I was talking to a friend this morning about the origination of the hamburger. The conversation began when I, typing out this post, spelled it as a HANDburger, and was momentarily completely convinced I was right. (That’s what I’m like on a Monday without coffee and food, y’all.) It makes perfect sense, though, doesn’t it? You hold the burger in your HAND to eat it. Duh. Makes much more logical sense than a HAMburger. But it led me to the idea that I think not a lot of Americans realize where the term, or the dish itself, comes from.
Get ready to be burger skooled, y’all.
So there are actually a few different theories and stories as to the history and creation of the hamburger. One is that it originated in Hamburg, Germany. In the late 1880’s, German immigrants began grinding their steaks to make them more tender for eating. They called them ‘Hamburg Steaks’, which was then shortened to ‘Hamburger’. But there is no written documentation as to if they actually put that ground meat in between two slices of bread…
There’s also a story about a man in Wisconsin, (again in the late 1880’s), who sold meatballs at a fair out of what we now would call a food truck. He began receiving complaints that his meatballs were too difficult to eat while walking… so he smushed them and put them between two slices of bread. He named it the Hamburger and then named himself ‘Hamburger Charlie’. (As one would.) If you go to visit Seymour, Wisconsin, they are sure to tell you they are the home of the Hamburger.
There’s a similar story out of Connecticut in 1990 when apparently a man came rushing into the local lunch wagon demanding a quick lunch. The owner ran back to the kitchen, tossed a burger patty in between two slices of bread, and sent him on his way.
And someone in Texas known as ‘Old Dave’ around this same time was documented to have opened up a lunch counter and sold an unnamed sandwich made out of ground beef between two slices of bread.
(I’m sad we never got to see Old Dave and Hamburger Charlie duke it out. My money’s on Old Dave… don’t mess with Texas. Also, don’t we all think silly Hamburglar things when we think of Hamburger Charlie?)
SO. Based on all of that, here’s what we know to be true:
- Burgers were first thought of around the turn of the 20th century. My guess is that people were just plain sick and tired of forks by then.
- And Americans have always been in a hurry, and become very demanding when it comes to food.
Personally, I don’t really care how the burger got to us, I’m just glad that it did. There are so many different kinds of burgers these days, and it goes way beyond the ground beef smushed between two slices of bread idea. I love a good burger, and even though I don’t eat them often, when I do… it’s pretty epic.
(Which was the working title for these here monster burgers.)
(Which was another working title for them.)
What I want out of a burger is the definitive knowledge that once I put my mouth on it, I will not be putting it down until I finish it. It needs to be messy, with a good balance of texture and flavor- there needs to be something crunchy/crispy to pair with the soft and juicy and also something tangy/pickled to pair with the rich and buttery. The bun is entirely important and needs to be buttered and toasted and smushable, (DO NOT give me a dry, stale bun or I go Old Dave on your ass). And after it’s gone, I either need the entire roll of paper towels, or a shower. THAT is how you do burgers.
This, below, was our dinner-burger yesterday. It did not disappoint on all accounts. I ground the beef myself (using a 50/50 blend of NY Strip and Ribeye), I used challah bread (lightly sweet and soft), I made a chutney out of grapes and tomatoes that can only be described as ‘the thing ketchup wishes it was’, which brought an impossibly irresistible tang and sweetness to stand up to the richness of the meat and the gooey cheddar cheese (extra sharp only, please). And it all paired beautifully with the crispy and thick onion ‘steak’ in the center that I dipped in a buttermilk bath before crusting with… Goldfish crackers.
(Yes. I’m a little bit crazy, but that’s why you love me so.)
Now. Go and enjoy this here epically monstrous TWO-HANDburger and think of me fondly when you’re messy.
CRISPY ONION CHEDDAR CHUTNEY BURGER
You’ll need roughly 2 pounds of beef for these burgers to feed 4 people, as standard burgers are about 1/4 lb. But, truth be told, my husband and I had giant mommy-daddy burgers while the kids had kiddo burgers so… I wouldn’t object to you buying more beef!
And I ground it myself from trimmed meat we’d saved and frozen over the past month. It was a half and half mixture of ribeye and strip.
