Burger

Finding Burger (part 5)

Cheese 1

Part 5

Criticism!

I like progress, part of progress comes because of feedback, some fantastic and some not so great. One guest mentioned that the meat was tasteless and lacked seasoning….this was a concern which made us run back to the production line. But the night before a guest from Dubai ordered just the patty, RARE! AND he loved it, so much so that he returned the next night again for the same. This man only enjoyed the meat no frills no fuss, only the meat. When he called me over he just asked, “chef, what is your favourite wine?” … it is on nights like this that we know why we do what we do

But with every little bit of feedback we listen we look we taste and we are critical…..we have to be. It was at this stage that we decided that we still had to look at the patty again, even if it was an isolated incident, we have to be true. It was actually a good thing that we had a look, because it made us realise that we had to change the salt. The salt needed to change and come from a reputable source, free from any additives: enter, Kalahari salt. Step one complete.

It has been over a long time that my burger thoughts have been wondering, we have been working on the patty, more salt less salt, more fat less fat. Quietly chipping away, checking and tasting and grilling and tasting. It is still not perfect.

On Saturday night we enjoyed the sum of all the parts. I had more questions, could I taste the cheese, but really identify it, did it really make a difference. Did the cheese enhance the overall experience? …I was more confused. Could I not just enjoy the burger? …. but, leave the cheese and immediately you know about it! Ok so the cheese stays.

What about the chutney? We have been working on a chutney for some weeks now as I am not convinced that the tomato chutney is working, I want something that will make me sit up and think when I take a bite. Over the years we have made chutney with almost any ingredient left standing about, always with mixed results. But the one thing that always makes a great chutney is brinjal, it just brings together the sweet, the bitter the sour and the spice all into the right consistency. More about this later.

Finding Burger Heaven – Part 4

Finding Burger Heaven – Part 3

Finding Burger Heaven – Part 2

Finding Burger Heaven – Part 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finding burger heaven! (Part 4)

BurgerBling!

Layers and layers of goodness is what we wanted, this is where it becomes critical. As the patty is simple, the rest will make it superb! What sauces, what cheese, sesame or no sesame, gherkins, mayo, chutney, basting, what lettuce?

Lets start with the cheese should it be melted or not? This is something we are still working on as we have some conflict in the kitchen as to what it should be, personally it must just start to melt.  The cheese must be real cheese and it must have loads of flavour. So we have selected a Healeys cheddar, 6 months. Every now and then we have something a little younger.
Then the fresh salad stuff a burger just does not taste good without it, helps hide the guilt, tomato slices and crispy iceberg lettuce is a must. We are still toiling with the idea of adding a mayonnaise.

Then the burger basting, the recipe we use is slightly sweet, with a good sour and spice component. It is essential that the basting is used while the burger is being flame grilled. Something about smokey basting sauces on a burger.

For the chutney we use a tomato, once again with some sweet and sour spice notes. I suppose it is not essential to have both a basting and a chutney. But for us it is part of the whole experience and layers of flavours.
What about the pickles? We make our own pickled cucumber, initially we pickled the cucumber whole, but more recently we slice cucumber and lightly salt them before it goes into the vinegar solution.

Lastly caramalised fried onions, this is a must and there is no substitute. Sliced onions slowly fried until golden and caramelised.

Finding Burger Heaven – Part 3

Finding Burger Heaven – Part 2

Finding Burger Heaven – Part 1

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Finding burger heaven! (part 3)

Mixing Burgers

Enter chuck and brisket!

It is about temperature! That was the secret, not the egg or the seasoning or the binding. Temperature! When we used to make pates and terrines we had one important rule in the process. Keep the equipment and the product as cold as possible. You don’t want to start cooking the protein during the mincing process.
So the meat was cut into small pieces, seasoned and placed in the freezer until really cold, not frozen. Success! So now we were left with mustard, parsley, salt and pepper. It was amazing!

