Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Winter-Blues Burger

Seasonal affective disorder. I don’t have it, but sometimes it sure feels like I might. I should have written more often, so you have my apologies.
Here in New England we’ve accumulated quite a fair amount of snow, given the unusual amount of winter storms we’ve had in the past two months. Neither I, nor anyone I’ve spoken with can remember the last winter that was this bad. Pretty much every town in the state has exhausted its snow removal budget. Street corners are piled so high with filthy brown-black snow that you have to crawl at a snail’s pace to safely make it through traffic intersections, and even then you might get hit by some undiscerning driver going too fast to see around corners.
On top of it all, next week is the 5 month anniversary of my being unceremoniously laid off from work. After 5 months of looking and applying to a countless number of prospects I still haven’t got a job lead. I have quite uncomfortably, however, become the spitting image of a house wife. Something that I’m not too happy about, or enthusiastic to admit. There comes a certain amount of shame to being the man of the house, yet having my wife (God bless her) be the typical bread-winner, working full time. Once again, not an ideal relationship for either of us.
Not to make excuses for myself, but this is the cause of my mini-depression, which in turn has de-motivated me from writing. But rest assured, as the days get longer, and temperatures hopefully rise, I do feel more optimistic, and I want to get back on track. To start, I’ll be making the typical summer picnic treat to liven things up around here: hamburgers and potato salad! The problem is that my grill is outdoors. And the outdoors looks like this:

But that’s going to be alright, because if we play our cards right we can pan-sear our burgers and still get a taste of summer, even if our kitchen is 52 degrees … Fahrenheit.
We're also going to up the ante with a whole bunch of "umami" flavors.  You'll notice that I add what I call "powdered Porcini" to the meat.  All this is is a package of dried Porcini mushrooms, which pretty much every supermarket sells in their produce department.  Take the contents of the package to your coffee grinder, spice mill, blender, or whatever device you've got, to reduce it to a powder.  Store the 'shroom powder the same way you would any other spice or dried herb, and use it to flavor ground meats, stews, soups, sauces, coffee, ice cream, or whatever your heart desires.  
Of course you can top the burger with whatever you want, but I'll give you one of my favorite topping combos, so stay tuned for that!

1 1/3 lb. Ground Angus sirlion
1 Tbs powdered Porcini
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp garlic power
¼ tsp freshly ground grains of paradise, or pepper
2-3 Tbs bacon fat, or other cooking fat, such as oil or clarified butter
1 avocado
Grated (not shredded) Pecorino Romano, or parmigiano reggiano
Ketchup “spiked” with cumin powder and soy sauce
Bread or buns for each burger

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl mix together the first 7 ingredients.  I like to use my hands, but you could use a wooden spoon, or whatever you've got.  Just don't be too aggressive with it, because if you over-mix, it may become more of a paste than a burger.  If that's your preference, fine, but I don't like my burgers to have the same consistency as the Swedish Meatballs from a furniture stores' cafeteria.  Form 4 or 5 patties (depending on your preference) and let them rest for at least half an hour.  A full hour would be even better, if you really want the flavors of all those potent seasonings to infuse themselves with your meat.

While the meat is resting grate/grind the cheese.  You only need about a quarter cup for 1 "cheese chip" per burger, but I like to add a couple to each of my burgers, so I had about half a cup worth.  Line a cookie-sheet with a sil-pat or parchment paper and evenly space no more than six individual 1 Tbs heaps of the grated cheese.  Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until they look like this:

Slide the sil-pat or parchment paper off the hot pan and onto your counter to cool.  They will be soft at first, but after a few minutes they will crisp up nicely.  Unlike cheddar or american cheese, which must be liberally melted all over a burger in order to make a flavor impact, just one of these deliciously thin crispy chips turn the overall flavor of a hamburger up to 11.  I like to make a couple extra to nibble on while cooking the burgers.

Prep the other toppings:
Mix in 1 tsp cumin powder and 2 tsp soy sauce for every ¼ cup ketchup. Slice the avocado in half, discard the pit, and use a fork to mash up the flesh while in the skin still.  Spread a quarter of the avocado onto the bottom half of your bread or buns (assuming you're making 4 burgers; if you're making 5 burgers, use only a fifth of the avocado per bun). Discard the avocado skins.  Or save, and decorate your neighbors porch with them.  Be imaginative.

