From food trucks to high-end warehouses of fine dining, the burger has become this season's must have restaurant accessory. This trend has been growing for years, but recently may have reached critical mass. As NOLA Defender pointed out yesterday, three new burger spots are slated to open in the next few weeks. This is all fine and well. But you can make a much better burger at home than any place in town.
A burger is all about the meat. It starts and ends with high quality meat ground freshly and handled simply. You can add anything you want to your burger, but please start with freshly ground beef. The type and ratio of cuts is important as well. Fifty percent of your total should be chuck. Chuck will provide the body and structure to your burger. The remaining fifty percent is up to you, but you want something with a fair amount of fat (flavor). Brisket ideally, but as Dan Stein laments, "All these burger places using brisket is making pastrami expensive." A good substitute for brisket is skirt.
And how do you get freshly ground beef if you don't have a meat grinder at home? Ask the butcher. Simply walk up to the counter and ask the butcher for a "Pound of chuck and a pound of brisket , ground through a thick grind, but not as thick as your chili grind."
To make your patty, be very careful. First, do not add anything to the meat. No salt, no Tony's, no family secret marinade, nothing. I find six ounces is the perfect size. Make a patty by forming a ball and then lightly pressing down to the desired thickness. I like a quarter of an inch. Now park the patties in the fridge for about 30 minutes. This is a good time to heat up your grill or cast iron pan, which are the only two ways to cook a burger at home. Season the patties with salt and pepper just prior to cooking. I like to cook the burger until medium. At medium the fat has had time to melt and baste the meat, making for a juicier burger. Anything less and the meat can be chalky. This meat won't dry out if cooked more, but it will lose its appealing rosiness.
As for toppings, I like tomato, thin slices of onion, cheddar cheese, arugula, and Larkin sauce. Larkin sauce is a one to one ratio of mayo and stone ground mustard. You can find good buns at a decent grocery store. Buy them and toast them with some butter. Enjoy your Independence and a great burger.