A Meal in a Burger: Treat yourself
I know that burgers aren’t the healthiest option on the menu, but I am an American omnivore and I reeeeallly love a good cheeseburger. (Dammit.) Scratch that, what I want is a GREAT cheeseburger, because I don’t like to indulge in just any old burger. If I’m gonna go for it, it’s got to be fantastic. I discovered this Meal in a Burger recipe in The New Basics Cookbook in the early 90’s (an excellent wedding shower gift; if you need one, click here and you’re done), and though I’ve eaten hundreds of other burgers in restaurants around the world, and tried numerous variations at home, this recipe still cannot be beat for the #1 spot in my book. It’s just perfect. And with summer BBQ season just beginning, I thought it would be an excellent time to share this recipe.
What’s perfect about it? For one thing, it has spinach added to the mix which, aside from the obvious nutritional value, adds just the right flavor and texture compliment to the beef. If you’ve ever had a really good steak with a side of freshly steamed spinach, you’ll know what I’m talking about. (Right? It’s plain as day, on every steakhouse menu in America and I didn’t put it together either.) Egg yolk holds it together, no whites because who really cares about egg whites? O.K. Bakers do. But we’re not baking today. And if you’re looking for the cheese, it’s inside the burger.
Putting the cheese inside the grilled burger is ideal because it keeps the inside from getting dried out, you don’t have to cook it additional time for the cheese to melt or cover up the delicious crispy outside crust. Flip once and they’re done. I buy a block of cheese and grate it because it’s worlds better and takes a minute. I like to use extra sharp cheddar cheese for these because it has lots of flavor and a little goes a long way. (Or is it Super Sharp? I asked the cheese purveyor at market which is sharper- Extra or Super, and now I’ve forgotten already. It’s not clear, amiright?)
Let’s talk about condiments. In the original recipe they suggest mayonnaise and ketchup on the bun, which is delicious. I need to take it one step further because, as my daughter says, I’m “Extra”. (Or is it Super? I’m also easily confused.) Anyway, I make a simple burger sauce with the two condiments mixed together and the addition of chopped pickles. (a.k.a. Thousand Island Dressing, or Special Sauce) For this sauce, I used homemade ketchup from Goose Lane, a local farm stand, but you could use any ketchup that you like. I only use Hellman’s mayonnaise because it’s the best, or else I’ve been brainwashed. But, I’m pretty sure its the best. I also used horseradish pickles because they added an extra zing to the sauce, to counterbalance the sweetness of the ketchup. Any spicy pickle would be ideal in this, and if you don’t have spicy pickles you could add your own spice or hot pepper sauce to the mixture with the same results. It’s not science, it’s just sauce. I use about 1 part ketchup to 2 parts mayo and a few diced pickle slices.
We’ve also added avocado to the top of our burger stack, along with just about everything else in our life. And a couple of lettuce leaves, because green is good. So here’s the stack (bottom to top): bun, sauce, leaves, burger, tomato, avocado, bun. Summer perfection! The original recipe in the book was for one burger but I have multiplied it and this recipe makes 6 generous, two-hands-required burgers. You can make these and grill them right away or make a big batch ahead and freeze them for your next BBQ. If you are like me and want a burger immediately after seeing pics of a juicy burger, I’m going to shut up now so you can go build a Meal in a Burger. Here’s the recipe:
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/3-1/2 cup cooked spinach, well drained and chopped
- 1/4 cup grated or finely chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and garlic blend or generous pinch of each
- 4 oz grated cheddar cheese (or your favorite cheese)
- Mayonnaise and ketchup, to taste, or see note for Burger Sauce*
- 6 Toasted Sesame or Poppy seed bun
- Lettuce leaves
- 6 Slices ripe tomatoes
- Sliced Avocado, optional
- Preheat the grill.
- Combine the beef, egg yolks, spinach and spices in a bowl, and mix well.
- Form three quarters of the meat mixture into patties, reserving the remainder, and make an indentation in each patty. Fill the patties with cheese and cover with the reserved meat mixture, forming a finished patty.
- Grill the patties for 2 1/2 minutes on each side for a juicy, rare burger- or longer according to taste.
- Spread condiments or sauce on the toasted buns. Place the lettuce and burgers on the bottom buns, top with the tomato, avocado and other halves of buns.
- *Burger Sauce: combine 1 part ketchup, 2 parts mayonnaise and finely chopped spicy pickles, to taste, in a bowl.