. Yes, there are burger remnants in the pan, and yes you want them on your English Muffin. You’ll be able to toast two English Muffins at a time, add more butter to the pan for the second batch.

*It’s worth using a sharp knife to make a clean cut in the English Muffin, rather than separating it with a fork or your fingers as you may do for breakfast. The cleaner cut caramelizes better in the pan.

6). Place burger on English muffin, top with a hefty slice of cheese, and cover with the hot English muffin top. Wait 1 minute to allow cheese to begin to melt (yes, WAIT. 1 minute. You can do it). Devour with the pickles. And beware of your neighbors at the table.........