Table for One

This Is the Best Sauce for Any Burger

Mix, slather, repeat.

by:
July  5, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.

Table for One is a column by Senior Editor Eric Kim, who loves cooking for himself—and only himself—and seeks to celebrate the beauty of solitude in its many forms.


On nights when I feel like cooking, dinner is a measured, solo dance: a piece of grilled fish or meat, maybe a colossal salad in the summer, a slow-cooked stew in the fall. And though I do think it's important that we should eat what's around, what's in season, I also think it's important—more important, even—to cook according to personal context.

There are certain things you tend only to eat in private, for instance. For me, it’s blue cheese, the black sheep of cheeses, the one food I indulge in alone but would never serve to guests, mostly because so many people (without good reason, in my opinion) are prejudiced against the stuff.

Blue cheese is, like most stronger flavors, an acquired taste. I suppose this is why I save it for myself: It’s a stolen treat for me, and me alone. Usually, I go for a funky Gorgonzola naturale. Its cousin Gorgonzola dolce is a little milder, creamier, sweeter (as its name implies). But I love the bite of the natural stuff and find a use for it in my cooking any chance I get.

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Top Comment:
“Blue cheese burger has been my favorite many years, first enjoyed at the airport in Nashville. It was served open faced on an English muffin with a big, thick slice of perfectly ripened tomato on top. I’ve tried many times to duplicate the blue cheese sauce. I think this just may do it and better. Also love the burger for one. That’s a definite.”
— Cody
Comment

Because it's summer and grilling's on my mind, my favorite way to eat blue cheese right now is in a burger. But not just crumbled on top—mixed into a fragrant rosemary-scented mayonnaise. This is the absolute best sauce for any burger (at least in my humble opinion). I make a batch and keep a jar in my fridge at all times.


How to Make The Best Burger Sauce

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 ounces strong blue cheese, such as a Gorgonzola naturale, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk all of the ingredients together—that's it! It's important for the blue cheese to be truly at room temperature, which makes it easier to mix into the mayo.

Blue cheese, rosemary, and a little red wine vinegar make mayonnaise sing. Photo by Bobbi Lin. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.

And then it's ready to be smeared all over a perfectly portioned burger for one. I like to use a quarter pound of ground beef brisket, because I like the flavor—but you can use whatever kind of meat is available to you.

Next, I add a couple of spices. Burger purists will hate that I spice my meat with cumin and cinnamon, but it’s the way I’ve done it for years. The cumin lends a grassy muskiness; the cinnamon adds sweetness. Between the juicy spiced patty and the blue cheese–laden bun, I tuck in a small handful of arugula as well, because I love its bitterness.

Blue cheese is, like most stronger flavors, an acquired taste. I suppose this is why I save it for myself: It’s a stolen treat for me, and me alone.

Fresh rosemary and a grating of raw onion (a trick I learned from James Beard) add further savoriness to the meat. What you end up with is a burger that tastes a little more sophisticated than the average backyard cookout specimen (not that there's anything wrong with that; I adore it equally). But when I'm home alone and it's just me for dinner, I like to tinker a little and assemble this burger for myself.

The whole thing tastes great with French fries, potato chips, or a side salad with whatever I have on hand.

What's your favorite sauce to put on a burger? Let us know in the comments below.

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Eric Kim is the Senior Editor and Table for One columnist at Food52. Formerly the Digital Manager at Food Network, he writes about food, travel, and culture and lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway. You can follow him on Twitter @ericjoonho.

51 Comments

Eric July 13, 2019
Eric Kim may be my favorite food writer ever. Anthony Bourdain's use of the English language to inform and entertain us regarding food may be unmatched. But I randomly discovered Mr. Kim a week ago and I feel I’ve read everything he’s written. This recipe sounds amazing to me. Cumin and cinnamon with red meat is phenomenal. And I’d eat a funky Gorgonzola on a blueberry muffin I love it so much. This is a must try.
 
Eric July 13, 2019
Just to be clear and not offered anyone, I didn’t mean to imply Bourdain was a better food writer. The reference was meant to be a compliment. (I couldn’t find a way to update my original comment.)
 
Brad R. July 12, 2019
How long does a batch last is a good question. Any answer ?
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 12, 2019
Hey Brad! A solid 2 weeks in the fridge, I'd say. Blue cheese itself lasts 3 to 4 weeks, so it's up to you. Mine never lasts that long, especially when French fries are around :)
 
Brad R. July 12, 2019
Thanks.
 
Carolyn July 11, 2019
I gotta say, this sounds wow.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 12, 2019
It's totally wow.
 
Jan H. July 11, 2019
It is not very often that my mouth starts watering just reading an article but you have done it to me! I was trying to figure out what to fix for supper and you have solved that dilemma for me. I just happen to have some some gorgonzola in the fridge begging to eaten. I am not a big fan of rosemary so I have not decided whether to include that or not but your sauce sounds wonderful. I always put cumin on almost all my meat (I grew up on Tex-Mex and Cajun food) but have never been adventurous enough to try cinnamon. I couldn't remember where I came up with using grated onion in my burgers so thank you for the refresher.

