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Volume 40 Issue 17 • Aug 26-Sept 1, 2010
now in our 40th season

Awfully Good!

by Jenn Farmer
Chef, Bartlett’s Ocean View Farm 

A friend of mine stopped by the other day around lunch time, and we decided we should go somewhere to eat.   The only thing that we both craved was a grilled hamburger.  I do not know what it is about a good burger that is so satisfying. For me I think it is the flavor mixed with the condiments, and the combination of soft and crispy textures.  I can say that it was exponentially better to eat looking at the ocean too. 

Even vegetarians can appreciate a nice veggie burger loaded with toppings.   I am going to admit to something, I actually like some types of veggie burgers  a lot.  The soy imitating beef are not the best, but the ones made from veggies and grains are really tasty, and the texture (though unlike beef) is really good.  I know a few people who are not vegetarians who agree.  In fact, one restaurant where I worked in had a regular customer who ordered her veggie burger with bacon and cheese.  It seemed unusual at the time, but it is good nonetheless. 

For me it is the taste of the grill with ketchup, mustard, cheese, and pickles all mixed together.  Oh and the crispness of lettuce and sweetness of a really ripe tomato ... perfection!  Do you like scallions, black olives, avocado, red onions, sprouts, jalapenos?   How about bacon?  Applewood smoked, maple, brown sugar glazed, or hickory smoked bacon?    Then there is the cheese factor; Boursin, Swiss, cheddar, blue, Gouda, feta, brie, or cream cheese.  Now for the smear, the sauce:  bbq, 1000 island, guacamole, salsa, ranch, ketchup, mustard, Dijon mustard, garlic butter, chimichurri, worcestshire, steak sauce, hot sauce, chili, sriracha, or soy.  Oh wait there is more, pickles!  How about some sweet pickles, or dill pickles, or picked garlic, maybe pickled onions, or green tomato relish.

New England Ketchup

  • 1 gallon tomato juice - Bring almost to a boil, and then add:
  • 6 tablespoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons allspice
  • 2 teaspoons mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pint sharp vinegar

Stir into tomato juice and continue to cook over low heat, stirring constantly.  Simmering until thickened.  Remove from heat, and let cool Stir before bottling. This recipe is about a hundred years old, and it still is popular, I like it because it has no sugar.

Then there is the meat itself.  Do you enjoy a lean ground beef, or maybe one with a little more fat?  Some people really enjoy beef and pork mixed together, or how about ground lamb?  For an elegant burger, Kobe beef is king.  The meat can be plain or seasoned with salt, pepper, onion powder, minced garlic, taco seasoning, French onion soup mix, ranch dressing mix, you get the idea, and the combinations are absolutely endless. 

Take it to the next level and try different bread.  Sesame seed buns are great, but an onion bun or a nice piece of French bread can really take the amazing burger to the next level.  My grandmother makes her own burger buns.  They are yeast buns that are slightly sweet and simply delicious.  The homemade texture cannot be beat, especially if sliced open and grilled with a little butter, OR with garlic butter.   Years ago I worked at a tiny bakery that made dill bread and potato buns that had the most amazing flavor and texture.  Burgers on them were divine; the texture was pillow soft and full of flavor.  Potato rolls are a bit time consuming, but the results are well worth the trouble. 

Homemade Potato Rolls

  • 2 packages of yeast
  • One cup mashed potatoes (save 2 cups of the potato water for the recipe)
  • Three quarter cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • One half cup shortening or butter
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 7-8 cups flour

Dissolve the yeast in warm potato water.  Add remaining ingredients except flour.  Mix together well.  Add the flour using a heavy spoon to beat, when the dough becomes to thicken, begin to knead it.  Adding flour by hand.  Knead well, and set aside to rise.  Let double in size, then knead again, until light.  Shape into buns, and bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until nicely browned.  Yields about 30 servings.  These can be frozen with success. 

Dill Pickles

  • 5 pounds pickling cucumbers
  • 1 pound of kosher salt
  • 1 quart white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons dill seed
  • One eighth cup pickling spice
  • One teaspoon turmeric
  • Two ounces sugar
  • 1-2 hot chilies
  • 1 sprig of dill
  • 2 cloves of garlic, cracked

Wash and slice the cucumbers lengthwise into spears.  Layer the spears with salt, and allow to drain.  Let stand for at least 6 hours or overnight.  Combine the vinegar with water dry spices, and sugar, bring to boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Let the vinegar mixture cool.  Rinse the spears in cold water, and put into a plastic bucket, or crock with the chilies, dill sprig, and garlic.  Pour the cold pickling liquid over the pickles.  Weigh down the mixture, so the cucumbers are submerged.  Refrigerate.   May be used after about 3 days, (this is actually my favorite, since they are still very crisp and not fully pickled yet).  They keep for two months, and get better as they sit.   

Oh my, the glorious finale, what side should accompany the burger?   Do you like fries or chips?  Onion rings, or better yet, sweet potato fries, zucchini strips, thinly sliced jalapenos fried crispy like onions, or maybe poppers?  Do you enjoy the shoestring fries, or the fat and fluffy crinkle cut (ouch I think I can feel my arteries hardening just thinking about it)?   How about seasoning on your fries or chips?  Old bay seasoning, sea salt, and pepper, parmesan cheese, fried minced garlic—there are just too many choices.    Maybe you enjoy cold side dishes, like coleslaw, macaroni salad, or potato salad.  I could go on for days about the side dishes alone!   

Sometimes it isn’t only about how you build the burger, but the experience and ambiance surrounding it.  Great company, a nice view, the anticipation of the meal as you are waiting, can all add to the perfect burger.    There is a place I went while in Reno, Nevada.  It was a local dive, located in a dark alley behind some casinos.  There was never less than a twenty minute wait, day or night (usually a lot longer).  Their burger was huge and delicious and served with a pound of really great fries.  It was aptly called the “Awful, Awful burger.”  The price was inexpensive, and all walks of life would wait for a long time, to enjoy the awful experience.  I am getting hungry just thinking about it.  It is near lunch time, I could go get myself a burger, with pickles, cheese, and …


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