Cheeseburger is paradise.
Heaven on earth with an onion slice.
Not too particular, not too precise.
I’m just a cheeseburger in paradise.
-from Jimmy Buffett’s Cheeseburger in Paradise
A cheeseburger may not be everyone’s idea of a perfect food, like a banana, or an egg, or spirulina, but it is certainly one of mine. (Spirulina is lake algae, and healthy as it is, you probably wouldn’t love it. At least not the way you would love, oh… a cheeseburger!) Today is National Cheeseburger Day, and there isn’t anything more deeply soul satisfying than a really good cheeseburger.
Sometimes you just MUST have a burger. My personal favorite, if I’m not making it myself, is the Shake Shack burger, which reminds me a lot of the burgers I used to make as a teenager at the snack bar of the local golf course: thick, high-quality beef, real American cheese, chopped onions and a fluffy egg bread bun. Everything else after that is simply personalization. Cheddar vs. American, dill pickles or sweet relish? Bacon? No matter how you like it, the one thing that has to be good is the beef itself. The cut of meat is everything; it can’t be too fat or too lean. Like Goldilocks’ porridge, it has to be just right. If you want your burgers to stand out, it’s worth the effort to have the butcher in your grocery store grind several cuts of beef together to get the best-tasting burger. You can do it yourself if you have a meat grinder; I don’ t have one, and I’m not getting one because I can’t shake the vision of one or more of my digits getting stuck in there with the beef. Maybe I’ve seen too many horror flicks.
This burger recipe is adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home cookbook. If you only buy two cookbooks a year, this should be one of them. Keller has put together the best comfort food recipes in one volume, and every recipe I’ve tried is just right. For his burger, he blends several cuts of beef: sirloin, chuck and brisket, to get the right ratio of fat to protein for the hamburger patty. It’s worth the extra effort.
Prep time: 15 minutes
- 1 pound beef sirloin
- 1/2 pound beef brisket
- 1/2 pound beef chuck
- salt and pepper to taste
- American cheese – 4 thick slices
- 4 Brioche buns
- 1 large beefsteak tomato
- 8 green leaf lettuce leaves
- 1 large white onion
- Ask your butcher, or the meat department at the grocery store to grind alternating pieces of the sirloin, brisket and beef chuck.
- If you want to do this yourself, cut meat into 1-inch pieces and grind alternating cuts of meat.
- Add salt and pepper.
- Form meat into 1-inch thick patties, but do not overwork the meat.
- Cook over medium high heat for at least two minutes on each side, or meat will stick to grill.
- Grill for another few minutes.
- If you like a medium rare burger, put cheese on burger while it’s rare plus, allowing a minute for the cheese to melt.
- Lightly toast the insides of the bun on the grill, to give a crunchy base and top for the burger.
- When building the burger, put the lettuce on the bottom of the burger first, to keep the juices from the meat from soaking the bottom bun.
- Then pile on the burger, tomato and rings of onions, before topping with other condiments.