Beautiful beef without the makeup packed with real flavour. (more about beef and suppliers on another day)

I was happy and we were producing up to 40kg of burgers a week, which does not sound like a lot, this is only one of the many items on the menu so yes it is great. We were selling close to 30 – 40 burgers a day. The only other real competitor on the menu is the club sandwich (nightmare for most of our trainees working the sandwich section)
Our success was short lived as the mustard acted as a preservative keeping the colour of the meat pink during the cooking process. We only picked this up if the patty stood for longer than two days, when made daily we never noticed the change.

Now you try and convince a guest who has ordered a dead burger that the burger is dead when it is still pink on the inside. Frustration!

Finding Burger Heaven – Part 2

Finding Burger Heaven – Part 1

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Finding burger heaven! (part 2)

 

Photo 2014-05-02, 12 46 26 PM

In my mind all the secrets of the perfect burger were supposed to be locked up in the patty. It is meant to be packed with flavour from corner to corner. I put this to the team and we started work. The thing is, you are tempted to add the whole pantry to the mixture to get it right. The problem is, the more ingredients we added the more binding agent is needed, making the burger far less than 100% beef.
Then the dietary/allergen nightmare started: “I am allergic to garlic” or “no onion with my food”, and so on.
So we started leaving out the garlic and the onion, followed by the mixed herbs. We believed that the mixture should always have eggs to assist with the binding, but slowly started reducing the quantity. The problem with this was that we still did not have control of everything that was going in.
The solution was in plain sight, we needed to take control of the meat mixture. First it was whatever we had available from all our trimmings in an approximate 70/30 beef fat ratio . This ended up being far too inconsistent.
Then late 2012, we decided that we needed to set up specific criteria for our burger.
We had a team chat and selected the beef cuts that we thought that would taste great in a burger, it is after all about the 100% beef.
Now we were on a journey to purity and flavour.

Finding Burger Heaven – Part 1

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Finding burger heaven! (part 1)

 

Burger in Bar

What makes a burger truly great? You know – that burger that is going to make you sit back and sigh with a stupid grin on your face.
Four years later and I am still working on making it perfect, tweaking, adjusting and eating more than my share of burgers. When the burger sits on the pass tall and proud, ready to meet it’s master I always think ”it is not perfection yet”. We all have different views and preferences, so the task in hand is a very personal adventure, as it should be. I have sampled most of the burgers in and around Cape Town
That perfect burger must have layers of soft, crunchy, tart, sour, juicy, tender, crisp, umami and sweet all in one. I want to be able to pick the burger up and finish it, without the bun falling apart.
When we started our journey the patty was a combination of bought mince 70/30 meat fat ratio we added garlic, onion, egg, crumbs, worcestershire sauce, mustard, parsley, salt, pepper, mixed herbs and somewhere in between some chutney! It looked and smelled like my grandmother’s frikkadel recipe. In hind sight we should have called it grandma’s frikkadel burger.
We called it home made…The problem with this was that we actually had no control over what went into mince mixture. Realising this meant finding the right burger patty was a priority.
So the journey began!

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Finding burger heaven!

Burger in Bar 2

What makes a good burger is pretty much a personal thing. A lot of people – chefs, bloggers – have written about the same topic. Some blogs are dedicated to the search for the ultimate burger.

I have used the search as a valuable tool in my kitchen to guide myself as well as illustrate to my staff that everything we do is a process of learning and a search towards perfection. Burgers are everywhere, we are all so familiar with the damn thing. We even settle for cheap fix on the run, late at night when we can not distinguish right from wrong even if we regret it later. But we still do it. It was important that everyone in my kitchen could relate to the one thing all of us know and are familiar with – good or bad.

All the lessons and all the mistakes we have made in the journey of making and eating burgers, we have applied to all our other recipes. None of them is perfect, none of them complete. But every day we go to work we know we have to try and be a little better than we were yesterday, no matter how small the improvement or the change. So while I search and compare burgers I know perfection is a dream, but it is a journey we must travel.

As one of my favourite burger spots would say  “not all burgers are created equal”

Our journey must start where we source our ingredients.

 

 

 

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