Looks like I will be eating alone tonight since bleu cheese is definitely an acquired taste that nobody else in my family has acquired. My mother was Czechoslovakian and had us eating all kinds of cheeses from the time we were kids but bleu cheese is about as exotic as I get with cheese, not like my mom who I remember having camembert on rye toast for breakfast and some Czech cheese that stunk so bad that she would eat with pickled herring and I would have to leave the room because of the smell. Thank you for reminding me of my mom's crazy European eating habits, hadn't thought about that in years!
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 12, 2019
I love this story so much, Jan. Your mom had good taste.
 
Janet M. July 15, 2019
I lived more than a few years in the Middle East, where both cinnamon and cumin are often used to flavor meat, usually beef or lamb. You'll find those two spices in many Greek and Greek inspired dishes, too, including good old Cincinnati Chili. I hadn't thought about adding cinnamon to a burger, although I do add it to ground meat for pastitsio and moussaka--I certainly use plenty of cumin in our family favorites. I'm ready to give it a try!
 
Alexandra H. July 11, 2019
Busy Night Tip: I use a supermarket blue cheese (or a fabulous gorgonola, if I have it) and microwave it in 10 second increments until Cheese about half is melted. Remove from microwave, and continue to stir together until melt-y, but not soupy. Then, add LOTS of chopped scallion rounds (greens and whites), or even garden chives, plus a few grinds of black pepper. It takes only about four minutes, and it is fabulous on a burger!!
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 12, 2019
Love that tip!
 
KOA July 11, 2019
Sounds great (minus the blue cheese!!). Aack!
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 12, 2019
Totally get it. Maybe try replacing it w/ the alternatives I suggest below to nancy?
 
Elaine J. July 11, 2019
Sounds fantastic! How long do you find a batch will keep in the fridge?
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 12, 2019
1-2 weeks!
 
Jana July 10, 2019
I love, adore and worship cheese. I love anything with a "bite" to it. Goat cheese is my most favorite followed by Blue or Bleu. If you want a lovely, strong but delicious goat cheese you have to try Humboldt Fog by Cypress Cheese. It is THE best goat cheese I've ever eaten. It's very strong however, and not loved by all. I can't even get it anymore unless I head up the hill to buy a tiny sliver at an overpriced store. It's common in Arcata, California, which is where I was when I was given a whole small round of it. Love at first taste!! I don't eat mammals, but I can make a mean turkey burger from our local turkey growers, Deistel Turkey. Another must try Eric!! I think they ship nationwide now. https://www.yelp.com/biz/diestel-family-turkey-ranch-sonora
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 12, 2019
Mm, delicious. Thanks for the rec, friend!
 
Adrienne B. July 10, 2019
I love blue cheese and so does my child. When he was a baby, about 4 months old, I had a piece of it in my hand, he grabbed it, popped it in his mouth, smiled and wanted more. Some things he loved when he was a child, he grew to dislike, but not blue cheese.

I usually buy Danish blue cheese since it seems to be pretty consistent taste-wise, but even so, you do get the occasional extra harsh or sometimes tasteless. I found that by putting a few drops of Angostura Bitters in my dressing, it gives it that little punch to smooth out harsh ones and enhance tasteless ones. Angostura Bitters were my mother's secret weapon.
 
Sharon July 11, 2019
Angostura Bitters in the dressing? Has some of the same umami top notes as the Worcestershire - minus the anchovies. Hmmm.....maybe a dash or two of each? Gonna try that! Thanks!
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 12, 2019
So much genius here.
 
Nancy July 10, 2019
Alas, I'm allergic to anything Blue-Cheese (and to its cousin, penicillin). Even knowing it defeats the whole concept behind this recipe, I must ask; would you have any suggestions for an alternate "take"? Sigh. The Blue Cheese Blues.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 10, 2019
Nancy, I’m sorry for your Blue Cheese Blues. What an ailment! You know, even though blue cheese is a main ingredient in this burger sauce, there’s rosemary, red wine vinegar, and garlic powder which all flavor it as well. I wonder if replacing the Gorgonzola with umami-rich ingredients like nutritional yeast, miso, and even anchovies would work?
 
Nancy July 10, 2019
Excellent suggestion. My brain was focused on cheese, but I think I'll try the miso first and move forward from there. Thank you!
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 12, 2019
Let me know how it goes?
 
Janet M. July 15, 2019
Allergic to penicillin, too, but can handle bleu cheeses just fine--I've even converted my husband and half of my brood to fandom
 
Sharon July 9, 2019
You know Eric, folks really do have to shop and taste around to find the bleu cheese brand that suits them. I have found that that cheese, more than others, runs the gamut from strong, dark & bitter to sweetish and creamy. It seems no two are alike. Even being a bleu lover, I was nearly turned off to it when I purchased some wedges that were so bitter and stinky that I couldn't enjoy them. Since I am loathe to throw ANY food away, I finally made good use of them in bleu cheese dressings, where their negative qualities were pleasantly muted. And I never will forget the time a guest brought a very high-priced, strong and smelly goats milk bleu to a dinner party. After the first bite, no one touched it. It's worth it to shop around. If you find the right brand you could become a bleu cheese fan.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 9, 2019
Sharon, thank you so much for this comment. Needed to be said. Couldn’t agree with you more; like wine, blue cheese really is a matter of taste.
 
