Monday, April 12, 2010

Slightly Less Ghetto Experiments in Burger Making

My roommate, The Quaker, purchased a ridiculously cheap Cuisinart at Bloomingdale's on Friday. If you've read My Hamburger Philosophy, you will not be shocked to know that by Saturday afternoon I had returned from the grocery with some top chuck steak, sirloin and short ribs. Also Martin's Potato Rolls were absolutely necessary (slider size for more experimentation).

A quick digression. I'm not much of a baker, especially because I really don't like to measure ingredients, preferring instead to cook by feel. We can debate the merits of this approach all day, but we can hopefully agree that this doesn't work quite so well with baking (which is why Michael Ruhlman's Ratio is amazing). I still don't have an electric scale to put Ratio to its intent, a pathetic omission that I must soon end.

This is all just to say that despite reading J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's hugely informative post from A Hamburger Today, I did not intend to approach this very scientifically. I did know 3 basic things: (1) cut the meat into 1-inch cubes, then chill them in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, (2) keep the grind thick, and (3) handle the ground meat as little as possible.

So I put each type of cubed meat in the Cuisinart individually and ended up with three, roughly equal piles of ground beef. The ruby-red ground short ribs looked particularly nice-- I had left on much of the fat-cap to balance out the leanness of the sirloin-- and shards of pale white fat were flecked throughout.

Since the amount of each cut was so similar, I figured that I might as well mix it all together and see what happened. I first used my hands, then a fork to try to mix up the meat. It was clearly not getting the job done, but I pulled off two sliders and cooked them per my usual method. The results had potential, loose, juicy and beefy, but clearly needing to more homogeneity. Since I had purposely ground the meat thick (much better than overgrinding it into a paste), we decided to throw everything back in and pulse the Cuisinart a few times.

Much better. Though the meat was worked slightly more than I would have liked, the sliders were excellent, bursting with flavor and juiciness from the short ribs. I also made some caramelized onions and a special sauce modeled on Shake Shack's, but spicier (obviously), with brown mustard, mayo, smoked paprika, sriracha and ground red chile. Oh yeah, and topped them with American cheese, you're kidding right?

So now I've learned that I should grind the chuck, sirloin and short ribs together in the first instance. This should have been obvious (and kind of was), but I still hadn't determined what combination of meat I was going to use. Next time, I want to add some brisket or oxtail to make it even more interesting, but I'm open to any other suggestions. Either way, there are more ghetto experiments in burger making to come.

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