Good evening, Dear Reader, it is I, your humble guest blogger. Wait, what is that, you say? I am a liar? A scoundrel? I overpromise and underdeliver? I am not fit to live? (Well, perhaps that last one was just my overactive subconscious.) Why? Because I declared myself the author of a three-part blog, when it was, in fact, nothing more than an ordinary one-part blog (more commonly simply referred to as a “blog”)? Au contraire! I continue to hold on to my claim that it shall, in good time, become a three-part blog. I’m afraid you are overlooking the simple fact that I did not, in fact (fact count: two), state any sort of timeframe for parts two and three of the three-part blog. Semantics, says you? The facts, says I (fact count: three). Though it may take a lifetime, a three-part blog you shall have (Overly dramatic, says you? Beyond a doubt, says I). So there you have it.
As an additional point of clarification, I have been informed that I am no longer a guest blogger, but a regular contributor (the regular part might be a bit of a stretch). As such, I shall have to craft a new intro. Perhaps for part two of the three part blog? Perhaps.
So, what is in store tonight? Well, I realize I have blogged burgers in the past, but the reality is, how can you have too many blogs about burgers? I don’t believe it is possible. And even if it were, I believe I would always choose to err on the side of having too many blog posts about burgers, rather than too few. Burgers are wondrous. Indulgent, bad for you, and, at least the way I do it, rather time-consuming, but nevertheless,
wondrous. Care to argue? Word to the wise: don’t go there with me. Talk amongst yourselves, write private notes on Facebook which I cannot see, publish articles in papers I do not read (the LA Times or the Huffington Post, for example), air specials on channels I do not watch (Lifetime or Oxygen, for example), and make public service announcements on stations I do not listen to (hmm…that one’s harder – my musical tastes are rather wide-ranging and unpredictable – you should be safe on the country station or the rap station, however), but in my presence, simply sing the praises of barbecued patties of beef, turkey, or even chicken, and everybody’s going to be okay.
Tonight is something special. A new burger featured in Food & Wine magazine, which has all the right stuff to add up to something wonderful (really, what kind of mathematical equation is that, anyway?). Oh, yes, I am talking about the Cheddar BLT Burger with Tarragon Russian Dressing. I have to be honest – I’m not at all certain what part of this is the Russian part. Whatever it is, it’s danged tasty.
We begin simply enough, by cooking up the bacon. Generally, I recommend buying the bacon directly from the meat department of your local grocery store. The truth is, the Oscar Mayer bacon, or Farmland, or whatever brand you have locally, generally runs around $5 or $6 a pound. And at the meat counter? Why, that would be $5 or $6 a pound! What is the difference? The main difference is that the meat department bacon is sliced much thicker, so you will get fewer slices for your money. That being said, however, bacon is meant to be thick. So, to get back to my original point, I almost always recommend buying bacon for burgers directly from the meat department. In this particular case, however, I already have three pounds of bacon in my fridge! It was on sale… The bacon I am using tonight is Oscar Mayer’s Center Cut. The Center Cut generally is thinner, a bit shorter per slice, and has much less fat. When you cook it, you must be very careful, because it will get done unbelievably quickly. Anyway, cook it up in a skillet, two or three slices per burger that you intend to bless your family or guests with, and watch it closely. When it’s done, and I mean at the very precise moment the fat is cooked off and the bacon has turned that lovely light brownish-red color, remove it from the heat, and place it on paper towels. The great part about doing this first is that you get to smell bacon in the kitchen/house/neighborhood/tri-county area for the rest of the time you spend cooking!
Once the bacon is doing its thing, we move on to the dressing. Making a dressing in my kitchen by hand is a new experience for me. My dressing usually comes out of a bottle, no mixing or combining required. But, hey, this is fun, right? And the magazine picture looks sooooo appetizing (marketing pictures never lie, right?)! Thus far, fajitas are the only exception to my no-onion rule. I’m sure there will be others in due course,
as long as the onions therein are fried/grilled/sautéed to a point sufficient to remove all of their onionness. Thus, I have deleted the onions in this dressing recipe. Hey, another fringe benefit to making your own dressing – who knew? Mayonnaise, ketchup, red wine vinegar, parsley, tarragon, and Worcestershire sauce combine together in a medium bowl to create this heavenly Russian Tarragon Dressing (okay, so if the title
is Russian Tarragon, are we to believe that if we remove the Tarragon, we are left with just Russian? News flash! Mayonnaise, ketchup, red wine vinegar, parsley, and Worcestershire sauce make Russian! What??!). After whisking the dressing together, we cover it and set it in the fridge while the real business of making burgers gets under way.
