Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Best Burger, Grilled Asparagus and Italian Ingredients You Gotta Have Handy

There are a lot of burgers out there and I'm sure everyone has their own idea of what is best as far as toppings go. My favorite burgers along the way have been The Bucky Burger from Ely Steakhouse, the mushroom swiss burger from Stony Ridge (although, I have given up on that place as they are NEVER open and it just gets frustrating), The Jucy Lucy from Matt's Bar (if you think it was created anywhere else, we can take this outside! And for those of you foreigners, I'm talking about a Twin Cities legacy, the burger with molten lava cheddar cheese in the middle) and then, there's the default I need a burger *fast* - the Big Mac. Yes, I like special sauce. Although, I must say, I can make a better special sauce than McDonald's. I know, maybe not that hard to do, but still worth noting. Maybe I'm not very picky about burgers, either.

But, that's just not true and I'm about to tell you all about it. First of all, I like my burgers like I like my steak - rare. Obviously, this does not apply to the Big Mac, but let's be honest - how do you do soy filler rare anyway? Why would you waste perfectly good beef by overcooking it? I just don't understand the concept. Over the 4th of July we went to another Ely hotspot and they wouldn't do my husband's steak rare. And this is supposed to be fine dining! That poor grass-fed beef was crying about it, I swear. But, I'll get to that some other day...

Other than the burgers being cooked rare, I also like my burgers, well, burgery? I don't want to use egg or breadcrumbs. I don't like flavoring the meat with fish oil (not as bad as it sounds, though!) or Worcestershire Sauce. I like to salt and (maybe to you it'd be heavily) pepper the meat and let it go. If I'm not going with superior beef, I like mixing it with a bit of ground pork and if I'm feeling really fancy (and want to score some bonus points from the hubs) I get ground bison.

Another key to my favorite burgers is the cheese. And I gotta say - Jarlsburg is the way to go. It's a lot like a swiss cheese, but man - it's so much more. There's more flavor without getting too sharp. It's smooth and has depth (that made me think of those commercials where they make the cheese mature first, this cheese was born mature). You can buy huge chunks of it at Costco, and you should. I can't live without it.

Beyond the cheese, there's onions. I am addicted to caramelized onions. I have yet to be truly successful at making them at home and I'm going to blame my electric stovetop on that one. I really don't know what I was thinking when I got a ceramic top electric oven when we remodeled our kitchen. We were on a budget, we were on a time constraint, I had pregnancy brain, but still - it was a very, very poor choice. I miss my ghetto apartment gas stove. Even if it looks horribly outdated.

Anyway, usually I just add the onions (sometimes I use shallots or green onions from my CSA box) to the bacon that I'm cooking and hope for the best. I like turning the burner to medium low or lower after the bacon starts really turning pink and then I add them. I don't like my bacon extra crispy. I would say cutting the onions into the exact same size is probably part of my issue (issue being I don't do it...) because there's always some that are burnt, and it tends to be the smaller bits. But I don't like to waste and my knife skills aren't amazing. Maybe Culinary School is calling... Obviously, I also like some bacon on my burgers (hell, why not? It's not like we're going for the pinnacle of health here, and gotta say - I'm not a fan of too much green on my burger, a bit of greens and a thin slice of avocado doesn't hurt, I guess?).

My favorite grilling side dish is grilled asparagus. You couldn't get me to eat the stuff when I was a kid - but I swear, my parents must not have cooked it enough or something, because now, now I feel like it's better than popcorn. To me that's really saying a lot. A coating of olive oil and a healthy amount of salt and pepper does the trick. If you feel like going the extra mile, add some grated parmesan cheese. Grill it pretty good, it gets crunchy and wonderful. The tops are amazing, but you won't stop there.

