Let’s kick off National Burger Month right with some helpful, useful tips on how to prep that perfect burger that will be your peanut butter to your jelly, your kit to your kat, your Ben to your Jerry, your Cheech to your Chong, or even your Captain to your Tenille. LOL. While last year we did focus on a new burger for every single day of May, we kinda think the whole top burger list thing is overdone and overrated. We all have different burger prejudices, wants, and needs, so no burger will satisfy everybody. So, instead, we’ll be showcasing some great burger shops, the people behind burgers, and lots of recipes and ways to help you make some killer hamburgers this May.
Today we’re starting off with some great tips and advice from Jennifer Underfinger, the Assistant Chef of the expanding armada of Bareburgers. So, check it out, and when you’re in Ridgefield make sure to check out their newest Bareburger…and Stamford, you’ll get yours soon late spring/early summer. Here we go:
What do you love about burgers?
Today, burgers are a fantastic platform for epicureans to find exactly what they’re looking for without the daunting pretentiousness of a formal dining experience. I’ve found everything you could imagine on a burger in the least expected places. Like everything in life, there’s a time and a place, and each burger has it’s time and place. Lately I’m really loving fresh apple and basil on boar, but if the mood strikes me and I’m home sick this summer, good ol’ American cheese on beef with store bought buns, iceberg lettuce and juicy, ripe, warm off the vine tomatoes would perfectly hit the spot. It’s all about what you want, the time and the place, and the story you want to tell. I think that goes for food in general…not just burgers.
What are some tips for a killer burger?
The model for a great burger has three components, the meat/patty, the toppings, and the bun. If you’re a carnivore, then you probably think meat tastes great. Quality meat that is free-range, organic, grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic free tastes even better! When using quality meats, you don’t have to add much seasonings to something that already tastes good. I like to hit my meats with a little salt and pepper. Simple, but nothing too strong to make you lose the taste of the meat. There are times that you do need to build flavors with herbs and spices however. (Don’t worry vegetarians, I didn’t forget about you!) Tofu, quinoa, tempeh, rice, mushroom, and other meat alternatives are wonderful foundations to build on. You can use these ingredients as a base to carry out the flavor story you wish to tell. If I want to tell the tale of Asian inspired flavors, I would definitely use fresh ginger, or galangal, sesame oil, orange and citrus juices, maybe some Thai basil, or lemongrass in the making of those patties.
Once your patty is ready, the choice of toppings I would say only has one rule: do whatever YOU want. Toppings become almost personal. Some people really love over-the-top gourmet toppings like foie gras and gruyere, some love big flavors like blue cheese and pork belly, or traditional homey American cheese and tomatoes. Build the flavors that you want. I would recommend going lighter if using a lighter meat as the patty. Beef, Bison, Elk go great with heavy flavors like bacon and hard cheeses. Lamb, Boar, and Turkey go great with fresh, light ingredients like cucumbers, herbs, even fruits like pears or pineapple. For the meat-free, go along with your flavor story. If you’re going for Asian with your tempeh burger, go for it with some daikon, caramelized shallots, Thai basil, and some wasabi for a kick!
Lastly, the bun. There is no one perfect bun. The right bun is the one that fits the story you’re telling. Sometimes a chewy ciabatta is perfect for what you’re doing. The airiness allows you to really enjoy the flavors of what you put together. Other times a brioche bun is the right fit for your big bold flavors like bacon, sharp cheddar, barbecue sauces. I think the best guide for choosing the right bun is much like meats and their toppings. Light fresh meats with light fresh toppings on an airy bun is perfect. Big bold flavors of Beef and Bison with big bold cheeses and sauces go great with a denser more substantial bun like a brioche.
We know that you feature lots of exotic meats at Bareburger. How can the home cook go about buying them?
Handling and cooking exotic meat should be like anything you’re going to cook or eat at home. Buy local and buy fresh, and cook within the next day, no more than two. Nothing tastes better than fresh food. Don’t be afraid to pay for quality, either. I know that some are turned off by the prices of meats that are grass-fed, organic, hormone and antibiotic free, but you really do taste a difference. And at the end of the day, you are supporting so many good things. Buy from sources you can trust. Do research on the farms you’re buying from. See what their feed principles are, their harvesting procedures. There are many factors in the raising of livestock that contribute to the flavor and nutrient content of what you end up eating.