Now, you are all familiar with the Rief family philosophy (not invented here, but officially adopted as our own) of soaking the burger patties in ice water and basting them with butter while barbecuing, so we won’t spend a great deal of time on that. Basically, it’s like this: the ice water keeps the burger patties moist and juicy while they are cooking, and the butter caramelizes on the outside of the patty, creating an amazing sweet flavor
on top of the meat. It’s an absolutely fantastic way to grill burgers, and since discovering it in the Barbecue Bible my dad gave me, I have since seen it in many other places, including Food & Wine Magazine!
For these particular burgers, I had some new tools at hand. Due to the exceptional generosity of a family member, Chels and I were able to do a little shopping at Williams Sonoma. The gift card was really for Chels, but she enjoys our experimentation with the grill, and wanted to get a few new things for it as well. A couple of those things will come in handy tonight! They are a new burger press, burger paper, and a wonderful basting brush (for those of you who don’t know, I am a tad bit obsessed with basting brushes, and have a little collection going – this one is my new favorite, and I’m afraid I don’t know how much use the others will see now!). First up, the meat! For this recipe, we mixed, in equal parts, ground chuck and ground sirloin. According to our local butcher, ground chuck is the 80/20 beef, and ground sirloin is the 93/7 beef. I purchased a pound of each, and mixed them together by hand in a large bowl, along with half a teaspoon of ground black pepper, and a full teaspoon of salt. I formed the meat into four roughly evenly-sized balls, and laid out the burger paper, two sheets at a time. The bottom half of the burger press goes on top of the burger paper, and the balls of meat go inside. The top half of the burger press comes down, and, voila! You have perfectly shaped burger patties that will not crumble on the grill or in the ice water. Marvelous, and worth
every penny. Now, to the ice water with these bad boys!
Make no mistake, these patties are huge. They are roughly a half pound each! For us tonight, the burgers are our only course – they are big enough to not require sides or appetizers, and certainly not dessert, although Chels made an absolutely amazing strawberry limeade to drink with the meal.
I proceeded to soak the patties in a large bowl of ice water for 30 seconds a piece, and then on to the grill they went. I had already sprayed the grill down with non-stick grilling spray, and preheated the barbecue for about five minutes at medium heat. Grilling the burgers is easy, of course. You put them on the grill, use an amazing basting brush from the arsenal I sincerely hope you possess, and proceed to baste them generously
with melted butter, repeating this sacred ritual each time the burgers are turned. After ten or 15 minutes (for medium well), you’re ready for slices of Tillamook cheddar cheese. Put them on top, close the lid for 20 or 30 seconds to melt them, and then remove the burgers from the heat. Throw some good whole wheat buns in there and toast them for about 30 seconds, and you’re done with the grill! Actually, that is really sad. I get grill-separation anxiety. No joke.
Now, the presentation. I have not always believed that presentation was essential to to enjoying a good burger, but I have come around to the idea that it can help immensely. I mean, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder…Actually, nevermind. That saying has no relevance to my point whatsoever. Anyhow, for the presentation of these burgers, there are a few specific steps to follow. First, spread the Russian Tarragon Dressing generously on the bottom half of the toasted bun. Next, place a large, fresh leaf of iceberg lettuce over the dressing. After that, place a large, medium-thick slice of tomato on top of the lettuce. The width of the tomato should be just a hair less than the width of your burger. Place the burger (ready-topped with melted cheese) on top of the tomato, and top that with two or three slices of bacon (surely you hadn’t forgotten the bacon!). Close it up, and it is ready to eat. Actually, devour. Savor. Relish. Destroy (with your
mouth). Basically, if it weren’t so insanely huge, it wouldn’t stand a chance of lasting more than a few seconds. Oh, yes. N’er were truer words spoken. Well, we’ll make an exception for Scripture and prophecy, and things like that, but immediately following…
Serve the burgers with strawberry limeade (or a nice merlot, depending on the age of your guests), and you will see, they are a meal unto themselves. I guarantee you will want to make these again. Unless you screw it up. Otherwise, it’s a guarantee. Well, unless you’re in a really bad mood. Or you’ve just had a root canal. Or you’re a vegetarian. So, there’s some fine print. But, hey, all good things… Nope, no relevance to that quote either. Hmm. I’ll have to work on that. Enjoy!
Cheddar BLT Burgers with Tarragon Russian Dressing
- Contributed by Laurent Tourondel
Cheddar BLT Burgers with
Tarragon Russian Dressing
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