My go to comfort food has always been cheeseburgers. That and ice cream. But since I try not to eat mass portions of cream and sugar, I will sacrifice ice cream for a cheeseburger. Here is the other crux, I don’t eat fast food either. What is a girl to do?
I hate giving my money to heartless corporations that are just pushing out substandard products masked as food. These places are not as good as they pretend to be. It isn’t cheaper, and certainly it isn’t healthy. The environmental impact on beef production is bad enough without it being complicated with the corporate touch. Excessive packaging has to go somewhere, often still, in this day and age, out the car window on the highway. Sad face.
Recently my roommate and I had that calling for cheeseburgers, and we were trying to decide where to go. I knew that even a value menu meant we were in for spending at least 17 bucks. I said “You know, I can make us burgers instead.”
We ended up at a local store where I got the essentials:
- one lb of ground meat
- two kinds of cheese (gorgonzola and swiss)
- just ripe on the vine tomatoes
- one pound of tiny sweet Hungarian peppers
- one pound of pepper bacon
- a jar of little baby dill pickles (gherkins)
The total grocery bill came to 20 bucks, so let’s keep that in mind. There is only two of us in our flat. So the quantities purchased would stretch for more than the two cheeseburgers. Some items would carry onto second and third meals, such as the cheeses, bacon, peppers, and a small portion of meat. Of course, I have many basic items that I didn’t get that day, like onions, mushrooms, breadcrumbs, and of course everything I need to make the buns. I have figured that it takes $1.75 to make one epic stuffed cheese burger with stuffed peppers.
Stuffing burgers is an art form. Anyone who has hand pattied hamburgers knows that there are many chances of the patty splitting open. Which is fine for any ol’ burger. It’s the last thing you want when stuffing the patty full of bacon and gorgonzola.
To get the right compactness, size and shape with the end result requires a soft hand and some minor sculpting skills. I make each patty on its’ own plate. This allows access to all sides and lets me to fuss over how it is shaped. Each patty takes about 5 ounces of meat, this includes the “lid.” I carefully form a shallow bowl with the meat. It looks more like a cake pan than a bowl when it is ready for the fillings. I make sure the edges aren’t too thin, and tall enough to seal the lid in place. Yet not so tall that I end up with a huge meat wad. I season the patty before I stuff it on the inside.
Stuffing the patty. I like to use lardons, or crumbled bacon and crumbled gorgonzola. Cheese is always a fantastic option to stuff a burger with, you can use any kind. Although, goat cheese isn’t so tasty in beef burgers, it might be better in a lamb burger. I like to use beef, call me old fashioned, but we are talking about cheese burgers here. I usually get 85% lean, not a lot of shrinkage, and still juicy.
Sealing the lid on is a vital step. If there are any holes or spots that get overlooked, all the yummy cheese melts out of the patty. Another reason I form my patties on their own small plates, so I can spin it around making sure all parts of the lid are connected. I gently pinch and patt at it until it has s smooth top and sides all the way around. Then I press a shallow dimple in the center with my thumb . I read in a cooking magazine years and years ago that pressing a dimple in the center of a patty keeps it from splitting. I think it is more of a superstitious ritual than anything else, because when I forget, the patty turns out fine too.
Like all meat, a burger needs a good sear to be really tasty. I cook them in a cast iron skillet on a medium high heat. The pan gets preheated with some clarified butter. Why add butter? This keeps the lean meat from sticking to the smoking hot surface of cast iron, plus adds a level of flavor. A win-win if you ask me. I like little pink, if any in my burgers, I like them just past medium well. I have to emphasize just past. Well done burgers tend to be too dry and chewy.
Of course, once it is cooked to perfection, like all good pieces of meat, the patty needs to rest. A great time to set up the buns, and condiments. Sides, buns and condiments, hmm, that is a whole different blog! I do make my own condiments, and strive to make my own garnishes this year. A fresh batch of mayonnaise under thinly sliced swiss cheese, tomatoes, and pickles, plus grilled onions and mushrooms. on my fresh baked burger buns. Far superior to any fast food place, at a fraction of the cost.