Wednesdays are for burgers

I just made that up, but it sounded good to me.

When I was a kid, we went to Hawai’i. On the island of Kaua’i, they had a place called the Kalapaki Grill. Sadly, it closed just last year, but it will live on in my heart and my menu because it was the first time I had a pineapple on a burger. Since then, they’ve been a favorite topping.

Funny thing about pineapples, though. I can eat them on just about anything, so maybe I’m not the most unbiased ambassador for an even-keeled opinion on pineapple as a burger topping.

Funny thing about burgers, too. They’re one of my favorite foods, but I crave them very differently from one time to the next. Sometimes, I can’t imagine them any other way but mayo on the bottom bun, burger, cheese (cheddar or American), lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and pickle. Other times, I want them with a fried egg, green apple, bleu cheese, or any other combination of oddities.

Tonight was oddities.

When I’m asked to make burgers, sometimes it’s a circus. Burger Circus. There’s the name of my restaurant. That’s an avocado next to the greens, and, no, I didn’t put potatoes on my burger. Stay tuned.

I wasn’t sure if the fam (except my sister, who’s down for anything) would be down for oddity burgers (another restaurant name?), so I prepped them in a way that would allow them to go conventional with just ketchup and mustard if they wanted.

All that went into the burgers: garlic, sea salt, cracked pepper, parsley, an egg, and some bread crumbs.

Use meat with a higher fat content, even if you’re usually the lean ground beef type. This is how you keep a juicy burger and one of many ways to avoid hockey pucks (of either the ice or the air variety).

I used ground chuck (20% fat), which is a departure for me, but I assure you, the fat content is key. I once read a book in which the protagonist ate “cannibal sandwiches,” which were essentially this…on two pieces of bread. Not a chance.
I’m a proponent of mixing meatballs and burgers by hand, even if every time I do it, I say, “Ew, ew, ew!” the entire time. (Please ignore my weightlifting calluses.)

I didn’t take any other pictures of the burgers until the end because I have a weakness (this might be the next post: cooking kryptonite). No matter what tricks I try, I cannot make a burger patty that doesn’t blow up like a balloon. I’ve put a dimple in the middle, made them flat as a sheet to start with, let them get to room temperature before cooking, made a sacrifice to the ancient god of beef, and had a pink-haired gnome blow gently on the patties before precisely three seconds before they went on the grill. I don’t care what the internet says, these things have never worked.

In any case, I at least knew they’d taste good.

For toppings, I here’s what I did:

  • Smashed the avocado and put a little sea salt, cracked pepper, and lime juice in it.
  • Cut the pineapple. When I grill burgers, the pineapple gets grilled, too. This was an indoor cook, though, and they’re just as good raw.
  • Tossed a handful of greens on top. I love the colors of mixed greens.
  • Melted the cheese. To do this, I just put it on the burger moments before taking it out of the pan. This was a pretty delicious but very, very stinky Switzerland Swiss from Boar’s Head. I highly recommend it, but it smells a lot like, well, feet and buttcrack?

As for the other things in the photo, here’s how that went down:

I caramelized the onions. This is something that takes a lot longer than it seems like it should, but trust the process.

  • Heat olive oil and a pat of butter (about a teaspoon per onion) over medium high heat.
  • Add sliced onions (however you want them sliced). Mix them up to coat them with the oil/butter mix.
  • Cook for a few minutes and then turn down the heat to medium or medium low (depending on your stovetop).
  • Stir occasionally over about 30 to 45 minutes. If they start to dry out, add some water (do not add more butter or oil).
  • You’re aiming for an even browning and a nice softness. Also, you’re aiming for the liquid to evaporate. When that happens, toss them around a little to add a sear, and they’re done.
  • You can add a bit of red wine when they’re almost done, but you do not have to.
  • Change your shirt and wash your hair. You smell like an onion.
My choice of purple onions is strictly philosophical. I like the way they look, and I find their taste less offensive than white onions and more interesting than yellow.

I also caramelized the mushrooms (I used baby bellas because they were 2 for $4.00 at Publix, of course).

  • Heat a small amount of olive oil over medium high heat.
  • Add mushrooms and coat.
  • Turn the heat down to medium and cook for a few minutes.
  • You may get a lot of water. If this happens, drain the hot mushrooms and put them back in the pan (this is much easier if you use a cast iron skillet).
  • When they’ve started to cook down, sprinkle them with brown sugar (not too much), and let them cook some more.
  • When the sugar has evaporated and the mushrooms are cooked to your preference, turn the heat back up to medium high and splash the mushrooms with red wine. Let them soak up the wine, and they’ll be done.
Well, this is not exactly a pretty picture, is it? This is the mushrooms after they were completely cooked.That pink stuff is red wine mayo.

That pink stuff is red wine mayo, not cherry yogurt.

My brother said, “It looks like yogurt,” refused to trust me for several minutes, and finally gave in. He seemed happy he did.
  • Making this is so simple, it’s painful.
  • Take about a half cup of mayo and pour red wine into it.
  • The amount of red wine you use is up to you. I whisk and taste, whisk and taste, until I get a good wine flavor that doesn’t become overpowering.
  • You can also add some cracked pepper or parsley for a better looking condiment.

Then there were the potatoes.

  • Also simple, mix olive oil, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, parmesan, sea salt, and cracked pepper in a bowl.
  • Preheat the oven to 375.
  • Toss it with the sliced potatoes.
  • Arrange the potatoes on a cookie sheet in a single layer.
  • Bake until soft.
  • Top with more parmesan and broil. Do not walk away while they broil.

Finally, the mysterious brown/black sauce in the dip bowl is an Asian glaze I made the other night.

I can’t give specifics on how I made it, but the basic ingredients included:

  • low sodium soy sauce
  • a splash of sriracha
  • ginger
  • Chinese five-spice
  • mirin
  • honey

When I made it for chicken the other night, I just kept tasting and mixing until it was a sort of sweet and sour flavor. For the burgers, I cooked it a big to get it to thicken, and then I spooned some on top of the burger before the cheese went on. You can see below.

Next, it was time to assemble. I’ll just tell that story in photos.

I used this beautiful wheat bun from Publix. Red wine mayo on the bottom; avocado mash on top.
Next, the glorious pineapple is placed on the avocado side (the top). If you don’t have a pineapple corer and you consider yourself a pineapple fan, you are simply not a big enough fan. They’re awesome, but then again, I love my kitchen gadgets. Hm, another post?
Now, smother the whole thing with greens. I used a baby kale, baby spinach, arugula mix. You can use whatever moves you.
Then the burger (yes, it’s there) goes on the bun, followed by a splash of the nebulous Asian glaze, buttcrack cheese, and the caramelized onions and mushrooms.
Add some potatoes, and you get this.
Bird’s eye view. Really, there IS a burger there…

For the record, the family went with Oddity Burgers.

Also for the record, it was pretty fantastic.

What kind of oddities do you like on your burger?

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