Pictured here with the burger and asparagus was a thrown together pasta salad. It's hard to really say what all happened there, but I'll give you a list of the ingredients, as they really should be in your fridge/cupboards on hand at all times. You can have fast gourmet Italian meals in minutes, without a thought. Just add any combination of these things, some tomatoes or a simple cream sauce tossed into whatever neglected pasta you have in the cupboards. Keep these things on hand and you will never fail, seriously:
  • Parmesan Cheese (grated here)
  • Mozzarella Cheese (cubed)
  • Jar of Good Olives - and yes, even Kalamata counts, you don't HAVE to go green here
  • Jar of Marinated Artichoke Hearts
  • Jar of Sun Dried Tomatoes
  • Jar of Sliced Marinated Red Peppers (didn't actually use these in the pasta salad, but still - any marinara sauce you make should have some!)
That just reminded me of this amazing meal that uses those red peppers... I'm gonna have to make that soon for you guys. Good, Turkish(ish), things are coming.

Back to the pasta salad at hand - I also had some diced shallots and I added pepperoni slices (it makes it oddly more appealing to husbands and kids, I've found). A bit of evoo and red wine vinegar keeps it all together, sprinkle some fresh herbs on top (thyme was the way I went with it) and you're good to go. 

But back to my main point - how do you like YOUR burger? 


  1. For me, especially in the past few years, less is more on burgers. My go-to involves cheddar cheese (sharp!) and ketchup on the side so I can have it with SOME bites but not all.

    I like my burgers medium from most restaurants...if I really trust them, I'll go for medium rare. I'm like you though - I like my steak good and bloody and I cry when people cook it past medium rare!

    I recently had my 2nd burger from Rochester's "best" burger place. I decided they were too greasy for me, and I couldn't really taste the beef, just fat.

    I'd be willing to go for good caramelized onions. I'm also a fan of raw onion with beef. Sauteed mushrooms might be ok too, but I tend to skip the lettuce, tomato, etc.

  2. I'm a sauce-aholic, I admit. I really love aioli on my burgers sometimes. Or different mustards (then I use sharp cheddar or white cheddar even). Or homemade special sauce... I'm getting hungry.

    I totally agree that medium is the way to go at most restaurants. I like mushrooms sometimes, but usually don't add lettuce and definitely don't add tomato. I've grown to like tomatoes, but on burgers it's just mushy and soggy on the bun... no good. Raw onions are good, too, sometimes. I love onions.

  3. Oh I LOVE sauces, don't get me wrong. I'm just a freak that likes everything on the side so I can add to bites as I feel like it.

    Best burger sauce at home =
    mayo + sriracha + a touch of sesame oil.

    This is universally the greatest sauce on the planet, actually.

    But, I've yet to go anywhere that had a sauce I really liked. The last aioli just made the burger taste even more like fat.

  4. Ooh, I will definitely have to try that sauce! You haven't steered me wrong with sauces :) Also - going out to eat and getting what you expect seems to be very tricky. I think the only times I'm actually happy is when I have no idea what I want or what the restaurant is good at and it just happens and surprises me.

  5. My guilty pleasure is burgers. On them I like lots of MAYO! I also usually order cheddar but love Jarlesburg and so am going to have to try that next time when I make them at home. It never crossed my mind before. Thanks for the tip!

  6. I agree with you on Matt's Juicy Lucys: they are of superior quality. And I do love carmelized fried onions, they make every burger great. On the cheese however, I am rather retro. As much as I love all varieties of exotic cheeses, I do like good old American on my burger. Not that I won't eat any other kind, but American says burger to me.

    As for rare...ugh. But you must fit right in with that blood-eating Mathewson family. :)

  7. It's Jarlsberg, not Jarlesburg. :D Although it is reminiscent of Swiss, it's actually Norwegian!

  8. I always add that "e" in there! And I knew it was Norwegian, because I looked it up online one time (there's not much info about it out there) but I still had it in my head as Swiss cheese, derr. I'm glad someone knows what they're talking about!

    And, Maggie- I like American, too. I just don't get to have it very often as Andy thinks it's the worst thing in the entire universe. He's not much of a cheese fan in the first place, not sure how we are married :)