Further Dispatches from the Burger Front

I’m at war with myself.

In the past, I’ve made some great burgers — burgers that have won praises, burgers that have pushed the boundaries of the possible… burgers that have brought grown men to tears.


And yet, still, I am not satisfied.

There is always a better burger out there. And in here (pointing to my heart). I have but to find it, or to draw it out from within.

I’d been craving a burger for awhile. And inspiration converged with possibility at the Sprouts market, where I spied a package of beautiful soft pretzel buns on sale!

I picked up some prime natural ground beef at the Japanese market (the Japanese are off the charts with their beef) for my pretzel buns. The appointed evening came, and I sat down to begin plotting my approach.

The pretzel buns suggested something almost German, and my mind drifted toward the salty sour pickly food group. I would thinly slice some dill pickle. This I would pair with sweet delicious raw Hawaiian onion and some slices of pickled jalapeño. Arugula would provide a tart green note, and a caramelly bacon/onion/ketchup relish would blast the palate with sweetness and porkiness. A hot honey mustard would add depth. Finally, I would mayo the buns and grill them quickly on the mayo’d side, crisping the sliced bread surface slightly and adding a little char, but leaving the bun soft and warm.

For this particular burger, I would forgo cheese. (*Although I will admit to making a similar burger some weeks later, and adding some Maytag blue cheese, as well as making my caramelized onion mixture with crunchy pickled cocktail onions and using pure Northwest Wagyu ground beef  — always tweaking, always searching…)

On the side, some big organic russet potato fries, blanched in hot water and the mash-fried in duck fat and grapeseed oil, sprinkled with Italian truffle salt. To drink? What else — a Sierra Nevada Summerfest ale. Although I will admit, I had flirted with some sort of wonderful cocktail, still glowing from a delicious mezcal drink called “Smoke on the Water” I had on a seaside patio in Malibu recently…

Voila! The next great victory in my ongoing battle with myself! This would prove the greatest burger yet. Until, that is, next time.

(I’m making burgers again tonight as I write this. Last night I prepared Greek food, and forgot to serve the garlicky, yogurty tzaziki I made. Now I’m wondering how that would be drizzled over the top of a burger, perhaps on lamb patties with some salty fried Cypriot cheese??…)

*    *    *

Salty Sour Pickly Porky Burger
serves 4

2 lbs. (or slightly less) top-quality organic or grass feed ground beef
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 pretzel buns
2 large dill pickles, thinly sliced
4 tbsp. picked, sliced jalapeño
1/2 cup bacon onion marmalade
1 small sweet Hawaiian onion, thinly sliced
1 + 1/2 cup arugula
4 tbsp. hot honey mustard
4 tbsp. mayonnaise

Make your bacon onion marmalade beforehand.

Pat meat tightly into 1/3 to 1/2 pound burgers, sprinkle with salt and pepper, plate and place in fridge.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high until it smokes slightly. Add burgers and cook about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Do not press down on burger with your spatula. Cook until done to your liking and remove.

Brush the buns top and bottom with the mayonnaise. In the same pan while still hot, toast on the mayo side until golden. Remove.

Compose your burgers. Place a burger on each bun, followed by a tablespoon of bacon onion marmalade. Top with onions, pickles and jalapeños, then arugula. Spread some mustard on the top bun and finish your burger. Serve with a chilled ale and mash-fried potatoes (below).

*   *   *

Mash-fried duck fat potatoes 
serves 4

2 large russet potatoes, washed and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick batons
2 tbps. grapeseed or canola oil
1 tbsp. duck or goose fat
garlic powder
Old Bay seasoning
freshly ground pepper

After you’ve cut the potatoes into long batons, parboil them in boiling salted water for about 5 minutes. Drain carefully, being mindful not to break batons (it’s okay if some do break).

Heat oil and duck fat in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Place potato batons in oil and cook, carefully moving around with a spatula, for five minutes or until they begin to turn golden. Press down gently as you cook to mash the potatoes slightly.

Reduce heat to medium low and continue cooking, again moving, flipping and mashing the potatoes every so often, for about 20 minutes, until golden on all sides and beginning to crisp up and brown slightly. Sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, Old Bay and pepper and remove to plates.

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. giorge thomas
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 01:07:46

    You’ve made me want a burger!


  2. linnetmoss
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 01:19:24

    Good heavens. Now, what’s your best veggie burger? I am really intrigued by the pretzel buns. Were they as good as expected?
    Also, tzaziki is really good on a chickpea burger with red onion.


  3. Benjamin Thompson
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 02:07:24

    Lamb burger with tzaziki, yes sir, yes sir, three bags full. Done it many times.

    My “fancy theme” burger is ground chuck, thyme, salt, and pepper on a toasted English muffin with caramelized onions, Chateau Affinoix Brie, and (GULP) a little mayonnaise which is practically gilding the Lilly after the triple-cream brie.

    My normal burger is again, ground chuck, salt and pepper on the outside only. Hard sear or char, medium rare, sharp cheddar, green olives OR dill pickles, and again mayonnaise. Simply but oh so satisfying, and I feel it really let’s the beef flavor shine through. And during perfect tomato season, a thick slice of perfectly ripe tomato.

    I also love the pretzel bun despite the fact that it has gone viral. And most sacrilegious, I’ve abandoned bacon with the burger. Interferes with the beefy notes too much for me.

    Keep it simple, sir. It sounds like your search for the perfect burger is more torturing your soul then leading it to the nirvana that you seek. 😉


    • scolgin
      Nov 05, 2013 @ 02:54:22

      The pathway to burger nirvana is, itself, bliss.

      You’ve mentioned that brie-english muffin concoction before, and I’ve knelt in praise.

      I did get simple last night, though — at least, it was fancy simple. I dressed up the concept of my favorite fast food burger, the In & Out Double Double with extra grilled onions: pretzel buns, once again (you’re right they’ve gone super viral… just a rung below brioche), homemade thousand island with dill pickles, my bacon onion marmalade with a heavy dose of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, sliced tomato and baby greens, and a slice of American cheese gooeying it all together. Pretty stellar.


  4. Jessamine in PDX
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 06:28:25

    I love a well executed burger and from the bun to the beef to the toppings this looks amazing. Want!


  5. russianmartini
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 14:27:00

    yes, please!! I need to post my lamb/beef lyulya kebab recipe – you would like it. Goes great with tzatziki sauce, although the traditional way to eat it is with sumac, cilantro, and onion.


  6. Michelle
    Nov 06, 2013 @ 02:31:36

    It’s good to have goals. 🙂


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