Not Just Any Burger and Fries

Classic Burger

Whether I’m stranded on a desert island, or requesting my last meal on death row –whatever the hypothetical, a burger and fries is always my answer. Sure, it’s overrated. Sure, it may not be considered super food, but this is what food fantasies are made of. Yes, this American icon tops my list of perfect comfort food.

Its origins are unclear, but mounting evidence suggests its roots are from Germany. Likely created in the U.S. by a German immigrant from the city of Hamburg. But we’ll probably never know for sure.

At the turn of the 20th century, this hot sandwich made its appearances on menus of diners around the United States. White Castle restaurants were the first to successfully franchise and mass-produce the popular item during the 1920’s, in the form of a 2.5 inch slider. McDonald’s appeared on the scene in 1940 with their hamburgers, though their fast food (or Speedee Service System) didn’t come into effect until 1948 and popularized in 1955 by frachise founder, Ray Kroc.

It was these pioneers that shaped and revolutionized the hamburger we know today, but we’re not talking about fast food. We’re talking about a sandwich of epic proportions, each element masterfully executed with attention to detail. From the bun, to the patty, and each garnish used to orchestrate this harmonious composition. This featured Bacon Cheeseburger requires some time and effort, but with an end result worthy of every second.

We start with a soft buttery bun. Eggs, butter, and milk give this hybrid brioche a rich silky texture. Not for the faint of heart. The right blend of yeast, sugar and salt gives this bread the lift it needs. Then, finished with those sesame seeds characteristic of a classic burger bun.

Nestled on top of the bottom bun is the star of the show. An all-beef patty with a 50/50 mix of freshly ground chuck, and ground sirloin. Chuck is your typical cut used for ground beef. It has a great meat to fat ratio, about 20-30%, so your burger stays nice and juicy. The sirloin amps up the beefiness, giving that steak flavor. Again, when selecting your sirloin be sure it is well marbled so you get the ultimate juicy burger.  The only filler in this unadulterated patty is a generous seasoning of kosher salt. The salt not only enhances the flavor, but works as a binder so it won’t fall apart when it cooks.

The all-beef patty is amazing as is, but how do you achieve perfection? With a seasoning blend, sprinkled onto the patty just before you cook it. Every burger joint has their own mix of seasoning. Some use straight up salt and pepper, nothing more. Some use a selection of herbs and spices that takes this earthly burger and shoots it out of this world. It’s not about masking flavor, it’s about bringing this humble creation into existence.

Next comes the “he said, she said” portion of the relationship. With or without cheese, bacon, onion, pickle, tomato, or lettuce. These are all viable options, but in the end it all comes down to you. No one’s going to convince you that pickles are good on a burger if you don’t like pickles, just as nobody’s going to convince me that pickles aren’t good on a burger, because I love them. So much so, I had to start making my own dill pickles because you can’t find them in Norway, at least not the good super sour, salty, crunchy pickles you find in North America.

As we approach the top of this mountain, there’s one last stone to turn –the secret sauce. Every great burger has one. Sure you can throw a dollop of mayonnaise on it and call it a day, but if you want to truly achieve dizzying heights, I’d say go the extra distance. After all, this isn’t just an ordinary burger.

And finally, the deal is sealed when you place the second half of the bun on top. Think of it as the roof that shelters all that hard work you’ve just invested. Plus, it’s ideal for picking the thing up and just destroying it with your appetite.

Congratulations! That was a mammoth task of building a burger, but we haven’t even mentioned the fries. I must credit Heston Blumenthal on the thrice cooked crispy fries. I learned the technique from him, but something tells me he wasn’t using Norwegian potatoes when he devised that technique.

French fries are pretty basic. Potatoes, oil, and salt, right? Yes. However, the potato makes all the difference. The problem with potatoes grown in Norway is that the most common way to prepare them is to boil and eat as is, or in salads. The problem with new potatoes is that they’re full of water. The starch hasn’t matured like late season potatoes do. So if you’re looking for a crispy fry, a fluffy baked or mashed potato, you’re not likely to find it here. And don’t be fooled; just because a potato is wrapped in foil or it says baking potato on it, doesn’t make it so. Typically in Norwegian grocery stores, those are just over-sized new potatoes, with the same water content and three times the price. Sorry.