But if you’re going to the standard grocery store for pre-ground meat, I highly recommend a half and half mixture of chuck and sirloin. The chuck has a good fat content, but on it’s own I feel is overpowering, and the sirloin has nice flavor and is a bit leaner. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your grocery store butcher to grind meat for you. THEY WILL DO IT. (But think of the protein:fat ratio as staying in the 80:20 zone for the ideal blend.) If you’re able to go to a stand-alone, perhaps fancier butcher, have them talk to you about what blends they recommend. ‘Cuz we can talk days on short ribs and brisket…
When you’re forming your patties, be very, very careful to not over-handle the meat. You’re just looking to loosely form it into a flat disk, and it should take just a few seconds to do so. Press into the center of each patty and create a crater, this allows the burger to cook flat and more evenly, as opposed to puffing up into more of a ball shape as it cooks.
Season one side of each patty liberally with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Place the seasoned sides down into a large skillet on high heat (cast iron makes excellent skillet burgers). Season the up side with more salt and pepper. Allow the patties to develop a deep brown crust before flipping. This takes about 2 minutes, and DO NOT MOVE THEM while they’re cooking.
After you flip, you can add the cheese. Place enough EXTRA SHARP cheddar cheese over each patty to cover it completely. Cover the skillet with a lid, or another skillet of the same size, to melt the cheese as you continue cooking the burgers.
During this time, you should be toasting your buns. I used a loaf of challah bread for this, because I had one, and it was awesome, but the challah buns, or even brioche hamburger buns are what you should buy for these.
Slice each bun and butter the insides. Place into a medium-heated skillet to toast. Be sure to flip them and warm the other side after you get a good golden brown crust.
Once the cheese has fully melted and the meat cooked to your liking, turn off the heat.
Spread a good slathering of the Grape-Tomato Chutney onto each side (recipe below).
Place a cheesy burger patty onto the bottom bun, over the chutney.
Top with a leaf of crispy lettuce.
Top with your Cheddar Cracker Coated Onion (recipe below).
Top with your top (buttered, toasted) bun, slathered with more chutney.
CHEDDAR CRACKER COATED ONIONS
Slice off the ends of a large, yellow onion and peel off the outer skin. Slice it into 4 large sections, leaving all the rings inside each slice so you have onion ‘steaks’.
Place each onion steak into a shallow baking dish and add…
- buttermilk (whole fat, and real). Cover the onions with it.
- hot sauce (whatever your favorite brand is… mine lately has been Cholula. Use several dashes.)
- kosher salt (heavy handed pinches)
Allow the onions to soak for at least 30 minutes, but if you had the time, you can do this all day/overnight. The longer they soak, the softer they’ll become and the more flavor they’ll have.
In the bowl of your food processor, add…
- 1 cup (plain cheddar flavor) Goldfish crackers (or any other cheddar snack cracker… I just happened to have the goldfish in my pantry 😉 )
Pulse these until you have breadcrumb consistency….no large pieces. Pour out onto a large plate.
Take a soaked onion chunk and, without wiping off the excess buttermilk mixture, place in the cracker crumbs. Roll around on all sides to cover with the crumbs.
Place onto a baking rack situated over a baking sheet (to ensure crispy sides all around… also I like to line the baking sheet itself with parchment for easy clean-up). Continue with all 4 onion ‘steaks’.
Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, or until the onions are tender and cracker coating is crispy on the outside.
Before the recipe, allow me to show you how you need to be slicing a large amount of grapes or grape/cherry tomatoes.
In a small saucepan, sweat out the following in a small amount of canola/light olive oil…
- 1 large shallot, minced
Season with a pinch of kosher salt.
- 3/4 cup or 4 oz red grapes, sliced in half
- 3/4 cup or 4 oz grape/cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Season with more kosher salt.
- 2 TB balsamic vineger
- 1 TB light brown sugar
- 3 cloves
- 1 bay leaf
Bring to a bubble, then cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Cook, covered and gently simmering for 15 minutes, or until the fruit has broken down and softened completely.
Remove the lid and simmer on low, uncovered until thickened- this could be another 10-20 minutes. Taste to check your seasoning, adding more salt if you think necessary. Remove the 3 cloves and the bay leaf.
If you find yours is too chunky for your liking, use an immersion blender to break it down more. But I recommend not getting it completely smooth.
(For my other recent burger recipes, check out my Steak n Eggs Burger made out of hand-ground tenderloin trimmings and my Pimento Cheese Chuck Burger with Vidalia Onion Candy on Croissant. I even have an incredible veggie burger recipe (even if the post is ancient and kinda pitiful)… check out my G-Free Black Bean and Corn Burgers.)
One bite of this baby, and it’s over…
In true Handburger fashion.
Thanks for reading, y’all. Much love, XOXO