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Can burgers be special?

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  • KayG Mar 12, 2011 08:45 AM
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I forgot my husbands birthday, and not just any birthday, but a big one. I have been working hard to make up for it. Big surprise dinner out planned. But I also want to make him a special birthday dinner at home. Problem is his favorite and most requested food is burgers, which we rarely have. Any way to make it special enough for a birthday dinner? What else to serve? (I'm a very experienced and competent cook.)

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  1. Don't know if this would be his style, but my butcher makes burgers with crumbled bleu cheese, spices and chopped raw bacon. This are all mooshed together into patties which we BBQ. We have them sans buns, etc, but you could do regular hamburger sandwiches with them.
    Sides, well you know him better than I do, but sweet potato fries with aioli would sell here. If you were looking for exotic, I would choose another entree. Maybe make a fancy dessert, his favorite or one you know he would like.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Gail

      Actually, I think that sounds perfect. Thought of the blue cheese, but never considered bacon. My guess is that it will feel like a birthday treat! Not the type of thing he'd let himself eat more than once a year! Thanks.

      1. re: Gail

        @Gail, what happens to the texture of the bacon in the burger as it cooks? it doesn't get chewy?

        my first thought when i saw the OP's request was also blue cheese & bacon - great minds :) however, i was going to suggest *topping* the burgers with crispy bacon strips, caramelized onions & fresh arugula. the cheese works for me either mixed into the meat or crumbled on top (and if you *really* want to gild the lily you can add sliced avocado to the garnish).

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          curious about the bacon in the burger too. i've never heard such a thing.

          goodhealthgourmet--i thought the same thing. hello, Father's Office burger! too indulgent for every day, in my opinion, but a perfect special night burger. you are very bad to add avocado in there. i'm ashamed to admit i would replace avocado with french fries as a topping *and* a side.

          1. re: nothingswrong

            i figured a fellow Angeleno would point the FO finger :)

            i've never actually HAD their burger because of their asinine modification policy...no way i'm gonna gluten myself and end up sick for 3 days just because those jerks refuse to serve it without the bun...so i make the ghg version instead!

            oh, and though i wouldn't put fries on mine, i could totally get behind "crunchifying" it (Bobby Flay's word) with some homemade sweet potato chips. mmm....

          2. re: goodhealthgourmet

            There is a restaurant in NH that I liked that makes what they call Kobe pops with this same mixture. They shape them into small meatballs served on sticks along with a chipotle mayo. I have to say they are pretty amazing.

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              Hi ghg, my butcher *finely* chops the bacon, ergot flavor, no crispy sensation. Yes, handle the bleu and bacon as you see fit. I'm lazy, I guess, so I just buy it the way he makes it...easy dinner.
              I do things the easy way not, perhaps, the best way. We like beef filets smeared at the end with bleu as well. An easy deal and helps an otherwise rather bland steak come alive.
              BTW KayG, the slider idea might be fun for him and you...thinking up different sauces to use maybe with ground filet...if budget allows.

              1. re: Gail

                thanks for the explanation. i can't eat bacon unless it's crispy - the texture just turns me off when it's chewy or soggy - so i couldn't do it your way. but it works for you so that's all that matters - different strokes, right?

          3. Let me ask you another question.

            How can burgers not be special?

            Burgers are always special and a treat in my house.

            Keep it simple and use quality ingredients.

            This is what I do to make a burger, start by going to a good butcher.

            Get equal parts sirloin, brisket and trimmed oxtail.

            Grind the meat yourself.

            Loosely hand-form your own patties. Never squeeze the meat into a hocky puck. Bad bad bad move.

            Season with salt and pepper right before cooking (and not a moment before)

            Sear, then cook to a medium rare

            Serve on brioche bun.

            Enjoy!

            9 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              Do you grind it yourself through a machine or with a knife? I'm curious because we did ours first time with a knife. Is ideal texture supposed to be the tiniest pieces of minced meat or more of a paste? First time was not a charm and would like to try again, I picked up chuck, but will try your recommendation next time.

              1. re: lilgi

                Both machine and knife.

                Start by chopping your meat into 1.5 or 2 inch cubes -- basically a rough chop.