Fortunately there’s hope. With Blumenthal’s thrice cooked technique, and a couple modifications, you can enjoy crispy fries made from virtually any potato, new or late season, white, red, or sweet potato.

So now let’s put all of this into perspective, shall we?

Hamburger Buns

  • Servings: Makes 6-8 Buns
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
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  • 500g Bread flour
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g eggs (2 large eggs)
  • 1 tbsp dry active yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg + 1 tbsp water for wash
  • sesame seeds for garnish

In a small saucepan, warm the milk to a boil. Remove from heat and add butter. Stir until butter is melted. Allow to cool.

Dissolve sugar and salt in warm water, then sprinkle yeast over the water. Let set for 5 minutes until foamy.

Measure out 500g of flour in a bowl.

Lightly beat eggs, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add the foamy yeast mixture. Then add eggs and milk and butter. Give a quick stir.

Now add 1 cup of flour and mix well, about 1 minute. Add another cup and mix well again. Finally, add the rest of the flour and mix. You should be able to knead the dough at this point.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes, adding a tablespoon of flour at a time if needed. The dough should be soft and sticky, but still be able to pull away from the counter or bowl relatively easy.

Place dough in floured bowl and let rise, covered, in a warm, lit place for 90min.

After 90 minutes, punch dough down. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half. With each half, cut into three pieces for a total of 6 large buns. Alternatively you can cut into smaller equal sized pieces.

Take one piece of dough and form it into a ball by continuously pulling the sides into the center. You should have a smooth round ball. Place the ball upside down, so the indent is facing down. Now press the ball flat so it resembles a hamburger bun. It will continue to rise and become larger.  Repeat for remaining pieces of dough. The buns should rise for 20-30 minutes, just enough time to get the oven good and hot.

Preheat oven to 215 degrees Celsius.

In a cup, beat 1 egg and 1 tbsp of water. Very carefully, with a pastry brush, brush egg wash onto the buns. Then sprinkle tops with sesame seeds.

Put buns into the oven and turn the temperature down to 190 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops are nice and golden. Remove from oven and brush with butter for a shiny finish.

Hamburger buns, done.

Ground Meat:

  • 500g chuck
  • 500g sirloin
  • kosher salt

For the meat, you’re going to need a meat grinder. If you don’t have one, but love burgers, then buy one. It’s an incredible investment you will use more than you could imagine.

Grinding the meat is quite straightforward, but a few pointers never hurt. First off, keep all the clean metal components in the freezer until you need them. Raw meat loves temperatures below 4 degrees, bacteria loves temperatures above 4 degrees. Matter of fact, keep everything from the meat to the tray as cold as you can.

Secondly, cut the beef into smaller manageable chunks. It will pass through the grinder much easier.

And lastly, for a meaty burger use the large guard for cutting. There’s usually three guards or settings for the grinder, coarse, fine, and very fine. We’re using only the coarse setting, but we’re going to pass the beef through twice, so the fat breaks up evenly.

Because we’re grinding two different cuts of beef, mix up the different chunks as you grind them, that way they’ll be ground together for equal distribution.

ground meat

After you’ve ground the beef, apply a liberal coating of kosher salt or sea salt. About 1 tablespoon should do the trick.

seasoning

Burger Seasoning Blend

  • Servings: Yields ½ cup
  • Difficulty: Easy
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  • 3 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp MSG (optional)
  • 1 tsp freshly grounded black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 cummin

Place all the ingredients in a blender or pestle and mortar and blend well.

sauce

Burger Sauce

  • Servings: Yields 1½ cups
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dry mustard powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dill seed
  • A few shakes of Tabasco sauce (optional)

If you’ve ever made mayonnaise before, then this won’t be so different. If you’ve never made mayonnaise before, then you’re about to make a wickedly flavored one.

Step 1: Put one egg yolk into a blender or food processor. Then add everything EXCEPT THE OIL. Add the lemon juice, water, sugar, salt, mustard powder, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, dill seed, and Tabasco sauce. Do NOT  add the oil.

