Many times food and cultures are inexorably inseparable. Hummus and pita from the Middle East, stir-fry from Asia, crepes from France and enchiladas and tacos from Mexico. While America is often considered the melting pot of the world, we have over the last 250 years developed many of our own wonderful culinary delights; among them are the Cobb salad, the BLT sandwich, Fried Chicken and Waffles from the South, Meatloaf from Fannie Farmer’s “Boston Cooking School Cook Book,” Mac and Cheese that recently has achieved culinary heights with ingredients such as lobster, chorizo, green chilies, San Francisco’s answer to French Bouillabaisse – Cioppino and their world famous sourdough bread and of course the kids’ favorite – “PB and J.”
Let’s not forget the most popular entrée, the American hamburger. While there are several differing opinions on where the hamburger originated, we do know that according to the Library of Congress, in 1900 Louis Lassen, owner of Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut served a ground meat patty between two slices of bread. However, the claims for the culinary invention are numerous and should be left to a culinary anthropologist.
When asked, “What is one of the hardest things you have cooked?” Almost immediately, I respond, “the Hamburger.” I quickly follow up with, “A great hamburger is the product of an incredible attention to detail and resembles nothing like what you would find at Micky D’s as far as taste and texture.”
What many so-called “grill masters” often overlook is the bun’s importance to the burger experience, not to mention how you handle the meat is as important as how you cook the meat. The taste and texture of the patty must have a very slight crunch on the outside and soft juiciness on the inside. But the bun should not only taste great but should also withstand the weight and juiciness of the patty and the toppings WITHOUT turning into a mushy mess which rules out the airy soft Wonder bread type buns. The texture of the bun should complement everything in between the two parts of the bun. This requires a light toasting with a layer of fat (butter, mayo or better yet cheese) to provide a nice moisture barrier between the patty and toppings and the bun.
The patty should be handled with loving care which means as little as possible. The secret here is to start with quality meat containing 20% fat and don’t overwork the meat. Do not mix a bunch of ingredients into the meat; if you typically do this then just make meatloaf. Kneading things like chopped onions, herbs and cheese into the meat overworks the meat and the patty will become tough and possibly dry. To make the perfect patty, start with 1/3 of a pound of 80%/20%, form the patty into a disk that is thinner in the middle than it is at the edges. As the patty shrinks during cooking, the patty will level out and will have two flat nicely charred surfaces that make for a great platform for stacking the other goodies as opposed to the flying saucer shaped patty that makes stacking toppings a “Minute-to-Win-It” challenge.
Thankfully there are many readily available gluten-free products on the market that are quite tasty. If you want to make your own, try Bette Hagman’s recipe.
1 cup Rice flour, white
1 cup, Tapioca Flour
1 cup, Corn Starch
1 tablespoon, Potato flour
2 teaspoons, Xanthan gum
2 teaspoons, Gelatin, dry mix, unflavored
1 tablespoon, Baking Powder
1 teaspoon, Salt
¼ cup, Granulated Sugar
2 cups, Water
2 ¼ teaspoons, Rapid Rise Yeast
1 ½ teaspoons, Heinz white vinegar (apple cider will work too)
4 tablespoons, Canola Oil
Whisk together the flour mix, gum, gelatin, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Add 1 teaspoon of the sugar to the warm water and sprinkle on the yeast. Set aside to foam slightly. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap which helps keep it warm and proofs the yeast.
In a large bowl, blend together the remaining sugar, vinegar eggs and oil, add the yeast mixture. Beat in half of the dry ingredients. Stir in the remaining flour and beat until smooth. Spoon the batter into prepared muffin rings. Cover lightly and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size 20-25 minutes. Bake in a preheated 375 ⁰F oven for 22-27 minutes.
Have fun this fourth of July, but remember, safety safety safety!
Chef David Hall
Thyme for a Chef, LLC