The Original Painted Doll was the name of a barbecue joint in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago back in my post-college years. They turned out some delicious ribs and such, but for me their piece de resistance was what they called a “Barbecue Burger.” It was huge – almost impossible to get your mouth around – and mysteriously delicious. We could never quite figure out what all was in it. But we knew it wasn’t all beef, if any. Years went by, the Original Painted Doll moved way south, too far to go for a burger, but the flavors have continued to haunt me. So a couple of years ago, I set out to recreate the burger. This is what I came up with. It comes pretty darn close, I must say. —ChefJune
4 large burgers
whole bay leaves
coarse sea salt
ground cayenne pepper
whole cumin seeds
freshly ground white pepper
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
finely chopped red onion
finely chopped celery
extra virgin olive oil
85% lean ground beef
Olive oil for the cooking pan
A couple of tablespoons of your best barbecue sauce
Break up the bay leaves into small pieces. Process them in a spice grinder until they are all ground up. Add the sea salt and cumin seeds and process until ground fine. Add all the peppers and the nutmeg and blend well in a shaker jar.
You will use two teaspoons of this mixture in your burgers.
Heat oven to 350 degrees, F.
Heat a small skillet and add the olive oil. Sauté the onion and celery until they are soft and fragrant. Remove from heat and cool.
Using your hands, mix the meat, vegetables and seasoning together. Divide the mixture into four patties. Actually, these will be more like balls – very thick!
Heat a cast iron skillet or other heavy sauté pan. When it’s very hot, put a dab of butter in the pan to keep the burgers from sticking. Sear the burgers well on both sides, then coat them with the barbecue sauce and put into the preheated oven to finish cooking through for about 12 minutes.
Allow the burgers to rest for about 8 minutes before serving on burger buns (homemade if you can). Serve with additional barbecue sauce.