Friday, June 21, 2013

Apéritif Friday - Perfect Burgers with a Side of Cabin Stories

It's one of my favorite days of the year - SUMMER SOLSTICE! Today we celebrate the longest day of the year. It's been a bit of a rough go today at the cabin though...rain all day, including a deluge this morning with a driving windstorm causing the canopy of our pontoon to rise up on the boat, acting like a sail. That, coupled with whitecaps on our little 100 acre lake, caused the boat to actually start moving off the lift, much to Mr. Musky's horror as he sipped coffee while peering out the window.

He's seen a lot of funny stuff with his coffee in hand while gazing at the lake. Taking the cake has to be when his buddy, Moby Mike, dropped his fishing pole in the water (how???), reached down to retrieve it, tried lying down on the dock, then fell in himself. On a chilly October morning, when the water was approximately 45 degrees. Fully clothed in layers for a day of fishing. To this day, there is only one word my husband can muster to describe that scene:


So back to this morning's issue...I quickly hopped into come clothes as my nightgown wouldn't do for chasing down runaway boats, and threw on a raincoat and raced down to the dock with my partner in crime to right the situation. Rain pelted me in the face, but guess what? 

The mosquitos didn't bite! Hurrah!

We quickly lowered the canopy as far as it would go and he madly cranked up the boat a few more inches to keep it in place. Lightning lit up the morning sky, and he shouted above the swirling wind and pounding rain: "That's good enough! Quick! Get outta here, or we're gonna die!"

I dashed up the stairs as fast as my legs would carry me, and when I reached the top I glanced back to ensure the love of my life was safe and sound behind me. He wasn't there! I looked all over, rain blinding my vision, heart pounding vigorously, only to see him at the cabin basement door. He PASSED ME UP TO SAVE HIMSELF! Apparently my 20 yard dash speed isn't fast enough in life threatening situations, nor is chivalry anywhere to be found when lightning and aluminum docks are in the same field of vision. 

He was safe though. And that's all that matters, right? 

So...what does this all have to do with homemade burgers, the great American summer meal, that should rightly be consumed at least twice per month during the grilling season, in my own little humble opinion?

Absolutely nothing. Sometimes writing about food just needs some good tales to go along for the ride.

Before we deposited the kids at camp, we treated ourselves with what has finally become the Perfect Burger. Like Mr. Musky's homemade pizza, his burgers took years of trial-and-error and are finally deemed top-notch by all who devour them.

As always though, priorities and warmer weather dictate a summer version of the apéritif.
For my North Shore Citrus Mint Spritzer,  I squeezed half a white grapefruit into a glass, added 1/2 ounce of mint simple syrup, the juice of 1/4 lime and 2.5 ounces of vodka. I topped it off with club soda, and downed it in 30 seconds, thanks to the light, fizzy refreshing flavors dancing on my tastebuds. OK, maybe 30 minutes, but I was very pleased to have enough ingredients for a second round. I think I'll have another this weekend by the campfire.
But unfortunately, I won't have a photo-bombing daughter to entertain me. She's still living it up at summer camp. She gets to ride horses EVERY day, play games with her friends, swim in the lake, and whatever other activities she chooses. Not that I would know what those other activities include...because I have not received ONE LETTER from her or her brother. WAAAAHHHH!  They're not missing burger night at all. In fact, they have one weekly at camp. And they love it. But something tells me that our burgers might be a bit different (code for better).

Back on the clock...Mr. Musky's Perfect Burger recipe includes the following:

One photobombing teenager and 1.5 pounds of ground beef - 20% fat. Come on. Let's be real. We're making CHEESEBURGERS! Not tofu burgers, not turkey burgers, not bean burgers. Lean beef is not an option. Save that for taco salad or something.

Also, he uses one pound of ground veal. I like to break the meat up and crumble it into a bowl, adding a little beef then a little veal so it's kind of layered and will mix easier. One of the keys to good burgers is to handle the meat as minimally as possible, and breaking the meat up and layering it into your mixing bowl helps.

