Friday, June 3, 2011

Farmhouse Bacon Cheeseburger & Fries

I wanted to make burgers and fries today. I have some ground beef in the freezer and was planning on just doing a no frills burger.

Then of course, I started to obsess. 

I thought about EVERY time I made burgers at home, and how they never stand up to restaurant burgers. Just what is their secret? Well, I know they grind their own meat. Usually it's even a combination of anywhere from 2-8 different cuts at different ratios and fat etc. Am I willing to go that far? Probably not. Definitely not today. But what could I do that was a happy medium? I don't even have a grinder.

But I have a food processor. And google. 

So I got to searching. Of course, there is an amazing amount of things to be said about the perfect burger. I won't even go into it. Basically, I found that you can do a few small things (like grind your own meat, make your own sauces and fries) to really elevate the standard burger meal.

Also, the kind of heat you use, whether grill, broiler, or pan is also widely discussed. Everyone says the grill is the best, but I'm not going to use it. (I know, but it's so hard to wrangle my daughter around the hot grill and still get everything cooked by myself, so I wouldn't expect any other dad to do it safely either.)

Anyway, I happened a upon "A Hamburger Today" and found that they have an amazing amount of great tips and tricks for the burger super freak. On the site they have a bacon cheeseburger from Spike Mendelsohn  (of Top Chef fame) that looked like I could pull off. Didn't hurt that I have 2 pounds of sirloin burning a hole in my freezer. 

So, for this meal, I'm making ground sirloin burgers, Spike's "Good Stuff Sauce", homemade fries and bacon.

Everything comes together pretty quickly, though admittedly, making your own fries is kind of a pain. But man, they are good. Your choice on that one.

Farmhouse Bacon Cheeseburger (adapted from here for four burgers)

20oz ounces ground sirloin (four, 5oz burgers)
4 buns, cut in half
8 slices, thick cut bacon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
American cheese
Iceberg lettuce
Tomato slices
Onion slices
Good Stuff Sauce

Good Stuff Sauce

1 large egg
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cups grapeseed oil

1 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Homemade French Fries

2 Russet potatoes, cut into fry shapes
Oil for frying

Let's get to work!



I began by making my burgers. 

I ground up my whole 2 pound sirloin because I wanted to have extra meat for later, but we're only going to use 20 oz for this application. 

Begin by cutting your steak into small cubes that the food processor can handle. I didn't trim anything from the steak. Everything went in. 

*Big note here* Everything should be as cold as possible to work with. Freeze the blade and bowl of your food processor. Ensure the meat is nearly frozen too. 

Work in small batches that the processor can handle, but work fast. 

I pulsed for 10 seconds, 3 times. 

I was amazed how well this worked. It was really crumbly and light and you want to keep it that way. Do not over work the meat. In fact, try not to touch it at all until you form your patties.

2 pounds of delicious "ground" meat
For this recipe, we are building four, 5oz burgers. Weigh out your burgers. This is important so that they cook at the same rate.

Form the burgers with slightly damp hands and work it as little as you possibly can. Salt and pepper both sides. (I have read that you both "should" and "shouldn't" salt before you cook. I went ahead and did it, but you can wait until right before cooking too.

I stacked mine in a 8x10 pan and covered with plastic wrap and stashed them in the fridge until service.


Now the sauce. This is also really easy and requires the food processor, so wash it up and get it back to work.

Add the mayo ingredients. The egg, mustard, vinegar and salt. Go ahead and start it spinning.

Add the oil a bit at a time at first and then dump it in. You'll see the emulsion begin to form pretty quickly. Check on it for consistency. Too thin, whip it more. Too thick, add a touch of water and buzz again. 

Congrats, you just made homemade mayo. Tell me that was hard. 

To finish the sauce add the ketchup, molasses, rice vinegar and salt.

Buzz it until it's incorporated. Stash this in the fridge until service.

Ok, now the fries. 

French Fries

Peel your potatoes. 

Cut them lengthwise, the width of your fries. 

Turn, and cut them to shape. 

Put them in an ice bath to both keep them fresh while you get the oil together and to suck out some starch, improving the texture of the fries. 

