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Recipe Time: Pesto Burgers

Pesto BurgerJinny and I are always jotting down ideas in a shared Google Document for a possible fancy dinner party menu. We love cooking for people, as it seems that not many people in our generation really cook for themselves anymore. We've been experimenting with a ton of different styles of food, Jinny brings mass amounts of Korean cooking knowledge to the table, while I lean more French/Italian. We'll post some of these recipes here in case you Geekateers would enjoy following along on our quest for culinary perfection.

We love making hamburgers. It's easy, quick, and infinitely variable. Hamburgers are one of those foods that anyone can appreciate (unless you're a vegetarian, in which case - get out of my kitchen) and can be instantly bumped up to gourmet status with special ingredients, and a little bit of technique. It's so simple to make your own hamburger patties, and the ones you mix at home have way more flavor and texture than those crappy frozen pre-made ones you can buy at the store. As with any dish, it's all about the quality of ingredients. If you can't find some of these ingredients, you could always make substitutions, but food is one of those things that Jinny and I never skimp on.

Here is a great Italian variation on the burger we came up with. Last time we served this to friends, tears welled up in their eyes as they uttered "This is the best burger I have ever eaten". I definitely agree. And if you're a bit squicked out by anchovies, don't worry. They only exist to accentuate the flavor, the burgers do not come out all fishy. This is an adapted recipe from the photograph there, we have since improved it. Cooking is all about evolution, like Pokémon!

Pesto Burgers

Feeds two humans

  • 1lb ground beef (grind your own or get the least lean package at the store. The more fat the better!)
  • Potato Hamburger Buns
  • Pesto (for spreading. A jar would do. Or make your own!)
  • 2 Anchovy fillets (packed in oil is best), minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • One nice heirloom or beefsteak tomato, sliced
  • Sriracha
  • Balsalmic Vinegar (any old kind will do. Don't use your best, though. Save that for salads.)
  • Soft cheese such as chevre (Ricotta would also work. Need a dry, salty cheese.)
  • 2 slices panchetta (bacon makes a good substitute)
  • Kosher salt, pepper

1. Spread butter on the buns (tee hee) and toast until slightly brown. Let cool.

2. Finely chop the shallot and the anchovy and mix into the hamburger in a big bowl. Use your hands for this. Squishy fun ensues. Add about a tablespoon of kosher salt and a half a tablespoon of cracked black pepper. Add about 2 tablespoons of balsalmic vinegar and a hefty squirt of the sriracha. Don't have sriracha in the house? Well shame on you. You can substitute with a dash of cayenne pepper. Mix well. Squish squish.

3. Form two patties by creating a ball with half the mixture and pressing it between your hands. Try to keep the edges from falling apart and be gentle. Place on a plate and make a slight depression in the middle. Cover plated patties with saran wrap and put in the fridge to set.

4. Heat up your pan (preferably a cast iron skillet) and cook the panchetta or bacon until crispy. Do not drain, as bacon fat is what Jesus' tears are probably made of. Remove panchetta from pan and let drain on paper towels.

5. While the pan is still hot and the bacon fat is fluid (but not smoking), place your patties into the pan. Don't move them at all for the first minute, as this will impede the progress of the browning. Try to avoid the silly fast food thing where you press the meat with a spatula. You really don't want those juices to escape, and the depression you made earlier should keep the shape nice and neat. Flip once (and only once!) and cook for another minute on the other side. These are best at medium rare, but if you like charcoal burgers you could always cook them longer. Remove to a plate and let sit while you dress the buns.

6. Spread chevre on one side of the buns and pesto on the other. Place burger on the bottom bun and top with pancetta. Add a slice of tomato and serve alongside fries or tater tots. I prefer tots.

Best burgers ever? Possibly.

Check out more food on Chris' Flickr


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