Jaye B. July 12, 2019
Sharon - You are right! I love bleu cheese but have had several I didn't like for one reason or another. One that I used to always include on a cheese board was Saga, a creamy blue that everyone liked as it was the first to disappear. I haven't seen it in stores in the years since I moved West.
 
Sharon July 13, 2019
Jaye - Yes, I remember Saga! A lovely soft, Danish bleu that was once readily available, but seemed to just drop off the map.. Can't even remember the last time I saw it. But then, that was pre- Trader Joe's and their wide varieties, and the emergence of a multitude of craft creameries and cheesemongers. I just Googled Saga and it's still very much in production. My guess is that with so many brands jockeying for shelf space these days, somebody had to lose out. Thanks for reminding me. I'll keep my eye out for it.
 
Jaye B. July 13, 2019
I agree there's a "foodie frenzy" inside grocery stores which has bumped some very good old standards. Come back and let us know if you see Saga anywhere. I wouldn't want to mail order it.
 
Eban July 7, 2019
What I think puts you just about 90% their instead of blue cheese dressing, I use creamy blue= Cambozola. Smooth, quick, and balanced.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 7, 2019
Delicious.
 
Kate K. July 7, 2019
Just a quick note: At the cheese shop I work at, we sell Gorgonzola piccante and Gorgonzola dolce. Both are natural by normal definitions, as far I understand it? (I love this column concept and how thoughtful your writing is!)
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 7, 2019
Interesting. I'd love to know more (any blue cheese experts in the peanut gallery?). Just read this: "Gorgonzola Piccante was formerly known as Gorgonzola Naturale or Stagionato." ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

https://culturecheesemag.com/cheese-library/Gorgonzola-Piccante-Mountain
 
Shane L. July 6, 2019
Yes! Gorgonzola is one of my all time favorite cheeses. I am definitely going to try this recipe, and as a bonus, It'll be another use for the copious amounts of rosemary that grow in my front yard.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 6, 2019
Lucky you! I have to buy it in those overpriced plastic containers only to watch it go bad in a week or two. This recipe is a good use for that, indeed.
 
Jana July 10, 2019
Eric,
You can chop it up and freeze in it oil cubes in an ice cube tray. I've done it with basil and oregano, both which I grow in perfusion. You chop the herb, mix into olive oil then pour into the ice cube trays. When frozen, pop them out and put into plastic bags to reuse the tray. Easy Peasy. Even if you don't want the oil in the recipe, just defrost what you need and rinse!
There are myriads of ways to preserve it. Look online!
 
Jane D. July 11, 2019
don't let it go bad! put it in a paper bag, close it up and put it in a warm, dry place!
let it dry out, remove the stems and put the little dried leaves into a jar with a tight lid. now you don't need to buy expensive jars of dried rosemary!
you can even save the stems... rehydrate them and put them in the coals of your grill...
steak cooked over rosemary smoke is*divine*! as is chicken!
 
Lisa July 15, 2019
and rosemary salt is another good use for extra rosemary. dry it, pulverize with your favorite kosher (or flaky sea) salt and use where you'd use rosemary
 
JD July 5, 2019
I love blue cheese and share it with guests or family. If they don’t like blue cheese, I only know of one person, I have other options. But Gorgonzola is not blu
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 5, 2019
How do you mean? Gorgonzola is a type of Italian blue cheese. Unless you’re referring to “bleu”
 
JD July 6, 2019
My comment posted before I was done. I was going to say that there are different types of blue cheese. Gorgonzola is from Italy. Then there is Roquefort from France etc.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 6, 2019
Ah, I see. I love a nice English Stilton, too.
 
JD July 7, 2019
Yes me too!
 
Cody July 5, 2019
Blue cheese burger has been my favorite many years, first enjoyed at the airport in Nashville. It was served open faced on an English muffin with a big, thick slice of perfectly ripened tomato on top. I’ve tried many times to duplicate the blue cheese sauce. I think this just may do it and better. Also love the burger for one. That’s a definite.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 5, 2019
That sounds divine. A good tomato can really make a burger.
 
David July 5, 2019
Now every burger is a rib eye! Tell us if the perfect one-portion fries...
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 5, 2019
Hi David, I’ll admit right now that my “one-portion fries” are usually just leftover takeout or from the freezer aisle. I do, however, make these comparable roasted potatoes when I want “French fries” without the oil: https://food52.com/recipes/78311-filet-mignon-with-perfect-roasted-potatoes
 
CameronM5 July 5, 2019
Blue cheese is The Godfather of cheeses. 🧀 I will try this immediately. 🤗
 
Author Comment
Eric K. July 5, 2019
Kindred spirits.