Vermont Burger Recipe
“It is the Americans who have managed to crown minced beef as hamburger, and to send it round the world so that even the fussy French have taken to le boeuf hache, le hambourgaire.” Julia Child
We have enjoyed Parisian burgers, or, boeuf hache, at a favorite bistro near Parc Monceau, but a Parisian bistro burger is a very different dish than an American hamburger. We sat elbow to elbow with Parisians and enjoyed an elegant in appearance, perfectly grilled Boeuf hache, served open face on toasted baguette, with fork and knife and those perfect Parisian frites that spoil you for other fries. Simple and perfect. But, Americans have taken the opportunity to utilize burgers as a blank culinary canvas upon which to let their creative palates run wild. So, you can find burgers made with bison, with chorizo added to the beef mix, with red wine barbecue sauce, with bacon-onion jam…the flavor combinations run the gamut from simply savory to fiery hot, to sweet and smoky. Every American city seems to have its “best of the ‘burg” burger contest each year.
Today, I can honestly say that I have tasted one of the most flavorful and perfect burgers in my history, and I can say this from two perspectives: from a cook’s and a diner’s point of view. Maybe the Best of Vermont Burger tapped into my I love New England palate, with the ingredients of tart apple and sweet maple syrup and Vermont cheddar. This burger is served on a toasted, buttered bun, with a tangy mustard-horseradish spread, and is topped, not only with bacon and cheddar cheese, but a tart/sweet Granny Smith Apple and red onion slaw. The flavors of this burger are a perfect balance of smoky, sweet, creamy, tart, and tangy, with no one flavor dominating, and nothing overwhelming the taste of good quality grilled beef. The developer of this recipe, Janet Keeler, is the Food and Travel Editor for the Tampa Bay Times, and she authors a blog, Planet on a Plate, and hosts a virtual Cook Club. This recipe is Cook Club Recipe # 21, and although Janet did not win in a Napa burger contest, my palate considers this one a winner.
So, here is the recipe with asides about my experience preparing the dish, and I encourage readers to prepare this burger prior to August 3 and to post photos on twitter, facebook, and other social media with the hashtag, #cookclub. Join in the fun! Janet’s original recipe can be found in the Wednesday, July 23 edition of the Tampa Bay Times Taste section.
Best of Vermont Burger, Recipe by Janet Keeler
For the Green Apple Slaw:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 Tablespoons apple schnapps (I substituted 2 Tablespoons hard apple cider)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large Granny Smith apple, halved and cored
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage leaves
1/2cup thinly sliced red onion
To make the slaw, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, schnapps or cider, and salt, in a medium bowl and set aside. Cut up half the apple into matchsticks and toss in the dressing immediately to keep the apple from browning. Add the red onion and sage, and grate the other half apple into the mix. Combine well.
For the Burger
2 pounds of ground chuck
1 large shallot, peeled and minced
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (I admit that I simply used 2 teaspoons of dried sage leaves instead)
1 teaspoon dried mustard (I used a teaspoon of Dijon mustard instead)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
To make the burgers: Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl with hands, and work lightly just to distribute the ingredients. If you overwork the meat, the burgers will be tough. Divide the meat into six equal portions and shape lightly into patties, making an indentation with your thumb in the center to prevent shrinking on the grill. Place in a single layer on a plate and cover loosely with foil or plastic wrap.
Cook 9 strips of bacon and keep it warm.
Heat a gas grill to medium high and lightly oil the grates. Grill burgers for 5-7 minutes on one side and then flip. Grill for 4 minutes and then add the thick slices of cheddar cheese. Grill for another 2 minutes. Place the buttered split buns on the grill to toast, buttered side down.
I had stormy weather conditions here at the time of grilling, so I utilized my cast iron grill pan and the same heat and timing.
Assemble the Burgers
Place the buns on serving plates, and spread the bottom bun half with the horseradish-mustard sauce. (Janet used a prepared brand, and I made some by combining a grainy country Dijon and horseradish, 3partsmustard to 1 part horseradish). Place a tablespoon of the apple slaw on the mustard sauce. Place the burger on the bottom bun half. Top with a strip and a half of bacon (my husband said, why not 2?) Top with another tablespoon of the apples slaw and place the top half of the bun. Serve immediately, or after you finish photographing the masterpiece! The fragrances hit you at each step of preparation: fresh apple, smoky bacon, searing beef, bread toasting–my husband has an office at home, and he was struggling to stay in his chair while I cooked! Then, we struggled to get our mouths around this burger, so fat and juicy, and savored the flavors. There were repetitive, resounding exclamations about the flavor!
This recipe meets my criteria for a great recipe for home cooks. The steps and techniques are simple and clear; the ingredients are easy to source; the outcome is very appealing to the eyes; and there are layers of well-matched flavors. My few alterations were simply a matter of using ingredients that I had on hand that seemed suitable and not likely to negatively impact the overall effect. As is the case with all of my cooking, I select my preferences in terms of ingredients, so, angus chuck from a trusted source; a premium applewood smoked bacon; a favorite aged cheddar from Ireland; organic apples; pure maple syrup from Vermont; and brioche buns from a local bakery.
Thank you, Janet, for expanding my burger repertoire!