The humble burger is humble no more.
Truffles, foie gras, all manner of designer beef, exotic cheeses, infantile greens, confit-ed everything, artisan buns, more aiolis than you can shake a whisk at have all collided with the basic meat patty to take the burger from blue-collar grub to high-end cuisine.
High-end prices too, with truly haute burgers going for as much as $40 at local "gourmet" joints. Daniel Boulud is generally given credit for dressing the burger in tux and tails and taking it uptown with his db Burger at NYC's db Bistro Moderne. Stuffed with braised short ribs and foie gras on a house-baked Parmesan bun and selling for $32, it's been upstaged by the burger Royale, which adds fresh black truffles (plus another $43).
That's a little (actually, a lot) too rich for my blood (and wallet). But there's no reason why greedy Wall Street bloodsuckers who've stolen billions of dollars of our money should have all the fun. So borrowing an idea here, an idea there, Charlie came up with a (relatively) easy and (pretty) inexpensive gourmet burger that you can turn out in your own kitchen. It does take some time to prepare the various components but, truly, it is one great fucking burger. If I do say so myself.
Let's call it the. . .
Haute But Not Haughty Gourmet Burger
1 lb. beef short ribs
½ C. red wine
2 C. chicken stock (low-sodium canned is fine)
½ onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 t. dried thyme
2 T. olive oil
Salt and pepper 1
lb. boneless chuck steak
Sharp cheddar cheese
Red onion slices, brushed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and grilled
4 pieces oven-dried tomato (or substitute sun-dried tomatoes)
Greens of your choice
2 T. mayo mixed with 1 T. truffle-honey mustard and 1 T. cream-style horseradish
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To make the short ribs (begin one day ahead): Heat olive oil in heavy pot and brown short ribs on all sides. Remove short ribs from pot and add veggies, minus garlic, and sauté until onions are translucent (about 5-7 minutes). Add garlic and sauté one minute more. Put short ribs back in pot and add red wine, turning heat to high and reducing by half. Add chicken stock, thyme, bay leaf, pepper and salt if needed (even low-sodium stock is pretty salty so taste first). Cover pot and simmer on low heat for three to four hours, until meat is falling off bones. Let short ribs cool in braising liquid and refrigerate.
Next day, skim fat off of braising liquid and reheat gently. Remove ribs and shred meat. (You'll have enough for at least six burgers but the meat freezes very well. Or reserve one meaty rib for burgers, strain and reduce liquid to sauce-like consistency and serve with shredded meat over pasta.) Moisten burger meat with a tablespoon or so of braising liquid and let cool.
For burgers: Cut chuck into one-inch squares, removing tough connective tissue but including fat. Place meat in food processor and whiz until coarsely ground (not too much, though, you don't want paté). Pick through ground beef for any tough bits and discard, then form into four large, thin patties. Top two patties with one to two tablespoons of shredded short rib meat; top those with two other patties and crimp edges to seal. Salt and pepper burgers and reserve until ready to cook.
Grill burgers to desired degree of doneness, turning carefully with spatula. Top with garnishes and serve, admiring the best goddam burger you've ever made. And tasted.