Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stuffed burgers

Burger King's new "stuffed" burger
This week, Burger King announced its first "stuffed" hamburger, filled with bits of jalapeño pepper and cheddar cheese. It's about $4 and is available at participating restaurants nationwide through mid-February.

My dad, however, was the king of the stuffed burger back in the 1960s, long before I'd even heard of Burger King. I always felt burger joints were cheating by just putting a slice of wimpy American cheese on top.

Here's how he did it:

First, he mixed up his hamburger, using ground chuck, salt and pepper, and finely chopped fresh onion. If he had to stretch the meat to feed a guest or two, he'd throw in a cup of breadcrumbs. He then patted out about a golfball-size piece of hamburger on a wax-paper-lined cookie sheet until it was about 1/8th inch thick. He made twice as many as there were people to feed. When the cookie sheet was full, it went into the fridge, as did the next one. While the meat was firming up a bit, he'd slice the Cracker Barrel sharp cheddar thinly. When the grill was ready, he'd put cheese on half the thin burgers, then top them with another thin burger and pinch them all around before putting them on the grill. When they were toasty on the outside, he'd pull them off the grill, put them on a toasted bun and serve them with mustard, mayo, ripe tomato slices and crisp iceberg lettuce. One bite and we were in heaven; the crusty outer meat had a juicy interior, with melted cheese oozing all around.

When I grew up, my creations got a bit more gourmet: I liked to use blue cheese, or Colby jack and jalapeño, or capers and goat cheese. But I always used the same technique; it still makes the best burgers I've ever tasted.

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