Burgers are one of the reasons I’m happy to be living in North America. Sure, burgers aren’t unknown in Belgium: we have McDonald’s over there, just like everywhere else (except for Iceland, apparently), and we even have our own national hamburger-based fast-food chain, Quick. And there are certainly places of higher quality, such as bistros, that have burgers on their menu (David Leibovitz has listed quite a few in Paris). But to my knowledge, the idea that you can gourmet-up a burger hasn’t made its way quite as much as it has on this side of the ocean.
In other words, only in North America could Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries & Shakes have been published. This book is by no means a new release (it was published all the way back in 2009), but I took my time buying it. I really wasn’t sure if it was worth buying a whole book on such a limited subject. But in the end, the originality of the recipes won me over, and I haven’t regretted the purchase.
The title doesn’t lie: this book really is all about burgers, fries, and shakes. But there are many, many variations on each topic, as well as an extra section dedicated to pickles, relishes and sauces. Everything you need to spend way more time on a burger than you normally would – but that’s precisely what makes the process special.
I admit I have barely dipped a toe in the pool of recipes available (and I also admit that was a horrible metaphor). And I’ve been too timid, or too rushed to try some of the more extravagant recipes that sound (and look) more like mixed salads than anything else, like the Greek Burger or the Turkey Cobb Burger. Just by looking at the pictures, it’s clear that, while Bobby Flay doesn’t like to add stuff to the patties themselves, he goes all out when it comes to the extras.
So far, I’ve tried the Argentinean Burger, which is garnished with chimichurri (featured above). I had barely heard of chimichurri, and was only vaguely aware that it was a parsley-based savoury spread. I had also never tasted Manchego cheese, which was the recommended variety for this burger – and I have to say, it was a very pleasant discovery. It was sharp and salty, but nowhere near as aggressive as, say, parmesan. All in all, a great combination, and one that I would never have thought of.
Another favourite was the Wild Mushroom-Cheddar Burger, which kind of speaks for itself. This was more classic, but still a definite winner – but maybe that’s because I love mushrooms in anything. I made the effort of preparing the optional chipotle ketchup for garnishing, and it was another worthy discovery. I feel like I’m learning a lot from this deceptively simple book.
There are also a lot of useful general tips, things you can apply to any burger. Like making an indentation in the middle of the patty with your thumb, to ensure even cooking. Or using meat that contains at least 20 per cent fat, for maximum flavour. However, I have to admit that I have regularly cheated on this rule, and that I substitute bison for beef whenever I can (i.e., whenever I can find bison at the supermarket). I am seriously in love with ground bison meat: it’s incredibly lean, and I love its slightly strong, gamey flavour. And yes, the absence of fat does mean that my burger patties hold together a little less well (although I have yet to see one fall apart completely), and that they might be a little less juicy – but then, since I like my meat rare, my burgers never have the time to get too dry.
No recipes today, since I didn’t adapt the ones from the book. But surely this can spread a little inspiration, no?