I decided on using a cast iron skillet, but you can use whatever you want. I just like it because I can monitor and control the temp really easily. The only downside is I have to work in batches. No biggie for me.

What we are doing is the "twice fried" method of french fries. This what high end restaurants do. They also use duck fat, but we'll draw the line there. What we're after is a relatively low blanch of the fries in oil, then a high final fry. This gives you the fluffy inside/crunchy outside that rules on fries.

Once your oil gets to 250 degrees start adding your fries. I was able to fit 15-20 in my 10" skillet. I think it took me 5 batches. Ensure you let your oil recover back to 250 after each batch.

Let them cook for 3 minutes. No longer. You want them soft, but not mushy.

Let them drain on a paper towel rig or a draining rack or something. Refrigerate/freeze them for service.

We're going to give them a final fry later, so stand by.

In the mean time, let's make the bacon.


The original recipe calls to fry the bacon in the pan before you cook the burgers. That takes forever and makes a mess, so I make my bacon in the oven. We'll keep the bacon grease and still use it. Don't worry about that. 

Oven cooked bacon is absolutely superior to pan frying in my opinion. The texture and taste is outstanding. Please consider it as your go-to method. 

I have a particular way of cooking my bacon that I have refined using trial and error for my particular oven. You will be able to dial in the perfect technique after a few attempts. 

I start by turning my oven on to 415. 

Then I lay out my bacon. I can fit 8 on my pan. I use foil or a silpat or something to avoid staining the pan and I don't dawdle. Get the bacon on the pan.

As soon as I have the bacon laid out, I put the pan in the oven. I do not wait for it to preheat.

Then, I set my timer for 23 minutes.

That's it. No fussing, no touching. When the timer goes off, they're done. 

Perfect Bacon
 Lay them out on paper towels and save for service.

Pour the bacon fat out of the pan and save it for cooking the burgers.

I'm going to assume you know how to cut up a tomato, slice and onion, and tear off some lettuce leaves. 

Time to cookOk, after all the prep, we can get to cooking. It's up to you whether you want to do both the burgers and fries at the same time or one then the other. It is a pain to do it all at once, but everything's hot.==
Butter some buns and get them toasting. I use a non stick pan over medium/high heat.

Toss your burgers into a pan over medium/high heat with the bacon grease. Use just enough to coat the bottom of the pan, you don't need a ton. This will make a mess. Be prepared.

Get your fries into 350 degree oil. It is paramount to use oil that's hot enough. Cook until they are golden brown and drain on a rack or paper towels. Season with salt or red salt or whatever. The best way is to toss them in a big metal bowl to distribute the seasoning. 

In the future I will use a larger vessel for this. It was way too much work minding the 5 batches of fries and cooking 4 burgers simultaneously. In fact my fires ended up really crappy, so I didn't take any pics. I am disappointed in myself, so save it.

Cook the burgers for about 3 minutes. Do not touch them. Do not squish them. A nice crust will form without any help. Flip.

Top with bacon. You can use as much as you want here. In the future I'll add another piece to each burger. I was in a hurry and spaced that I had enough for 2 slices per burger. 

Top with the cheese and cover. Let the cheese melt for 1 minute.

You can check the temp of your burger with a thermometer if you want, but the meat should be done nicely at this point (solid medium). Leave them on for a minute or more to get more well done.

Let the burgers rest for about a minute before adding to the sandwich.

Build your burger starting with the sauce on each side of the bun.

Layer the Lettuce, onion and tomato on the bottom bun. This keeps it from getting soggy. 

Add your burger to the stack and marvel at the nomness.

Final thoughts

While my fires turned out sub-par, I still recommend giving them a try. The last time I made them I had great results, so it is possible. I guess just not possible today, for me. 

As far as the burgers go, I found that liberally salting and peppering the patties really brought out the flavor of the meat. The burgers were easily the best I've made in my kitchen. I felt the "restaurant" nuances in them big time. They were juicy, crispy and fresh. All the best things that a burger has to offer.

I will make my burgers this way in the future and seeing how it takes (without exaggeration) 10 minutes to grind the meat and form the patties, you should too. Remember, you can add almost an infinite amount of variation to burgers. Be as adventurous as you want!

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