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The Alton Brown Burger

The plan was to blog, ever so briefly about my vacation, or even try to clear some of the backlog of posts I have started. But, you know the enthusiasm comes for the most recent activity. In this case, that’s the making of the Good Eats burger, courtesy my favourite person on the Food Network – Alton Brown. If you have never seen his show, he’s someone who’s interested in the “why” as well as the “how” of cooking. If there’s a rule, he’ll tell you why you should (or should not) follow it. If he says use some special tool or machine, you can be sure he’ll explain how to choose the best (and most economical one). And he’s funny.* With props. Good Eats is said to be the cooking show for engineers. I am not an engineer, but I too am interested in the how and why rather than just the recipe. I like to have some freedom in the kitchen, so if I know how things like yeast and eggs work and react to other ingredients it will help me know how to vary a given recipe. And he uses diagrams and models. All in 30 minutes.

Onto the burger. My brother, who is an engineer by training (although not practice) also appreciates the value of Alton Brown. And while he’s been home on holiday, he won’t complain if we switch to Good Eats. And a few nights ago we happened to be watching the episode entitled “The Daily Grind” which is all about ground meat – the selection of the meat, the grinding at home and the recipes – Burger of the Gods and the Good Eats Meatloaf. Watching him create these burgers, my brother was seized by a sudden, immediate and all-consuming goal (this happens to him a lot) – making that burger EXACTLY the way Alton did. And he insisted it had to be done as soon as possible – we had to scout for meat and grind at home and make those burgers before I returned to Guyana. And the rest of us concurred. A chance to try for the real thing.

Perhaps some backstory. See, while T&T has halal burgers available at the $5 burger stands and frozen patties in the supermarket, those are thin, low-meat affairs that- while tasty with the mountain of toppings – aren’t really a meaty delight. Burgers, as an American sandwich, and named in terms of the weight and described as meaty and juicy … we didn’t know those. When you can’t eat a lot of meat outside, there are some things (like real steaks) that you never really get to try. Mom made burgers for us at home that were thicker, and meatier, but how would we know what the real thing is? I am pretty sure they’re not loaded with green seasonings and breadcrumbs :-) I had one “real” burger a few months ago at the Hilton Trinidad (which, like the Crowne Plaza Trinidad has a wide variety of imported halal meats and can offer steaks, burgers, lamb etc that I can actually eat). It was great. And I am not a red meat (or indeed a big burger) person.

So, back to Alton Brown. While the Food Network has his recipes from the shows, the recipes aren’t the whole story. They work, but for the full experience you need to see the show, or read the transcript, where you’ll access all his tips and warnings. Home grinding by the way, is essential to avoid possibility of hideously deathly disease and infection (or at least somewhat uncomfortable gastro-intestinal problems), when you cook your burgers to his recommended MEDIUM RARE. He’ll tell you how to cook burgers and steaks etc to medium rare and medium well done, but tells you “why bother” with well done.

Which is why food hygiene is important.

RECIPE

Burger of the Gods (Recipe by Alton Brown)

Ingredients:

* 8 ounces chuck, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes [try smaller cubes]
* 8 ounces sirloin, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

[Yes, just salt."That's all. No herbs. No chopped onions. No garlic. No soup mix. No mysteries. Just salt. Why? Well because it actually seasons the meat. Makes it taste beefier as opposed to herby or shalloty or garlicy or anything like that. Any other flavors that want to hitch a ride can wait to ride on the bun."]

Method:

1. In separate batches, pulse the chuck and the sirloin in a food processor 10 times. [Use small batches. You may need to do this more times depending on your processor capabilities]

2. Combine the chuck, sirloin, and kosher salt in a large bowl. Form the meat into 5-ounce patties.

3. Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. ["And to figure out if the pan is ready, just kind of drop a little water right into the middle. Now if it sizzles up like that and quickly evaporates, you're in the zone. Good to go."]

4. Place the hamburger patties in the pan. For medium-rare burgers, cook the patties for 4 minutes on each side. For medium burgers, cook the patties for 5 minutes on each side. Flip the burgers only once during cooking. ["Burger Rule #1: No Patty Smashing!"]

And to serve? From Alton: “Now before you pour on the usual condiments do me a favor. Just try this just one time, okay? Toasted bun, right? Little mayonnaise. Or a lot of mayonnaise depending on how you feel about mayonnaise. Little black pepper. Fresh ground. Right in the middle. Okay. Now that is going to form the base of a sauce that will be completed by the juices from a well rested hamburger patty, cooked medium-rare of course. Top that off with the other part of the toasted bun.”

The verdict? The burger was moist and really flavourful. Really. A couple may have been well done. But mostly we managed the medium rare to medium well. I am a burger minimalist myself so that topping with just mayo and black pepper is ideal for me. I don’t usually do much else. Maybe some cheese next time. I have to admit that burgers this thick aren’t always my thing. So maybe next time, despite AB’s warnings, I’ll go for something a bit thinner. My sister thought it would be excellent with some cheese in the centre. My father loved the flavour but said he would have preferred it just with fries (no bread). I thought it might have had that fresh beefy taste, with just the (sea) salt in it, but no. It was just good and meaty. And juicy.

Now, as for choosing the meat to grind. We’re not sure how many of the halal butchers serve up their meat as labeled by AB and the regular supermarkets (chuck, sirloin etc). And we were in a rush so we had to work with what we could find. We bought stewing beef and beef steak. The composition of the meat looked about right. Glad we watched the show! Next time also? Trim more of the chewy white bits off the meat that don’t really eat well in a burger.

All these pics are in a Flickr Set.

* Ok Ok. Sometimes it’s a bit overboard and campy and in the first few episodes of season 1 it seems somewhat forced, but he gets his point across. Even if I do like my meat well done sometimes….

