Tuesday, 25 September 2012
I Can Haz Cheezeburger?
So there have been many changes in The Life Of Dungeekin in recent months, including marriage (thanks in large part to a roast chicken recipe) and moving to Transatlantic Towers, our new family home. And it has a MUCH larger kitchen than Vitriol Towers ever did, which has meant much more space for ingredients - and better still, much more space for experimentation.
That experimentation has recently been focused on the dark art of the cheeseburger. Having uprooted Greater Gotham Gal from the burger-rich hunting grounds of the Upper East Side to the drizzling, McDonalds-dominated wasteland of Oxfordshire, it was essential that I got the hang of cheeseburgers. If you've ever been to NYC and eaten at JG Melon, Shake Shack or any of the other dedicated burger places in the city, you'll understand how what we Brits think of as a dry, bland alternative to an M&S sandwich is, over there, a juicy*, flavoursome thing of wonder from beef to bun.
And you know what? Recreating that proved to be bloody difficult. Attempt after attempt came up short, with mushy meat, disintegrating burgers or charred exteriors concealing raw mince inside. Thankfully the majority of these experiments were done while GGG was still in the States, so I was spared the disapproval of a cheeseburger connoisseur. It became clear that the trick is to keep the meat as cool as possible and be as gentle as possible putting it together. I can't stress those points enough - cool and gentle, cool and gentle!
But now, I think I've finally come up with the recipe and cooking method that works and will give that proper New York cheeseburger experience at home.
Preparation (makes two burgers):
500 grams of GOOD steak mince. Don't get 'extra-lean', as you need some fat;
2 good burger buns. If you've a baker and can find a range, all the better. Supermarket 'baps' are often too dry and break up;
'American' processed-cheese slices (these are the canonical burger cheese, substitute your preference if you wish;
2 rashers of streaky bacon;
TABLE salt (one of the rare occasions when I don't use Maldon Sea Salt);
Take the mince from its pack, and put into a large bowl. Gently run your fingers through it to separate it all out, then pop it back into the fridge to cool back down.
After 30-odd minutes chilling, take the mince and add granulated onion, salt and black pepper to taste, gently mixing it through with your fingers. Don't be too harsh or use utensils, as that will over-work the meat and make it go sloppy and clump. I use granulated onion to get a good flavour without compromising 'structural integrity' - even fine-chopped onion has a tendency to make the burgers fall apart during cooking. Granulated onion and table salt also work better as they can be worked more fully through the meat than sea salt and chopped onion, so you get completely even seasoning.
Place the seasoned meat back in the fridge for another 20 minutes or so, to recover from your ministrations.
Once it's cooled again, separate the meat into 4 equal portions. Roll them (gently) into balls, then slowly flatten them out until they're about 1/2" thick at the edge, with a bit of an indentation in the middle of each one.
Take two slices of American cheese, and fold each in half twice. Place them into the indentations on two of your patties. Take the two patties without cheese and gently place them, indentation-side down, on top of the two with cheese on, creating a beef'n'cheese sandwich. Gently (note how everything has to be gentle!) squeeze the edges together to make a partial seal. Back into the fridge - Don't cover or wrap them, as that seems to make them sweat a bit and go mushy - and leave them there for a good couple of hours.
Take two frying pans - one with a lid, and one without. Put a small amount of oil in the pan with the lid, and wipe it around the pan, then put the pan on a low heat. Keep the other pan to one side - that one will be getting HOT later.
Gently put the burgers into the oiled pan, and put the lid on. The object here is not to fry them, as they'll fall apart. Instead, let them steam gently in their own juices. It takes a lot longer to cook them this way but they stay together and retain much more moisture. They can take as long as 25-30 minutes to cook, gently turning once or twice. They won't take on much colour, but you will know they're cooking from the sound and smell.
Heat the other frying pan, without oil this time, and get it nice and hot. Cut the bacon rashers in half, and put them in the hot pan to cook until crispy, then remove and keep in a warm oven. Wipe out any excess bacon fat, and put the pan back on the heat.
Prepare your buns with any dressings you want to add, but don't go overboard as the moisture from the burger and dressings will cause the bun to collapse. Toast the bun if you wish, but I've never found that works for me.
When the cheese in the middle of the burgers starts to leak from the edges, you're ready to go. Remove them from the pan, and finish with 30 seconds per side in your hot frying pan to colour them up.
Place your burger on the bottom of the bun, add another slice of cheese on top (to help it all stick together), pop two half-rashers of bacon on top of that and top with the bun.
Eat. Don't forget napkins!
*This is in no small part due to being able to choose how done your burger is, whereas here they tend to be served one way only - overdone - and even in places like GBK it can be a struggle to persuade them to cook your burger medium. Dang 'Health & Safety' rules.