Preheat a heavy (cast iron is best) 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat on your stove. Should take 3-5 minutes. Add the fat. If you're using the bacon fat that you should be saving, like me, or using butter, let it melt down. Once the fat shimmers, twirl the pan to coat it thoroughly and drop in the burgers. Cook about 5 minutes per side for medium done-ness, 3 minutes per side for medium rare, or 7-8 minutes for well done.
Put the burger straight from the pan to the avocado-spread bun, and top with the umami ketchup, crispy cheese chip, and of course the top half of the bun.

          Enjoy along with your favorite potato salad recipe!  I haven't included one here because, to be honest, I haven't been able to make the perfect potato salad, yet.  Until then, I hope you like this, MY perfect hamburger recipe.
          Press “Comment” below and leave me your favorite potato salad recipe, or your favorite hamburger ever. Or better yet, do you have an escapist methods for forgetting that it's winter out there?

“Sacred cows make the best hamburger.”
- Mark Twain


  1. Mmmmmm... Now I sorta wish we were having this for dinner! Meh, who am I kidding, I love taco night. You should write about taco night next. ;)

    My aunt makes a great potato salad ... we should try her recipie.

    I really like your blog.

  2. anything with avocado wins in my book :)

  3. It's 8am here, and now I want a burger. Figures. Those Parm chip things on that burger sound droolworthy. And I just may take you up on the advice of decorating my neighbors porch with avo skins. Thanks for the laugh this morning :)

  4. Liz: I really like your blog, too.

    Amy: Thank you!

    Anonymous: Agreed! I'm --><-- this close to making avocado ice cream!

    Crysty: Thanks ... I just use my crappy little point and shoot camera, so I usually spend 20 minutes on each photo in Photoshop just to make them look not so bland.

    Kelly: You're welcome :D ... make sure to take pictures and share any "decorating" you do!

  5. My Grandma's Potato Salad :)

    5 lbs potatoes, boil whole and peel while hot.
    While warm, cut up potatoes and add 1 bottle Italian Salad Dressing, leave overnight.
    Add Mayo and Green Onions to taste.
    Add 6 chopped Hard Boiled Eggs

    Auntie M

  6. hey i do a blog hop on sundays called savory sundays and i would love it if you came over and shared one of your great recipes!!

  7. It's my day for a blog hop, I'd love it if you came over and shared one of your great recipes at savory sunday!! Have a great day :)

  8. Hey! Just wanted to let you know that I am giving you a blog award today! The post will be up in about an hour. Have a wonderful day! :)


    What is the meaning of calling on the name of the Lord? Many assume that believing in Jesus and saying a form of a sinner's prayer constitutes, calling on the name of the Lord. The problem with that theory is none of the conversions under the New Covenant support that assumption. Not one time is anyone ever told to believe and say the sinner's prayer in order to be saved.

    The apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost quoted the prophet Joel, Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." (NKJV)

    The apostle Peter preached the first gospel sermon under the New Covenant. Peter did not tell the 3000 converts to believe and say the sinner's prayer.

    Peter preached the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He preached Jesus as both Lord and Christ. When they heard this they asked Peter and the rest of the brethren what they should do?(Acts 2:22-37) Peter told them what to do. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.(NKJV)

    How did the 3000 on the Day of Pentecost call on the name of the Lord and become saved?
    1. They believed that Jesus was both Lord and Christ.
    2. They believed that God raised Jesus from the grave.
    3. They repented. Repentance is a change of heart. Repentance means to be converted so that God may forgive your sins. Repentance is to make the intellectual commitment to turn from sin and turn toward God. (Acts 3:19, Acts 2:38)
    4. They were immersed in water (baptized) so that their sins could be forgiven.

    How did the 3000 on the Day of Pentecost not call on the name of the Lord?
    1. They did not say a sinner's prayer.
    2. Not one person was asked to pray for forgiveness.
    3. Not one single man was told to be baptized as a testimony of his faith.
    4. No one was told that water baptism was a just an act of obedience.
    5. No one was informed they were saved the very minute they believed.
    6. Not one person was told that water baptism was not essential for the forgiveness of sins.
    7. Not one person was told to be baptized so they could join a denominational church.

    Jesus said he that believes and is baptized shall be saved. (Mark 16"16) Jesus did not say he who believes and says a sinner's prayer shall be saved.