During the summer, there is a tradition at the UT household spanning years and years and years (four, specifically) where I fire up the grill and commence what is simply known as "Burger Lab."
The tradition started when I saw a Food Network special on the "Build A Better Burger" challenge put on by (REDACTED FOR ADVERTISING REASONS) and had the dumb notion that "hey, I know how to make a burger, I can totally do that and win."
Spoiler alert: Not yet.
The nuts and bolts of it are as follows:
1. Come up with a unique and tasty burger idea.
2. Write a recipe (duh).
3. Try to create six burgers with that recipe in 60 minutes or less.
4. The burger recipe is graded on four criteria: Perceived taste appeal, Creativity, Ease of Preparation, and Perceived Wine Pairing (REDACTED is a winery, hence the fourth criteria).
Now you might be thinking this sounds pretty simple, "What kind of dunderhead can't make six burgers in 60 minutes?"
You would be surprised. Matter of fact, I read some of the winning recipes, thinking "how in the name of Brock Osweiler's jockstrap did they make this in an hour?"
Back to last night, I made my first iteration of what I call the "Taste of Texas Burger," the idea being that the burger would meld all the culinary cultural influences of our great state into a single burger.
Since this is for a competition, I won't be giving a recipe (also, it's still in the works and I don't want anyone to try and replicate it in its current state). I will say that the patty had a dry rub made with coffee, light brown sugar, ancho chile powder and other spices layered with sharp cheddar cheese, topped with Shiner-braised red cabbage, onions and bacon, and the buns were spread with a jalapeno, garlic, and pecan pesto sauce (which definitely needs some work. First attempt turned out to be not so much pesto as it was spicy pecan butter).
I will say, however, that Taste of Texas v. 1.0 was really good, especially for a first attempt (although it still went way over the allotted time limit, so that's a problem), and v. 2.0 should be even better now that I know what needs to be fixed on it.
Will this burger work? Possibly. Will I drive myself to madness before it does work, thus making me a mad burger scientist? All I can say is "wibble."
That said, I will share with you last year's winner of this contest so you can see what I'm talking about when I say "how did you make this in only 60 minutes?"
Sweet and Smoky Spanish Beef Burgers With Pickled Saffron Pears
PICKLED SAFFRON PEARS
3/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
1 Bosc pear, peeled, cored and small diced
1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
SMOKY PAPRIKA AIOLI
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup jarred piquillo peppers or roasted red peppers, drained and patted dry
1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup canola oil
6 thin slices prosciutto
2 pounds ground chuck
1/2 cup peeled, shredded Bosc pear
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for brushing the grill rack
6 1-ounce slices Manchego cheese
6 soft sesame seed buns, split
1 1/2 cups baby arugula
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.
To make the pickled saffron pears, bring the vinegar, sugar, salt and saffron to a boil in a small heat-proof saucepan over medium heat on the grill. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Put the diced pear and sliced shallots in a small bowl and pour the vinegar mixture over them. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Drain and stir in the black sesame seeds.
To make the aioli, combine all of the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
To make the crispy prosciutto, heat the canola oil in a medium heat-proof skillet on the grill. When the oil is hot enough to make the prosciutto sizzle, add 3 slices to the skillet and cook until crisp. Transfer the prosciutto to paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining prosciutto.
To make the patties, combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and gently but thoroughly mix. Divide into 6 equal portions and form into patties to fit the buns. Brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the grill rack and cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium. During the last 2 minutes of cooking, top each patty with a cheese slice and place buns, cut side down, on the outer edges of the grill rack to lightly toast.
To assemble the burgers, spread some aioli on the cut sides of the top and bottom buns. Place a prosciutto slice on each bun bottom followed by a cheese-topped patty. Top each patty with some pickled saffron pears and arugula. Add the bun tops and serve.
So that's my food adventure, share with us some of your ideas/food stories you have from this week. Nobody will laugh at you...much.