FLIPPING CHEESEBURGERS WITH EMERIL LAGASSE
This week I reached out for ... something a little different. I pulled up a chair with America's favorite TV chef, Emeril Lagasse, and naturally the conversation turned to cheeseburgers — the drive-through classic.
Funny how most of my conversations these days turn to cheeseburgers.
Man, he did some fast talking about fast food. When Emeril makes a cheeseburger, you can be sure he "kicks it up notches unknown to mankind."
Right away, you should know that Emeril does not frequent fast-food joints. He can't remember the last time he's been in a Wendy's or a Burger King. If you've ever watched "Emeril Live" or "The Essence of Emeril" on the TV Food Network, or seen his weekly cooking spot on ABC's "Good Morning America," you know he's "one of those insane people who has to make everything from scratch."
With apologies to Jimmy Buffett, here's how you really make a cheeseburger in paradise.
Toto, we're not in McDonald's anymore.
"For the burger, start with really good ground sirloin. You need a decent percentage of fat in the meat. I would look for a grind of 85 percent lean and 15 percent fat," he said.
Here's an Emeril trick: Take a bulb of garlic, split it in half, moisten with 1/4 teaspoon olive oil, add some salt and pepper, and wrap the garlic in a piece of aluminum foil. Put it in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. The garlic will come out sweet and caramelized. Let it cool, then mix the garlic into the meat.
"An outdoor or indoor grill is good, but the best way to make a burger is to fry it. The first mistake people make is turning their skillet up full blast. That's too hot. They get a nice sear on the meat, but it doesn't keep the burgers juicy. I use a medium-high heat," he said.
Sprinkle salt and fresh-ground pepper on the patty before cooking it.
Emeril knows, this is contrary to what your mother told you.
"She probably didn't put salt on her beans, too. She was afraid they wouldn't pop or cook right. In the old days, people connected salt to the curing process. They thought if you put salt on meat before cooking, it would shrink and dry it out. It's not true. Use salt and pepper before cooking, on both sides, otherwise the burger won't taste good."
Emeril said the perfect burger is about 1/2-inch thick and just wide enough to cover the bun.
"When you make a thick burger, don't keep spanking it with a spatula. That only creates cracks in the meat that allow the juices to escape."
Don't keep flipping them over and over, either. Let it cook on one side, then the other side, then back again for 10 seconds on the original side. That 10-second interval is when you slap on the cheese. This way, your burger will be evenly warm when you serve it.
Now for the type of cheese. There's only one that clicks with burgers and that's Cheddar. "American cheese used to be good, but I don't know what happened to it. Now it's 'processed,' so maybe it's real, maybe it isn't. Cheddar is definitely the best. Get some good sliced Cheddar, which isn't easy to find. I think you need at least two or three nice slices on a cheeseburger.
Emeril departs from his "everything from scratch" rule when it comes to the bun.
"Whatever you find in the supermarket is fine. Sunshine buns are great by me," he said. "Just put a little butter on them and toast them before serving."
Now for the critical condiment stage. The finishing touches. What to put on top of your cheeseburger?
"This is really up to the individual, but if you're asking me what makes the perfect cheeseburger, I put mustard and shaved raw onions on mine," Emeril said.
"You know, all this talk has gotten me hungry. You know where we can get a good cheeseburger?"
© 2000 by King Features Syndicate Inc.