vrai-lean-uh

Cooking, eating, making sweeping pronouncements

Posts tagged burgers

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Lunch at Bresca
I want to apologize to Krista Kern Desjarlais and the good folks at Bresca for my crappy iPhone photo of their magnificent burger.
It’s the best burger I’ve had in a long, long time. It has bacon and cheddar cheese and mayo and mustard and ketchup and the juices run down your hand and it’s just really, really fantastic. 
I mean, they have other great stuff. When I went last Friday with Kate, she got the Brussels sprout salad, which was better than a Brussels sprout salad has any business being, and a soup that I didn’t try because I was too laser-focused on my burger at that point but that looked wonderful. And then I went again Saturday and got the Bresca “Madame” sandwich, their version of the croque madame, which involved a perfectly cooked egg, gruyere, and speck. And then I got a chocolate Napoleon for desert (see also: living your best life). I know lunch is not a meal that generally involves desert, but I just felt that if you have an opportunity to eat one of Desjarlais’ deserts, you have an obligation to take advantage of that opportunity. I regret nothing.
If you haven’t been, the restaurant is pretty and tiny, with warm brown walls, a chalkboard menu, fresh flowers, and a huge butcher block counter. The dishes are in the range of $12 (desert was $10). 
And you should go. It’s a pretty fantastic way to eat at one of Portland’s best restaurants for very little money. They’re open Weds - Sat from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm (as well as dinner on Friday and Saturday).
Which means you can be eating this burger as soon as tomorrow.*
* If you live in Portland.

Lunch at Bresca

I want to apologize to Krista Kern Desjarlais and the good folks at Bresca for my crappy iPhone photo of their magnificent burger.

It’s the best burger I’ve had in a long, long time. It has bacon and cheddar cheese and mayo and mustard and ketchup and the juices run down your hand and it’s just really, really fantastic. 

I mean, they have other great stuff. When I went last Friday with Kate, she got the Brussels sprout salad, which was better than a Brussels sprout salad has any business being, and a soup that I didn’t try because I was too laser-focused on my burger at that point but that looked wonderful. And then I went again Saturday and got the Bresca “Madame” sandwich, their version of the croque madame, which involved a perfectly cooked egg, gruyere, and speck. And then I got a chocolate Napoleon for desert (see also: living your best life). I know lunch is not a meal that generally involves desert, but I just felt that if you have an opportunity to eat one of Desjarlais’ deserts, you have an obligation to take advantage of that opportunity. I regret nothing.

If you haven’t been, the restaurant is pretty and tiny, with warm brown walls, a chalkboard menu, fresh flowers, and a huge butcher block counter. The dishes are in the range of $12 (desert was $10). 

And you should go. It’s a pretty fantastic way to eat at one of Portland’s best restaurants for very little money. They’re open Weds - Sat from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm (as well as dinner on Friday and Saturday).

Which means you can be eating this burger as soon as tomorrow.*

* If you live in Portland.

Filed under bresca portland maine burgers

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Burgers

I have a somewhat shameful confession*: I am not good at making hamburgers. It seems so basic— small disk of meat gets cooked in a skillet or on a grill for a short period of time, flipped, and then done. And yet, I’m pretty bad at it. I don’t make them very often, so maybe that’s part of the problem, but I just can’t ever figure out when they should be done, and I’m constantly worried about over-working the meat, but I always end up with these big cavernous cracks in the edges when I don’t. Cookbooks and food safety people are always telling you to use a meat thermometer with food, but how do you do that with a burger? And doesn’t it let all the juices run out?

So when the Portland food blogger group decided that for our last set of burger reviews, we would make our own burgers (or write about our ideal burger if we are not make-our-own-burger type people) I was a touch apprehensive. My whole tumblr is about cooking, but I have produced hockey pucks before, and that would be embarrassing.

Happily, I have my Cook’s Illustrated The Best Recipe cookbook, and they have a whole two-page treatise on burgers. I’m going to summarize the key points, because if you are the kind of person that wants to read through the saga of determining the best possible burger, you probably already have that cookbook.

  1. Use chuck (which should be 20% fat).
  2. Grind it up yourself in a food processor.
  3. Toss the meat from hand to hand to create a loose ball, then use your finger tips to press lightly into a 1” disk.
  4. Make sure your grill or pan is hot before you add the burgers.
  5. Cook for 4 minutes per side for medium rare (5 minutes on the first side and four minutes on the second side for medium).

I had already failed on the first 2 points, which also meant I kind of failed on the third. Dave bought the fancy grass fed beef from the grocery early in the day, which meant it was 90% lean because it’s apparently hard for cows to get really fat grazing and eating only grass.** And the meat from the grocery was all smooshed into a log of meat in the butcher paper, so tossing it from hand to hand didn’t do a whole lot. I did make concerted efforts to gently flatten using only my fingertips and I ignored the less egregious splits along the edges, though.

So then I got my skillet good and hot, and I set my timer this time. I am horrible at remembering to take things off the heat at the right time, and the difference between rare and medium rare is a matter of one minute per side. If you’re looking at a digital clock, you can be more than one minute off based simply on how many seconds through the minute you were when you started and when during the final minute you took the burgers off the heat. (In other words: 6:05 to 6:10 could mean anything from 6:05:01 to 6:10:55, which is 5 minutes and 54 seconds, to 6:05:55 to 6:10:01, which is 4 minutes and 6 seconds. That works out to nearly a four minute difference in total cooking time.)

Friends, I did really well. The burgers were a little lean, but still juicy and not at all overcooked. The meat had a nice flavor, too, pretty gamey, like something between regular ground beef and lamb.

I also used my favorite burger toppings, which is sort of where I shine. Some of my fellow burger bloggers are purists. I am not. When I make burgers at home, I have them with caramelized onions and goat cheese on sourdough bread. I know, you have your tomato and your lettuce and your ketchup, but you can pry my little ball of meat with onions and chevre stuffed between two hunks of bread out of my cold, dead hands.

So before I started the burgers, I thinly sliced and caramelized an onion (melt some butter or heat some oil in a not-non-stick skillet (a stick skillet?). Dump the onions in and cook on medium-to-low heat until they’ve turned deep yellow/brownish and are completely soft). I added some balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking to deglaze the pan.

Then, as the burgers were finishing cooking, I topped each with goat cheese.

Finally, I piled a heap of onions on top and sandwiched between two pieces of regular sourdough bread (do not use regular sandwich bread, which will dissolve in the face of burger juice).

It wasn’t spectacular, but it was really, solidly good. And I’m counting that as a success.

* Probably less shameful than the banana.

** Fun story: my sister-in-law’s family runs an organic beef operation, and they tried fattening their cows once by bringing them to eat organic cookie leftovers and scraps before they went to the butcher, because otherwise the cows are too lean.

Filed under burgers Portland Maine I hope you're not reading this blog for the photos shame