It’s really tough to order a good burger. I have only had a few in my life that are really memorable. Zeitgeist in San Francisco is my favourite, but since that’s not exactly an easy option, I have been trying to find a replacement. I will say, that after living in London, I really miss American burgers. Even the bad ones.
When I first moved here, I kept ordering burgers at pubs and kept being disappointed. After one bite, I would usually massacre the plate. At the end of my meal, a waiter would pick up a dissected, half eaten patty. A discarded bun that looked like a cat had gotten ahold of it. Random lettuce leaves tossed across the plate like an assortment of dirty socks and underpants. There was no evidence of respect. No commitment. I was never satisfied, and I wanted something more. I was a burger rapist.
I keep trying to figure out what the English do to their burgers that makes them so bad. I always think they taste like meatloaf. The beef is never the focus. Too much bread crumbs and too many herbs and spices. Recently, it seems Londoners are attempting to elevate this little piece of Americana to the level it should be. All kinds of folks are pulling out gourmet versions or creating an alternative interpretation to the classic. I can honestly say, the only place that comes even close to being worthy is Hawksmoor. Tom has sung its praises before, and as a result he is now a lunchtime regular. That being said, when I’m not having a Hawksmoor burger, I think the next best option is just to make my own. That way, I keep my burger sex crimes down to a minimum.
Classic Cheese Burgers
1 kg organic, beef mince
a handful of panko breadbrumbs
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp sugar
a generous amount of salt and fresh black pepper
mature cheddar cheese, gruyere, or stilton
Turn on the oven grill/broiler on 250 C. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with your hands. Do not press or overwork the meat or your burgers will be extremely dense. Form about 8 patties and then heat the olive oil in a skillet on medium high.
How you cook your burgers is key. Now that you’ve done the work, don’t blow it here. Make sure your pan is hot, and fry the patties about 2 minutes each side. You might baulk at this, thinking you’ll die of dysentery if you don’t make sure those babies are done. My attitude? I would much rather have a well cooked burger and risk dying young than go my whole life playing it safe with dry, tasteless meat.
Transfer the burgers to your grill pan and top with cheese. Grill for another minute or two until the cheese is melted and bubbly. You can go crazy with a variety of toppings but I always think that less is more. I serve these on a white bun with mayo, salad leaves, and tomatoes.
Enjoy this with a beer and pretend you are an American.