Wicked Good Read and Eating
Reviewed in the United States on 16 June 2013
This is a great burger book. The scope is excellent - from the basics of meat combinations to grinding your own meat, to non-meat burgers to a wide variety of sides including burger toppings, fries and shakes.
Wicked Good Burgers is a fun cover-to-cover read, for those who enjoy reading cookbooks. Almost every recipe includes an author's introduction and photo. The photos are printed in surprisingly vibrant color given the trade paperback format.
Here's what I've cooked so far. I'll update as I go.
Red Hots - This is a sweet/hot relish with main components onions, jalapenos and pineapple. It starts very sweet from the pineapple, then transitions to a full-mouth wonderful heat. It's a great topping. The recipe calls for 20 red jalapenos. I used only 6 chiles - 3 green jalapenos and 3 red fresnos - and it turned out plenty hot for me.
Salmon Burger with Dill Mayonnaise - This is as moist and complex a salmon burger as I think you'll ever have. Imagine these layers from bottom to top - bottom bun, dill mayonnaise, salmon burger, creme fraiche, chives, "dilled" salmon roe, arugula, top bun. It took a bit of time to prepare the components, but delicious and well worth the effort. You could certainly do a lot of prep the day before.
Brat Burger - The Brat Burger has a greater depth of flavor than the salmon burger, I'd make it first. The ground meat is equal parts pork and veal, but the real punch, the element that makes the burger taste like a bratwurst, is nutmeg - just enough to round the flavor into something decidedly different from a conventional beef burger. The author's recommend serving this burger on "Mindy's Pretzel Buns". I'm not a big baker so didn't make the homemade buns, but I was pleased to fund pretzel buns at Whole Foods, and they were delicious. Most importantly, the Brat Burger is served with the fantastic "Mindy's Pepper Jack Cheese Sauce", basically heavy cream, white American cheese and just enough pepper jack cheese to give the sauce a bit of a bite. All-in-all this burger is big winner.
Quick Pickled Onions - a truly quick recipe for a solid go-to topping - run a red onion through the mandoline, pour over boiled apple cider vinegar with a few spices, let cool. I added some white wine vinegar to bring out the pickled taste.
Pickled Green Tops - Another quick pickle, this one made from ramps, which I couldn't find so substituted scallions but into about 1" long pieces. This is a sweet pickle, courtesy of ample sugar boiled with the vinegar poured over the vegetables. I had some of this pickle with the Brat Burger and it was a good sweet-savory combination.
Cookware - At the authors' recommendation I purchased a cast-iron griddle, specifically a "Lodge". This is a great asset for Wicked Good Burgers, because the authors' cooking technique centers around heating a griddle to smoke-point and cooking for 2-3 minutes on one side, then 2-3 minutes of the other. The cast-iron gave the burgers a good sear, and can be used indoor, or laid across an outdoor grill, My indoor smoke alarms are very sensitive, so it's very helpful to be able to cook on the griddle laid over the outdoor grill.
Poulet Foie Royale - A chicken burger made from thighs and livers in a 5:1 ratio. The chicken livers impart a slightly gamey taste but also keep the burger moist. I enjoyed this burger and would make it again. It was the first time I've used my KitchenAid grinder attachment, which got a bit clogged up because I made the error of buying bone-in chicken thighs and removing the bone myself, which was difficult and left some gristle in the grinder, which had no impact on taste, but slowed down the grinder and resulted in a fine grind when the recipe called for coarse. Next time I would be sure to buy skinless, boneless thighs. This burger is intended to be served with "Tomato Ginger Ketchup" and "Peppered Onion Rings. I didn't have time for the onion rings but the tomato ginger ketchup - a nice blend of tomato umami and tangy ginger - added a lot of flavor to the burger.
Steak Tartare Burger - I love steak tartare so this burger grabbed my attention early on. The toughest thing about this burger is the moment before cooking when (assuming you love steak tartare) you think "why am I ruining this perfectly good steak tartare by searing it?" Then you go ahead anyway and man is it delicious. A few notes - firstly I didn't use tenderloin which was way too costly at $24.99/lb. Instead I used ground Kobe beef at $7.99/lb. Second I used a baguette instead of brioche. Lastly I used a lightly fried plain-old hen egg instead of a quail egg, which in so far as I can tell isn't readily available in the CT suburbs. I seared the burger 2 minutes on the first side and one minute on the second, then fried the egg in the hot pan, leaving it sunny-side up and folding the white over the yolk just enough so the white would set. I lined up my "garnishes" - creme fraiche, "quick-pickled onions" (see above), capers, thick grainy mustard and chopped arugula. Instead of putting the burger on the baguette, my approach was to rip off a section of baguette, then put on 2 or 3 of the toppings, then the burger, then bite and repeat. It was a little slice of heaven really. My wife isn't into meat still mooing, so I cooked her burger a bit further through. She ate it with bottled BBQ sauce and also enjoyed it. A big winner I'd make again without hesitation.