Step 2: Turn the food processor on high and blend the mixture well.

Step 3: Now we add the oil. Ever so gently, pour the oil in while the processor is still on. A thin steady stream of oil will emulsify the mixture, producing a thick flavorful sauce. When you’ve finished adding the oil, pour sauce into a sealable container and keep in fridge until needed.

french fries

Thrice Cooked Fries

  • 6 to 8 large potatoes
  • 2 L Sunflower Oil, for frying
  • 4 L water, for boiling
  • 2 tbsp potato starch
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Kosher or Sea salt to season

Cut the potatoes into fries thick or thin, your choice. Soak them in ice cold water for at least 30 minutes.

The next step is to boil them. Boiling the fries will cause tiny ridges along the edges that will absorb the oil, creating a crispness. It’s best to put the fries in boiling water to shock them, rather than have them come up to a boil gradually.

fries boilBoil the fries until they’re just ready to start falling apart. Lift them out of the water, onto a cooling rack. Be careful. Let them sit in a cool dry atmosphere. The fridge is a perfect place. This will help draw a lot of excess moisture out. Let them dry for a minimum of four hours.

Before we fry them, place all the fries on a baking tray and sprinkle with potato starch, then drizzle 2 tbsp oil. Gently massage the starch and oil all over the fries, covering the entire fry.

Now it’s time for the first frying. This is called the blanching stage. Heat oil to 120 degrees Celsius, no hotter. Cook in small batches, but as you do, agitate them, either by constantly moving the basket (if using a deep fryer) or by carefully moving the pot on the stove.

Just as the fries turn ever so golden, take them out and place them on the cooling rack again. But don’t let the oil go above 120 degrees.

fries prepAllow to cool completely.

The third and final frying will be fast and hot. Crank the heat up to 180 degrees. Toss the fries in and continually agitate them by lifting them in and out of the hot oil. Should only takes 3-5 minutes to achieve that super crispy exterior. Remember to work with them in small batches.

Take the fries out of the oil and into a bowl. Sprinkle with salt.

Putting it all together:

So now you have your hamburger buns, your ground meat, seasoning blend, special sauce, and crispy fries.

The only thing we haven’t discussed is how to cook the burger. Here’s the trick. We’re going to start it on a flat cast iron surface and finish it on the grated grill. If you’ve got a BBQ with a skillet built in, then you’re set. If not, here’s a work-around. Place a cast iron pan on your grill and preheat over high heat.

Drizzle some oil in the pan, sprinkle some seasoning blend on the patty, and place the patty in the pan. A nice loud sizzle should get the neighbors curious. Turn the heat down low and fry the burger. This helps get that fat melted into the meat for a juicy burger. After about three minutes on each side, toss the patty onto the grill over a high flame to get that char-broiled taste. This is where you apply any BBQ sauce if that’s your sorta thing. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes more on each side, and add a slice of cheese to melt.

Also, cut the hamburger buns in half, butter each half and put on the grill to toast.

And there you have it. Garnish your burger with your favorite toppings: cheese, bacon, ketchup, mustard, lettuce, onion, tomato, dill pickle, and sauce. Build it up and knock it down.

Bon Appetit!

14 thoughts on “Not Just Any Burger and Fries

  1. the perfect burger is a wonderful thing and someone making it for you adds to the joy! I wasn’t hungry before i saw your great photo!!! Im in Tunisia and have no chance of getting one of these..:(

    Like

    1. Thanks!! I feel for you and your situation. Having come from Canada, there was always amazing burgers around every corner. Since I’ve moved to Norway, I’ve spent the last 6 years working on my version of the perfect burger, because aside from T.G.I.Fridays, it’s not easy to find something that comes close.

      Like

    1. Thanks! The first fry is at 120 degrees for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the french fry. They should cool to at least room temperature before going back for the second fry at 180 degrees for 3-5 minutes. You can certainly try other techniques, but I found this ensures a consistently crispy fry, dispite the potato type. Some good frying potatoes like King Edward, or Yukon Gold will behave differently than some of the newer watery or sweet potatoes.

      Liked by 1 person

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