That peace loving kid up there wanted blue burgers, so we cut up about 4 oz of good blue cheese and added it to the meat. Every burger needs a little extra help, so Mr. Musky microplaned a shallot and a clove of garlic. We were out of Worcestershire sauce, so we substituted 2T of Sweet Baby Ray's Marinade. 
I added the crumbled blue cheese, the egg, and plenty of steak seasoning. Any seasoning will work, but at a minimum make sure you add plenty of salt and pepper. Yes - I understand that this looks really gross.

To mix the meat, run your clean, ringless right hand around the outside of the dish, turning the bowl with your left hand while folding the mixture over into the center.
This technique also helps with handling the meat as little as possible, while ensuring all of the ingredients are blended well. DO NOT OVERWORK THE MEAT, or your burgers will suck.

Just kidding! I'm just checking to see if y'all are still with me. They won't suck, but they might be tough and that's no fun. 

Take a hunk o' meat about the size of a 14" softball out of the bowl and loosely form it into a ball.
This was not enough meat. I was instructed by the master to add more.

Put a piece of waxed or parchment paper over the meatball, then put a salad plate on top, gently pressing down. Trust me. It's all the burger making rage!
Waa LAH! A perfectly formed burger patty, and guess what? All your burgers will be exactly the same size and thickness, so they are perfectly cooked. Thus...PERFECT BURGERS!
Trim the excess edge of the patty left by the indentation of the salad plate and return the extra meat to the bowl. Repeat as often as necessary for the other burgers. We got eight out of this batch. Put them in the refrigerator. Unlike other meat, you do NOT want to put these burgers on the grill at room temperature, or they will fall apart. They'll go on ice cold, straight out of the Fridgidaire, as my Grandma Owen called it. Or Ice Box, as my dad called it. I was a very confused child in the kitchen.

Next, all good burgers need some dressing up. I call them the accessories. Layer several slices of bacon in an aluminum pan, along with a chopped onion or two.

Not really. About me spitting in my family's burgers. That's gross. But it's true about Ritchie. He was scary. I just kept practicing my curly-Qs on my soft serve cones and paid no mind to the frightful goings on back in the kitchen.

To this day I will not eat food at a Dairy Queen.

Back to the toppings...because I had one and I like a bit of spice, I added a sliced jalapeño to the bacon and onions, deemed them ready, and sent them on their way with Mr. Musky to the grill.
The last indoor step requires a bit o butter (about 1/2 stick), some powdered garlic and ciabatta rolls. Slice the rolls in half, melt the butter in the microwave, and sprinkle in the garlic powder to your liking. We love it, so I add about a teaspoon or so. Mix it together and brush it on the cut side of your buns. 

Finally! Time for me to seize the supervisory role and see how things are going down on the patio.

Smoky bacon meets my nose. Good things are happening with the Perfect Burger's sidekicks, but they're not quite there. 
Somebody questions my authority. So I go back to sipping that second Apéritif. I get this look often.

My buttered buns are looking good. Heh Heh.
AH! Done!
And now for the main event. Those chilled suckers are ready for some grillin' action.
On they go over medium-high (about 375 degrees) direct heat for five minutes.
After five minutes, flip them to cook for another five minutes, then pull them off the direct heat and top them with a slice of cheddar cheese for additional decadence.
After reading and researching and perfecting his grilling techniques, Mr. Musky swears by using a thermometer. It doesn't matter what you're grilling, just use one to ensure you don't over or undercook your meat. We like our burgers medium, so he pulls them off when they reach an internal temperature of 150 degrees.

Grab a paper plate (real plates defy burger consumption logic, no?) and load it up. I like mayonnaise mixed with a bit of siracha on mine, in addition to the grilled onions, jalapeño and bacon.
Devour with a glass of good red wine. Seriously. The burger actually makes the wine taste better! Feel sorry for the dogger, who would die for a bite of burger. OK...maybe not die, but would definitely create a foot-long sliver of slimy drool for one.
See! The Perfect Burger is even the doggie's favorite!
And finally...something really kind of funny...I made this awesome squash medley to go with the burgers. It was deliriously yummy, with some spice and crunchy toasted almonds and fantastic texture and flavors.

Aside from sampling it after I cooked it, not one person ate a bite. The burgers were that good. I guess that makes them worthy of their Perfect title.

Needless to say, I ate squash medley for lunch six days straight.

Thanks for reading an extraordinarily long post today. More cabin adventures coming your way next week.


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