"Our Perfect Burger" is 80/20 chuck with the authors' "Fifth Dimension Powder", a calculated blend of powders - porcini, portobello,worcestershire, onion and garlic. The objective is a super-charged steak flavor. This is a really good burger, and I'm glad to have the powder mix ready for future use. The difficulty describing this burger though, is while it's flavorful, it's hard to tell how much without comparing it side-by-side with a plain, unseasoned burger. It would be interesting to hear someone's impression of a side-by-side taste test.
Best.Mayo.Ever. has a nice taste profile, a bit tangier than a Hellmann's mayonnaise. I made it in a KitchenAid, following the timing exactly, and it didn't firm up quite as thick as I would have liked; well worth trying though.
Moroccan Chickpea Burger - This burger has a great texture and a full flavor, especially with the heat of the harissa mayo (harissa plus Best.mayo.Ever.), and the coolness of the parsley salad (parsley, lemon juice, olive oil and salt). Definitely make the parsley salad, which is both a great complement and contrast to the burger and the mayo. One of our guests said she loved this burger and had to have the recipe. She took two burgers home. Our other guest said he'd never liked vegetarian burgers until this one, especially with the harissa mayo. This burger might be a good go-to when you have a vegetarian over. It was super easy to make to0, with the mayo at 15 minutes being the most complex item.
Josh Ozersky's Favorite Burger - This is essentially a White Castle Burger recipe. It's all about liberal salting and precision technique. To be precise - sear, flip, flatten, wait, top with onions in warm water, steam/wait, flip, add cheese and bottom bun, wait, remove to plate, add top bun. I made 2 dozen, it takes a bit to get your rhythm, but after the first 4 or 5 the process goes pretty smoothly. Key to this recipe are liberal use of salt and thinly sliced cheese for easier melting. In addition I recommend using a bacon press to keep your beef pattie flat before putting on the onion. I didn't do this and the resulting patties were a bit too thick and a slightly too rare in the center. These burgers would be awesome for a big party.
Spiced and Creamed Shimeji Mushrooms - This recipe calls for whole Shimeji mushrooms, which are small button mushrooms prepared whole. I couldn't find these so just used regular button mushrooms, medium sliced. These mushrooms don't look all that appetizing when they're finished; the sour cream gives them a ruddy, almost dirty color. They taste great however. The recipe calls for 1-2 teaspoons esplette pepper. I used 1 teaspoon and it gave the mushrooms a nice spicy heat. I served these mushrooms with Josh Ozersky's favorite burger, where they tasted great but kept falling off the small burger. This topping is probably best served with a full-sized burger.
Did I mention this is the best burger cookbook ever?
Belted Cow Bistro Veal Parmigiana Burger - First off I don't know why this burger calls for 2 pounds of ground veal to make 4 burgers. I made 7 and they were all pretty solidly big. Anyway this is a satisfying burger. 100% ground veal does indeed taste different from beef, and is vaguely reminiscent of a veal cutlet. Mozzarella plus provolone plus Parmesan makes for a nice cheesy burger, but the best part of this burger is the outstanding basil pesto which would add loads of flavor to just about anything. Don't bother grating your own cheese, everything comes out perfectly fine with one of the bags of grated cheese on the supermarket shelf near the Kraft Grated Parmesan in the cylindrical container. Also no need I think to make your own tomato sauce, I used a jarred sauce that worked fine. This burger makes for nice leftovers. Just dump some more tomato sauce and basil pesto on the top, a few minutes in the microwave and you have a complete entree. A winner.
Pork Corton - It's a pork spread. What could possibly be wrong with that? As it turns out, nothing, it (expletive deleted) delicious! Easy too. The recipe called for ground pork shoulder. I had some cooked baby back ribs handy, the meat falling off the bone, so I used that meat instead. Fantastic.
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