By Caroline Gibbs, Big City Chefs Food Writer
If baseball is America’s national pastime, then the hamburger would have to be America’s national food. Naturally, there are other competitors for this coveted title, namely hot dogs, but I maintain that the hamburger is America’s food because of its sheer prevalence across the US, its versatility, and its widespread popularity. Yes, the hamburger is a tour-de-force, because let’s be honest, when you’re in the mood for one, nothing else will do.
I must admit that my deep appreciation of hamburgers is a rather recent revelation, as I spent six years of my adolescence as a vegetarian. Huge mistake, I know. But since that time, I would argue that I’ve made up for my years as an herbivore in trips to In-n-Out (the best fast-food burger in my opinion, as well the opinion of our Big City Chefs co-founders) and in the number of blue cheese and bacon burgers I’ve consumed since then (my toppings of choice). On occasion, when I’m in the mood to try something new or feeling particularly guilty, I’ll opt for the turkey or veggie patty instead. They are both good in their own right, fulfill my burger needs in texture and size, but I can’t honestly say they satisfy me in the same way. I suppose that is just the magic of the hamburger. (On a side note, the philly cheesesteak has come close to meeting my burger needs – all the flavors are there, the form is simply different. If you have never tried one and you are a hamburger fanatic I suggest you try one immediately.)
Another spectacular thing about the hamburger is its versatility. It is simply the perfect base to which to add any variety of toppings. From trying out different buns and cheeses, to adding unique toppings like grilled pineapple (also very good), the hamburger has no limits. All you need to start on your hamburger journey is a good basic hamburger patty recipe. My personal favorite comes from our own private chefs here at Big City Chefs. Heck, if they’re good enough for the elite in Food Network’s “Private Chefs of Beverly Hills,” then they’re good enough for me. Our basic burger patty looks like this:
Basic Burger Patty
Yield: 8 burgers
3 pounds Ground Beef Chuck or Round
1 Large yellow Onion
1 1/2 tablespoons Heavy Cream
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
Unsalted Butter (or, if you’re avoiding cholesterol, we recommend a butter substitute like “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!” sticks)
Vegetable Oil, as needed
Kosher Salt, to taste
1. Spread the meat out onto a cutting board or casserole dish and grate 2 to 3 tablespoons of onion into it. Use a fairly fine grater so that you get just the juice and very finely grated raw onion. Mix in the heavy cream and some freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Form into small patties, averaging 3 to 4 ounces per miniature burger.
2. In a heavy cast iron skillet or pan, cook the hamburgers in the butter and oil over medium-high heat, giving it 3 to 4 minutes a side, depending on how well done you like it. Salt the patties and serve them on toasted rolls with a half lettuce leaf and tomato to start.
From here, the sky is the limit. My personal favorite burger is topped with spinach, sautéed with caramelized onions and Point Reyes Blue Cheese (I crave the standard cheddar, lettuce, tomato and onion burger when I go to a burger joint, but whenever I make burgers at home, I tend to go the gourmet route). When I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll even go as far as to make my own fries (or pommes frites when I’m feeling fancy!), and again, I go with this fantastic recipe from Big City Chefs to guide me:
Homemade Pommes Frites
Yield: 6 servings
6 Russet or other Baking Potatoes
1 quart Organic Vegetable Oil
Kosher Salt, to taste
1. Peel the potatoes, and cut them into fries of approximately the length and width of your index finger. Preheat a deep pot of oil to 325 degrees F.
2. For the first fry, deep fry potatoes in the oil for 5 to 6 minutes, or until a light golden color. Do not over load fryer. Fry in multiple batches if necessary. Remove the potatoes using a slotted spoon, and allow them to cool to room temperature.
3. Raise the temperature of the oil to 375 degrees F. For the second fry, deep-fry the potatoes for 2 minutes, or until crispy. Remove potatoes, and transfer into a colander or bowl. While still hot, salt the fries.
You can try all kinds of sides to your burger, onion rings or strings, fried vegetables, a fresh side salad, but ultimately there is nothing quite like the French fry to accompany your burger.
So there you have it – all the reasons why I love the hamburger and why this summer, I’m going to give the hamburger all the love and appreciation it deserves. Hamburgers have a place in my heart because they fill that little void that love, family and friends never could – the one that craves meat, cheese and all of the other savory and delicious gifts from nature that the hamburger brings together in one little joyous package. Thank you, hamburgers.