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9 Comments so far (Add 1 more)

  1. I love AB too! Glad to hear that you are back and enjoying the company of your brother as well as his cooking.

    1. Cynthia on August 18th, 2007 at 6:41 pm
  2. Hi Cynthia. Yes, I am back in Guyana now. The rest of the family is still at home in Trinidad. But I get paid in Guyana and sadly I haven’t figured out how to live without money :-(
    My brother didn’t cook much before he left home, but if you were making something that he wanted with a passion (brownies or pizza) he’d be there every step of the way to grate things, cut things, stand around…this was more a collaborative effort. And a newish experience :-) We didn’t kill each other or destroy Mom’s kitchen so I’d say it was a success!!

    2. chennette on August 18th, 2007 at 7:11 pm
  3. Ah, now we have something in common. Good Eats is the greatest cooking show ever. And you didn’t even mention the belching yeast puppets. There are times, however, when I say “Alton you’re crazy!” and that was the case with grinding your own beef. I’m glad you had the courage to try it. Those burgers look awesome!

    3. mark - in my own defense on August 20th, 2007 at 7:52 am
  4. Hi Mark. Well, I probably wouldn’t have tried it on my own, since I don’t eat that much red meat. But the reasons for grinding your own meat – choosing the right textures and cuts – at least for a burger, were compelling. It’s a lot simpler than it sounds. I just don’t have a phenomenal food processor like Alton. So cut in small pieces and use SMALL handfuls.
    And yes. There are indeed those “WHAT? When am I going to do THAT?” times…like starting bread 24 hours before. I am not that organised…

    4. chennette on August 20th, 2007 at 3:56 pm
  5. Newish experience. We didn’t kill each other… – I totally understand :D

    I am not sure yet if I can cook with my brother, he is so fussy with himself in the kitchen and collaborative, hmmmm it might be more like me taking specific directions and dare not try do anything my way. Actually, when I was there the other day, he was cooking hassar (casadoo) curry, and I saw him turning and turning and turning the pot all the time. Silly me, I opened my mouth and said, “E, why you don’t leave the curry to cook, you turning it too much.” To which he responded, who cooking? me or you? (lol) The man even wanted to dictate how I must take my food pics and from which angle (not funny!)

    Anyhew, I have a question for you. There is a kind of mitai that is made in Guyana that I plan to make for one of my columns but I need help with the proper name for it. I don’t know if you can help me. All I know is that we refer to it as the Muslim Mitai :S please forgive the ignorance. It is sold at Hack’s Halall in the Stabroek area and also I think at the Roti Hut.

    Homemade, it is like a rich pastry dough that’s then deep fried and tossed in a sugary-syrup. Do you know it? I have the recipe here that I got from a friend whilst in Guyana. Is it the goolab jamoon? I am basing that name on the pic I am looking at right now in the Naparima Girl’s School Cookbook (pg.95)

    You can email me at: tasteslikehome@gmail.com

    Appreciate it.

    5. Cynthia on August 20th, 2007 at 4:04 pm
  6. Ooo those burgers…had too much beef for me…and weren’t pulsed enough (old food processor I’m told). *sigh*

    I felt so depressed. I didn’t want him to be disappointed in me so when he left for masjid I gave half to Sister, the Elder.

    I’m not a beef person, unless it’s really minced.

    6. Lilandra on August 27th, 2007 at 2:32 am
  7. HEY THERE IM TRYING TO CONJOURE UP THE PERFECT BEEFBURGER/HAMBURGER RECIPIE. THE HALAL WAY. ONE THAT STANDS OUT FROM THE CROWD. JUST TO PROVE THE HALAL TASTE HAS THE BEST TASTE. ANY IDEAS WELCOME AND ANY IDEAS SUCCESSFULLY PUT INTO PRACTICE WILL BE REWARDED. ALSO ANY OTHER HALAL IDEAS, SAVOURY OR SWEET, WHICH THE GENERAL PUBLIC WOULD FEEL APPEALING TO TASTE, INCLUDING NON MUSLIMS.

    9. SK on May 13th, 2008 at 10:46 am
  8. assalamu ‘alaikum SK and thanks for visiting
    as to your request, well this is a pretty good recipe here, especially if you use fresh meat. That’s thing about taste, even if it’s halaal it has to be good quality meat, and freshest is always best tasting, so use any recipe that suits your taste or that you know works for you.
    as for sweets and whatnot – remember almost anything can be halaal…it’s mainly alcohol and pork that are prohibited outright, so make what you like – halal or even “Muslim” recipes can come from the world over, there are many of us originating from different parts, different cultures…
    I have some recipes here, but be open to anything.

    10. Chennette on May 15th, 2008 at 4:50 pm
  9. omg!!!! these hamburgers look so like, um awesome!

    schools out

    11. maryam on June 16th, 2008 at 6:34 pm

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Sleepy » Alton Says… on October 19, 2007 at 11:39 pm

    [...] When he got back here…his addictive personality shone through (you know, the one where he tries to stop us drinking coke by telling us it’s bad for us when it’s really because he’s an addict and has no self-control and doesn’t want it around; or where he and his wife watched Battlestar Galactica and loved it…but he knew it was *bad* and *addictive* so he broke the discs…!!!). He happened to watch the episode in which Alton Brown made burgers and decided we had to make it EXACTLY LIKE THAT. Anywayz, I don’t need to repeat all that tralala since Chennette blogged about it already. [...]

  2. [...] were all being planned and some executed. We knew we had to make pizza. And with my brother being a recent convert to the Alton Brown methodologies, we knew it was time to make pizza the Good Eats way. Lilandra had always wanted to try this, which [...]

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