Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Recipe: My favorite savory hamburger

I'm sure you're thinking to yourself, why in the world do we need yet ANOTHER burger recipe?  Because, people, even though it's a classic, there are always those out there looking to take it to the next level.  Here in LA, there are always chefs who are trying to become THE best burger in LA for either culinary ego or public relations reasons.  Lucky us!  My current favorite is the Umami burger.  Umami is a Japanese word meaning savory.  Generally, scientists note that the palate can detail four distinct tastes: salty, sweet, sour and bitter.  Umami burger tries to deliver a fifth taste: savory.

Unfortunately the restaurant serves it with cheese and a bun with a sweetish taste, so I came up with an Food Allergy Queen version of their burger reminiscent of that combination of flavors.  Luckily for us, a burger (without the bun) is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free and peanut-free. Yum!

The ingredients are simple, but it's really more about timing and technique than anything else -- beef loses its flavor the longer it's cooked.  The best pan for cooking burgers (when you can't grill outside on an open flame) in my opinion is cast iron...MUCH better than stainless steel.   You can heat it to become really hot, and it sears beautifully.  It even adds iron to the food you're cooking.  Even better, use a cast iron grill pan to add grilled flavor in the house!  (There's one listed on my Amazon favorites on my home page -- it's one of my secret weapons for easy and great cooking.  A plain chicken breast is never the same when made in this baby!)

Also, be sure not to cheat and use a leaner cut of ground beef.  The burger needs to cook in some fat to be juicy, and much of it will drain off after cooking.  

The FAQ Savory Burger
Makes four burgers

1 lb. ground beef, (85%, 15% fat)
1 Tablespoon finely diced onion, or 1 tsp. dried chopped onion, rehydrated
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground oregano
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Condiments: grilled onions and a sweet pickle or relish

1. Heat the cast iron pan over medium heat for 10 minutes until hot.  If using another type of frypan, the important thing is to get it hot throughout before adding the meat, but it won't take as long as 10 minutes :).
2. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly.
3. With medium firmness using your hands, form into four patties, flattened to the size of your palm.  (If you pack it together too tightly or it's too tall, then the burger will be tougher since it takes longer to cook.)
4. Cook for four minutes each side, (to 135 degrees for medium rare), then remove from heat.
5. Let the burgers sit for a minute or two to allow the juices to come back into the meat.
6. Serve with grilled onions and your favorite sweet pickle, chutney or other sweet relish.  (I pile them on way higher than in the picture, but it didn't photograph as well so I took them off.)
7. Obviously if you can have bread, serve on a bun!  :)

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