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Like most iconic dishes, the humble hamburger need not be complicated to sway the jury. It starts with quality meat and ends with some complementary toppings and, ideally, a brioche-style bun.
Flavour, texture, and fat content are key to burger nirvana, so why leave the composition of your patty to chance (or worse, Costco)? Ask your butcher for a 50/50 mix of chuck and boneless short rib, and get it run through the grinder twice on a coarse setting to get a texture similar to that of French steak haché. (I usually buy a few pounds and form any leftovers into meatballs that I freeze for later use with pasta.) The rest is simple: season and form the patties, and don’t overdress them.
When it comes to the buns, melt-in-your-mouth is the texture to go for; I toast them just before serving. My toppings of choice are caramelized onions (see adjacent recipe), blue cheese, tomato, lettuce, and Dijon mustard. Alternatively, opt for fresh avocado with chilies, or sautéed mushrooms with garlic and thyme. Then just kick back and enjoy summer’s final encore.
The trick with a superior burger is to focus on quality ingredients, and flavours that are simple and complementary
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 fresh bay leaf
3–4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Place the onions, olive oil, and bay leaf in a heavy-bottomed pot or sauté pan, and stir over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer, checking and stirring often to ensure the onions aren’t burning. Lower the heat if necessary. After 30 minutes, add the vinegar, salt, and pepper, and give it a good stir. Cover and continue to simmer on low heat for another 30 minutes or so. Use right away or keep covered in the fridge for up to a week. Makes enough to garnish 6 burgers.
Offset burgers’ sweet, meaty richness with the crisp, aromatic hops and balanced bitterness of Central City Red Racer India Session Ale ($19.95/12 cans). Only four percent alcohol, it can carry you from grill prep to cleanup
Trust the butchers at Windsor Quality Meats (4110 Main St., 604-872-5635) and Cioffi’s Meat Market & Deli (4142 Hastings St., Burnaby, 604-291-9373) to blend and grind your beef exactly how you like. Forgo mass-produced supermarket pucks and buy some fresh-baked buns that do your patties justice: try Sabra Restaurant and Bakery (3844 Oak St., 604-733-4912) and Stuart’s Bakery (1689 Johnston St., Granville Island, 604-685-8816)