Tuesday, May 18, 2010

On the menu tonight...

Welcome to day two of 'Out of the culinary'. I'm glad you came back...or maybe you're here for the first time - either way - welcome! Tonight I'm going to be cooking up one of the first things I ever made as a true 'cook'. The cracking burger, from the mastermind of Jamie Oliver. This is, without a doubt THE BEST BURGER I have ever had in my entire life. It's fresh, it's juicy, it's flavorful - it's fantastic. The best part is, it's easy to make, and takes little to no preparation. Here's how you can make it yourself:

The item: Cracking Burgers
Original recipe found in:  Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals

What you need:

1 lb Hamburger (doesn't particularly matter how lean it is - more on this later)
12 Unsalted saltine crackers
2 tbs Dijon mustard
1 Egg
Parsley (fresh or in shakeable spice variety)
Optional: Other veggies to top it (onions, lettuce, etc.)

The first step to this fantastic burger is to grab your unsalted saltines (which I still find a bit odd...unsalted SALTines...oh well) and pile them into a dish towel. Wrap up the crackers and begin smashing them down to tiny pieces, the smaller the better. I haven't really found a 'good' way to do this yet. It doesn't seem to matter how you break them (be it either by hand or by swinging the towel above your head and smashing the it on the counter like a crumby hammer of justice) just as long as they are fine. I've found a dish towel works best to do this as ziplock baggies don't get as fine of a result. Dump this cracker powder into a large mixing bowl. Next add 2 tbs of dijon mustard, as well as your parsley. Season with as much (or as little) parsley as you prefer. Next, add your raw hamburger to the bowl. Finally, crack the egg and pour it on top of everything.

What you should have now is a rather 'interesting' looking concoction that looks more like cafeteria leftovers and less like a burger. Stick with me, it gets better (I promise). Now, depending on what type of child you were growing up, you will either love this next part or (like myself) find it a little...disgusting. Take your (freshly washed) hands and plunge them into the bowl. The goal here is to mix up all of the ingredients really, really well. Once again, there is no proper technique, just mix and mash until all of the cracker powder and (especially) the egg and mixed in. The end result should be a slightly sticky round ball of meat. (Starting to look more like hamburger material now isn't it? Told you so)

Next a handful of beef and work it into a round ball. About palm size is a good rule to follow. You should be able to get four to six balls out of the pound this way. Now carefully pat the balls into flatter patties - thickness really is only a matter of personal preference - I typically work them down to about 1/2 inch thickness. [Learn from my mistake: I emphasize carefully here for one reason. The first time I tackled this recipe I was a little...enthusiastic on the patting (I went with more of a *Squishing* approach) and proceeded to splatter hamburger pieces on the wall. The good news is raw hamburger will 
come of walls - but the bottoms of kitchen cabinets...not as easy to clean]

All that's left is to cook the buggers. This is a matter of preference here as well. Jamie recommends using a stove top grill pan. I cook our burgers with a George Foreman GR10AWHT Champ Grill. It's small, but it does a very nice job cooking the burgers. It takes about 5 to 7 minutes to cook, depending on how thick you made the patties, and how rare you prefer your burger to be.

Coming full circle here, when I mentioned earlier that the leanness of the meat didn't really matter - this is what I was referring to. If you are using a George Forman grill or even a regular outdoor BBQ grill, most of the fat is going to cook out of the meat anyway. If you choose to go with a grill pan, you may want to spend a little more on the leaner cut of beef as you will be cooking in a large pool of bubbling fat otherwise. (Not the most appetizing thing in the world)

And, that's it. Congrats! You've just cooked one fantastic burger. There is just something extra added to the meal when you know that you started with raw hamburger, some crackers and an egg and managed to produce a wonderfully juicy and flavorful burger. Now just add your favorite veggies (and maybe a slice of cheddar cheese) and enjoy

-Side note- RESIST the urge to add ketchup right away. You will be pleasantly surprised that this burger does not need ketchup, it has a great natural flavor (and you'll save all the sodium that's in processed ketchup anyway -win, win situation).

There you have it. Recipe number one. That's what I'm making for supper tonight. I hope you give it a try as well. Even more, I hope you have fun doing it. Until tomorrow -


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