Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Take Your Burger Bun to a New Level

I'm not sure how it's viewed throughout the country, but here in New England, Memorial Day is the official, unabated kick off of summer.  Now that the formality of crossing the proverbial threshold is behind us, it's time to talk quintessential summer food - burgers.  If I'm looking for a "cheat meal" if you will, burgers are among my first choice.

One of the biggest issues plaguing the burger world, in my humble opinion, is a flimsy bun that won't stand up to a juicy, perfectly cooked moist medium rare burger.  You need something with a little bit of bite, but also something light enough to not try and be the star of the stack.  After toying with several thoughts and options for a homemade bun, I finally decided on a griddled english muffin.  They're incredibly easy to make, only require a 30 minute rise time and no baking required (yes, you read that correctly - no heating the house unnecessarily with the oven on a midsummer's afternoon).

Homemade English Muffins

1/2 cup nonfat powdered milk
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon raw sugar, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon shortening
1 cup hot water
1 envelope dry active yeast
1/3 cup room temperature water
2 cups sifted all purpose whole wheat flour

- Combine powdered milk, 1 tablespoon sugar, salt, shortening and hot water, whisking until it the salt and sugar are dissolved.  
- In a separate bowl, combine yeast, 1/4 teaspoon sugar and warm water to dissolve the yeast
- Add the yeast mixture to the powdered milk mixture and slowly sift in flour
- Fold gently until all ingredients are well incorporated 
- Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 30 minutes
- Preheat griddle
- Portion batter with an ice cream scoop onto the griddle (for perfectly round muffins, use ring molds or biscuit cutters)
- Cook for 3-5 minutes on either side or until golden brown
- Flip the muffins and repeat on the opposite side
- Once fully cooked, muffins can be split with a fork and served

Okay, so now that the bun issue has been squared away, let's look at the burger.  I personally prefer bison meat.  Nowadays, it's readily available in most grocery stores and packs just as much flavor as beef with a fraction of the fat.  As with any good burger, you need to flavor it otherwise you'll end up with an unseasoned meat patty.  I like to mix one pound of bison meat with one egg, 1/4 cup of panko breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon dried toasted onion, 2 teaspoons dijon mustard, salt and pepper.  If you want to test your seasoning levels, make a mini burger about the size of your thumbprint and sear it off quickly.  That way, you can taste test the batch before cooking all of your burgers.  If you're grilling your burgers, about 6 minutes on either side should give you a perfectly pink, juicy center but adjust to personal preference.  We top our burgers with a bit of truffle mustard aioli (1 tablespoon light mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon spicy dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon white truffle oil, salt and pepper), arugula, smoked gruyere, applewood smoked bacon and a sunny side up quail egg but honestly, get creative, the possibilities are endless.

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