                Then freeze the cubed meats in the freezer for about 30 minutes

                Then take out the Coarse (or Medium Coarse) plate to your grinder.
                (Note: some people like to freeze their meat grinder as well as the meat, that's a personal preference, I don't do it, no room in freezer)

                Then set out your cubed meats and make sure that all three cuts of beef are mixed together so you don't get chunks of brisket with no oxtail, etc.

                Then just run the meat through your grinder, slowly, don't crowd.

                Voila! Hamubrger meat. Should be coarse, definitely not pasty.

                Good luck.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I purchased "The Burger Book" by Hubert Keller for my youngest since it's his favorite food, and I wished to inspire cooking with something basic as hamburger. I wanted him to see how something so simple could be elevated.

                  Hubert Keller in his book mentions 3 ways, and recommends going about it in the fashion of doing steak tartare (by hand with a sharp knife): very thin slices, lengthwise, crosswise, and then tiny dice, for "a very light and fluffy texture". But his normal preparation is much more akin to what you do, and he's dealing with larger quantities.

                  I achieved the tiniest of diced meat, but neither my knife skills nor sharpness are top-notch. I'll try your method the next time around, much easier too. Still in all, it would have been nice to try his preferred method with the right tools and of course knife skills. I'm sure my tiniest minced pieces don't compare to his (and I'll bet yours) in the least.

                  Thanks, we'll try doing this together again your way, should be fun ;)

                  1. re: lilgi

                    You can absolutely do it by hand and knife.

                    I'll do it if I am just making a burger for myself. Just first slice the meat into sheets, then freeze, and it'll be easier to handle and dice. If you're "grinding" by hand, I would leave out oxtail and just use chuck, sirloin and brisket.

                    Good luck.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      I didn't think of freezing the sheets! Wonderful advice, thanks again.

                      1. re: lilgi

                        Here's another thing, layer the semi-frozen sheets of meat together when you dice, so you get a premixed blend.

                        Layer 1 : Brisket
                        Layer 2: Sirloin
                        Layer 3: Chuck

                        Then cut through those layers at one time and you'll get a nice premade mixture.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Could one pulse the meat carefully in a food processor?

                          1. re: Jimisi

                            Yes. But be very very gentle and sporadic with the pulse cycles. Quick 1 second pulse cycles are the best to get that all-important coarse texture. Hold too long and you'll end up with meat paste.

                          2. re: ipsedixit

                            Sounds great, now he'll want his own knife!

              2. Oh good grief...doing this in a hammock? I say Kiss

                1. Don't think gourmet. Find out (if you don't know already) what kind of burgers meant the most to him as a kid (Backyard grill style? Diner style?) and make those. That'll be far more special to him than making some foofy burger.

                  1. Anything can be made special with the right ingredients and technique. For example, visit a good baker and discuss good buns options. If you're also an experienced baker, I'm sure you can come up with something delightful. I like a simple potato bun (and even the ones McDonald's uses for their premium burgers), but the bun can be much more if you're willing.

                    In your situation, I'd try to be really cute and go with a lot of mini-burgers, each being a burger representing the other foods that your love enjoys. If he enjoys a bagel with lox and cream cheese, you can go for a burger with a bagel bun, a salmon patty and some type of cheese (consult your monger!) on top. Someone that enjoys desserts may like a sweet roll bun with a stuffed burger topped with a sweet sauce. On and on.

                    1. To answer your initial question. If the slew of new gourmet burger restaurants that are opening up is any indication then yes they can be special.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: scubadoo97

                        They can indeed be...but it can usually be done better at home.
                        I've had some good burgers when dining out even though typically it's not something I order often in a restaurant. And by far the hands down tastiest and best restaurant burger I _ever_ had in a restaurant wasn't even all beef...it was made with about 10% pork in the mix.

                        But that said, I've never had a 'dining out' burger that comes anywhere near ones made at home with a variety of cuts of meat chopped gently in the food processor.
                        And yes, there's always a touch or fresh pork or bacon in there as well.

                      2. Oh, oops on the forgotten day. We do 'Birthday Month' -- maybe something fun to consider. Festive occasions out (as you've already planned) and small spontaneous gifties if you see something nice.

                        Also, maybe consider a sturdy basic meat grinder as a gift so that you two can have exceptional burgers anytime you want. :)

                        1. Julia Child had a recipe for a lovely special hamburger. Here is a link to someone who posted it online:

                          http://www.carolegbert.com/hamburger-...