Since I was asked to be one of the ‘experts’ in the burger contest going on in Rome these days, I’ve had burgers on the mind. The contest (which you can read about here and here and sign up to participate in here) started yesterday, and so I’m about to begin burger tasting my way around Rome.
Which leads me to the question I should have asked myself before I agreed to embark on this adventure: What’s the perfect burger? Once I began mulling this over, I realized that there really is no answer. One person’s idea of patty heaven is another’s nightmare.
Better to ask myself (since it’s me I’m talking to anyway) what’s my own personal burger look like?
So before embarking on the burger fest during the next few weeks, I decided to make one at home. PLEASE NOTE: this in no way purports to be a definitive burger recipe. Rather, this is the way I make MY burger at home, within the safety of my own kitchen. In other words, The Lizzie Burger.
At first glance all burgers look the same. Grilled meat between a bun, with or without condiments and seasonings. But the choice of all those ingredients, and the way they are cooked and put together, makes all the difference.
Everyone’s burger is their own personal expression of burgerness. There is no such thing as an ultimate burger and I think I’m going to have a pretty hard time ‘judging’ who makes the best burger in Rome. I can certainly decide if it is at all similar to my ideal burger. But is that fair? Don’t we all have are own way of putting a burger together? I guess I’ll find out during the next few weeks.
But in the meantime here is the burger according to me.
Plus a video just in case you are particularly burger challenged.
The Lizzie Burger
1 Sesame Seed-Topped Bun
(The bun must be fresh, preferably from a bakery. I got mine from Tricolore, which is perfect. It must be light and tender enough for your teeth to bite into it easily. It should not be chewy, but airy and fluffy. Yet still strong enough to support the meat. I like sesame seeds because they look cute)
100 grams of freshly ground beef (Goes without saying that this should be organic from a butcher you know and trust. I get mine at the Farmers’ Market, from Macelleria Placidi Vittorio ,which comes from their farm outside of town)
Seasoned Salt (No, I’m not talking about msg-laden Lawry’s season salt. I use just a 1/4 tsp of meat guru Dario Cecchini’s Profumo di Chianti. It’s basically Sicilian sea salt pulverized with rosemary, sage, laurel, thyme and fennel. I’ve found, over the years, that is makes even the best meat taste even better. It's kind of like meat crack.)
Mayonnaise (I like mayo on my burger, just a bit, and preferably home made. I actually make it with a very light olive oil, and lots of lemon and a bit of mustard powder).
Dijon Mustard (never ketchup)
Onions (Red or white, cut into half inch slices. Raw, never cooked)
Cheese (semi-aged pecorino, sliced thinly. I also like cheddar. But I'm in Italy so improvise)
Dill Pickles (cut lengthwise, into spears, and served on the side, never in the bun. Hard to find in Rome, but worth searching out)
Salt + Pepper
I use a stove top ridged griddle to cook my burgers. I know some people prefer cooking their burgers over a charcoal grill, and I like those too. But I love the smell and taste of griddle-cooked burgers. There is something slightly greasy about them that reminds me of eating in a New York diner.
Lightly work seasoned salt into ground meat and form it into a flat, even patty, as evenly as you can. Don’t over work the meat.
Heat the griddle, and brush it lightly with oil.
When hot, place patty on griddle. Cook at medium high heat until cooked on one side (about 4 minutes)
Flip burger and cook until done to your liking. I like mine medium rare, so I cook it for about another 4 minutes. Right before it is done, at minute 2 or 3, place the cheese slices on top while still on griddle.
Cut bun in half. Spread a few teaspoons of mayo on bottom of bun.
Spread mustard on top half of bun.
Place cheese-topped burger on top of bottom half of bun.
Layer onions on top of burger.
Grate generously with pepper and sprinkle with sea salt.
Place bun on top.
Press firmly, to make it more manageable to eat.
Place pickle spears on plate.
Cut in half carefully.
Eat burger, alternating with bits of pickle.