Today: When rethinking the perfect burger, it's what's inside that counts.
There are perfect burgers made of beef, salt, and pepper. This is not one of those burgers. And it takes not a little, but a lot more effort, if you commit to doing it right.
Oh, you're still here? Good, because this is probably going to be the best burger you've ever had.
We tend to think about doctoring up burgers from the outside -- with thick strips of bacon, obviously, or themed toppers. There are secret cult menus devoted to the many outfits a burger patty can wear. At most, when we consider the meat itself, we might think about shaking in some Worcestershire, or stuffing the middle with cheese.
But Suzanne Goin, the master of thoughtfully prepared, arrestingly flavorful food, takes perfect burger theory to another level -- by looking first within.
She starts with ground pork, and essentially lards it with minced bacon and fresh Mexican chorizo, as you would a roast. "I'm adding the bacon and chorizo to help the meat stay moist, but also to flavor it with all that delicious smoky spiciness," Goin told me.
Next, she gathers up her aromatics -- shallot, garlic, fresh thyme, cumin. But instead of mixing them straight into the meat, she sautés them together first -- sweetening, softening, and unleashing them. The parsley she leaves fresh. Each ingredient has its place.
Now, mix with your hands.
Grill them (or pan-fry them). Melt Manchego on top.
You could put this on a bun and call it a day -- or take these ideas and riff on them endlessly. Or you can commit to the full Goin Grilled Pork Burger Experience, which also involves a homemade aioli and romesco sauce. Both tack on more time, spent dishes, and probably a slow burn in your dominant shoulder area.
But all of these components can be made ahead -- in fact, the burgers taste better made a day in advance and aioli and romesco can be used and reused in other meals.
Don't be scared. Take it from Food52er EmilyC, who sent this recipe to me: "I've made them countless times," she says. "I count them among my favorite things to eat."
If you're feeling lazy or daunted, think of this: on top of the DIY burger, aioli, and romesco -- EmilyC has also made the brioche buns from scratch. "Halfway through the process I declared myself crazy -- but oh they were so, so good."
And I promised you the best burger you've ever had, right? That should be reason enough.
Suzanne Goin's Grilled Pork Burgers
From Sunday Suppers at Lucques (Knopf, 2005)
For the burgers:
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
1/2 cup diced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 chiles de arbol, thinly sliced on the bias
2 pounds ground pork
1/4 pound fresh Mexican chorizo, casing removed
3 ounces applewood-smoked bacon, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
6 slices Manchego cheese
6 brioche buns or other good burger buns
2 ounces arugula
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the aioli:
extra-large egg yolk
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic
1/4 lemon, for juicing
Pinch cayenne pepper
For the romesco:
2 tablespoons raw almonds
2 tablespoons blanched hazelnuts
1 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 slice country bread, about 1-inch thick
1/3 cup San Marzano canned tomatoes
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 lemon, for juicing
Photos by James Ransom