The Hamburger: New Ways of Looking at an Old Favorite
An American Staple
A hamburger is a hamburger, right? Slap a patty on a bun beside an order of French fries, and voila, the all-American meal.
But more than a few people might not see it this way, starting with the CEOs of McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s. Each of these fast-food chains specializes in hamburgers with a unique spin. McDonald’s sells the Big Mac with special sauce, sesame seed bun, etc., while Burger King is “home of the whopper.” Wendy’s offers the Single, which is perhaps the quintessential burger with lettuce, tomato, cheese, ketchup, and mustard. So many options make it hard to choose which is best…
The restaurant industry proves that we can put our own touches on the hamburger. Foodies across America enjoy this tried and true food, so it’s only fair that we put a little thought into how it can be improved. Before any of you assume the attitude “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” consider this: The burger doesn’t need to be altered, but its pleasure factor could certainly increase after all the years of casual grilling and repetitive condiments.
One of the easiest and most sophisticated ways to rev up a burger is to wrap it around another food item. Place a half-sized portion of string cheese in the middle of a patty and cook to your liking for rich flavor. Form the patty around a spoonful of guacamole for California flare, or add heat by putting a sliced jalapeno pepper in the middle.
For slightly less punch, mix a pinch of your favorite herb – basil or parsley works well – into unsalted butter and use a dollop of that for the surprise center. As it melts, the butter will keep the burger juicy and also infuse tender flavor.
A hamburger isn’t complete until the toppings are in place, and you should feel free to use your imagination here as well. Forego the traditional slice of onion and add a fried egg to your next burger. Or sauté thinly-sliced potatoes in extra virgin olive oil and use a few of those for toppings. Raw cucumber, sautéed mushrooms, bean sprouts, banana peppers, black olives, pepperoni, and basil pesto also pair nicely with beef. If you’re looking to really add fresh flavor, fix a hamburger with crab meat on top – you’ll get the best that land and sea both have to offer.
Another option is to think outside of the traditional beef patty. Turkey burgers have already begun to creep onto restaurant menus and into household kitchens, but you can take it one step further with a pork burger. Season ground pork with salt and pepper, and grill it just as you would a hamburger, although you’ll want to avoid rare and medium-rare temperatures with this meat. Top with sliced pineapple and spicy mayonnaise for a cool-and-hot approach.
Try a chicken burger that’s fried on the stove top and then simmered in tomato sauce with a splash of beer. Once the patty has absorbed these flavors, place it on a multi-grain bun and top with a spoonful of the tomato sauce.
If neither pork nor chicken strikes your fancy, return to beef with a meatloaf burger. Prepare the meat as you normally would for this dish, using breadcrumbs and an egg, but form it into patties instead of a loaf. Cook the patties on the stovetop or grill and top with ketchup.
Remember that hamburgers don’t have to be eaten in “traditional” ways. These sandwiches are so versatile you can do almost anything with them. You might even say each of us can have our burger our way.