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[personal profile] geeksoup
So I've been planning burgers for a few days now. I had to wait until I felt better (I have an upper respiratory infection and was apparently on the beginnings of a sinus infection). Tonight, I felt pretty good, so I thought I'd do it.

Now, when we do burgers around here, we don't really do anything like a fast-food thing. If we're going to this thing, I do chuck, angus or, when we can afford it, bison. If you've never had bison and can swing it, DO IT. It's lovely. It tastes like hamburgers used to taste, mostly because it's primarily free-range and antibiotic- and growth hormone-free. Anyway. Bison good.

For the veggies in the house, there are portobello mushrooms.

The next rule about my burgers is I avoid regular buns for the most part. The plainest I've been known to use is a big wheat bun or a bollilo-style roll, though I prefer onion rolls or sourdough, or best of all, ciabatta. Yum, ciabatta.

Condiments for these burgers are as widely varied as there are people eating them. I've used horseradish, brown mustard, aioli, homemade barbecue sauce...it almost doesn't matter. You can grill the buns if you like (aioli makes a lovely spread if so, or garlic butter). A panini press would work if you want the inside toasty and the outside soft; you just put the buns with their backs to each other, buttered/spreaded side to the grill, and gently close the press without pushing down.

ETA: I left out greens! If you need salad on your burger, don't do iceberg lettuce. Please. Use butter lettuce, spinach, alfalfa/radish/broccoli sprouts, arugula, spring greens...anything but iceberg.

One of our favorite things is caramelized onions. I have long wanted to try to make an onion marmalade, though where I first heard of that, I can't remember. Naturally, I googled it.

It's an imperfect art, caramelizing onions. It's intuitive, but hardly rocket science. This is not candy-making in which everything depends on humidity and absolute temperature, nor is it cake that will fall if you open the oven door. Here's roughly how it goes, verified by several recipes:

Onions: about 10 (not a typo: ten, really) cups of sliced onions of your choice, be they sweet, red, white, yellow, whatever. This ends up being 5-6 depending on size, or about 3 pounds. Slice as thinly as you can. A mandoline would not be amiss here, or onions sliced in half and then fed through the slicer of a food processor. It's not a requirement, though. If your knife is sharp enough (and I mean very sharp), you can do it by hand.

Knives. I should do a thing on knives. That's another post.


  • Fat: this isn't going to happen without some fat for sauteeing/caramelizing. A couple of tablespoons, say some recipes. A quarter cup, say others. You could cut butter with canola. Use unsalted butter and salt substitute. Omit the butter and use coconut oil, bacon grease, straight olive oil. You get the idea. What's important is that the heat is medium-low to low. You want this caramelized evenly throughout. You're going to end up with something as brown as milk chocolate, but you don't want that happening too fast.


  • Sweetness: This depends on taste. The esteemed Julia Child uses a mere teaspoon of white sugar to 3 lb of onions; tonight's modification involved a tablespoon of brown. You could omit the sugar and cut back the vinegar, but I think you'd be sacrificing some richness. Trust me when I say the sugar, while adding to the browning and the richness of the caramelization, will not bury the taste of the onions nor add too much sweetness. Be gentle, though; if you're winging it, remember that you can add more sugar but you can't take it away again. ETA: Franzi mentioned downthread that she uses honey. Maybe we can steal her recipe.


  • Tartness: I've seen all types of vinegars used, but I'd go with something rich like balsamic or even a malt vinegar before I choose an apple cider or a red wine. A good splash from a slotted lid will do; that amounts to one or two tablespoons. Maybe three, depending on your taste and the number/type of onions used. I actually prefer this to Julia's much-lauded white wine method, but I think a good rich red would work, too. It depends on what you're going to use the onions for, honestly.


  • Savoriness: You can do several things to add to this. A brief sprinkling of salt is never amiss. Make sure it's an even-grain salt, measurable and smooth, whether it be kosher or regular. A gourmet salt would work, too. I have a Whole Foods chardonnay-oak-smoked salt I adore, but salt just has to be carefully-applied, not necessarily crazy-highbrow.


  • Garlic: Because garlic is its own component. As we say around here, garlic don't need no reason. Several cloves, between 2 and 6, diced finely. You could probably put these through your food processor or a garlic press.


  • Another ETA: Herbs. Thyme is what Franzi uses. I have never...messed...with herbs here. It's kind of a travesty, I realize that now. I'll remedy it soon, I promise.



So what's going to happen is this, in this order: heat the fat on medium. Add the sugar. Add the onions. Stir, coat with sugared fat. Salt, if desired. Stir, add the garlic. Stir again. Check the onions every few minutes; when they start to brown, turn down the heat.

Cook for a good half hour. Yes, a half hour. Maybe more. Stir about every five to seven minutes. Every recipe I've seen has underestimated this time, but by the time you're done, the onions should be stringy and sticky, clinging to each other and leaving no water behind in the pan. Now, in order to get the deep, deep brown color you're looking for, you might want to add water just to keep the onions from sticking too much. It won't be much at a time, maybe a quarter cup, and you'll want to leave the heat where it is as the added water cooks off.

When you're done, you will have a thick, lovely substance you can practically spread. Goes gorgeously with a creamy, melty swiss cheese. Would mix well with sliced, sauteed mushrooms.

Nngh. Enjoy.

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Hilary's geek soup

March 2014

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