Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Cracking Burger

For our inaugural burger of the week, I decided to tackle A Cracking Burger, from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.  It's a pretty simple, bare-bones hamburger with all the traditional fixings.  Jamie's recipe and pictures are here.

I have to confess that I have something of an obsession with Food Revolution.  It's by far my favorite cookbook; I'm pretty close to having made half of the recipes. I think it's my favorite because the recipes are all very approachable and the vast majority have been absolute home runs. It also doesn't compromise taste for health or vise versa... the two peacefully coexist which I think is pretty rare in cook books.

The Process

I followed Jamie's recipe almost exactly. Only differences were:

  • I did not crush crackers in a towel. I used my bare hands. Like a man.  (Ok, the truth is I really didn't want to dirty a tea towel for some crackers. But I prefer my macho cracker-crushing explanation.)
  • I didn't let the first two burgers sit in the fridge for longer than the 4 minutes it took to get the pan hot.
  • I asked Kim to shred some ice burg lettuce as we didn't have any butter lettuce or romaine.
  • Used white onion instead of red
  • Added a dab of (light) mayo on the bottom bun.
When cooking the burgers, I found that the patties held together pretty well, even without refrigerating them to keep the form.  I had a feeling though that if I were to try cooking these on the bbq instead of a grill pan, they would need the extra refrigeration.

Jamie recommends applying pressure to the patties as they're cooking to make sure there's as much contact to heat as possible.  I used the bottom of a spatula for this, but found when I pressed down on the raw side, the patty stuck to the bottom of the spatula.  Meh.

One really good tip from the recipe was to pre-heat the pan on a high setting, then turn it down to medium and throw on the burgers and cook for 3-4 minutes per side.  The timing there worked great (I've always in the past just kind of eye-balled it.)

Another slight modification to the recipe was that I melted the cheese right on the burger (Kim won't eat a cheese burger any other way.) ... the first batch I did, I used thick slices of cheese and foolishly waited for the burgers to finish cooking before throwing it on to melt.  I think it over cooked the meat a bit.  I used thinner slices of cheddar for the second batch and got it melting while the second side was cooking.  This resulted in perfectly melted cheese and an ultra juicy burger.

The last alteration to the cooking method was that I did them up in three batches instead of two.  Our stove top has old-school electric coils which don't distribute heat very evenly in our pans.  To make sure the burgers cooked evenly, I opted to only do two at a time and do three batches. It worked out fine, even though the pan got progressively messy as I went.

And here is the result (next time I'll get more pictures of the cooking process):

The Verdict

The recipe is super simple; there's really not a lot to it. The simplicity gives the burger a clean taste; the beef really comes through.  The parsley in there adds some bitterness (especially the stalks, and it was a bit bitter for my tastes) but the parsley does add some visual appeal.  You can pick up the mustard in there too, and it was nice, but all in all, there wasn't anything in here that blew my mind.

Final Verdict

Jon's score:
3 sesame seeds out of 5

Kim's score:
4 sesame seeds out of 5

Good, not great.  I would make this again, but won't rush to do so.

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