One of my very favorite things to order when I’m out for dinner is a gourmet burger. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound very classy, but when a burger’s done right, it’s unbeatable. My absolute favorite place to indulge such tendencies is a little joint in New York City called Joy Burger Bar—
those guys really have me hooked on specifying my burger’s size (5 ounces), toppings (sautéed onions, tomato, lettuce, jalapenos), and adding a zippy sauce like spicy mango chutney or chimichuri. By the time I’ve added a side of baked vegetable fries (zucchini or sweet potato), I’ve basically nailed it: one delectable creation coming up. Their burger is so fresh and made-to-order that it’s almost like I cooked it myself…which bring me to the crux of the problem. You see, I live in a city, with limited-to-nonexistent porch space, and I don’t have a grill. How is a girl to whip up homemade burgers without a gleaming, stainless steel, Turbo5000 Charcoal Grill at her disposal? I’ll tell you, because I recently discovered the secret myself: she buys a grill pan.
That’s right, a cast iron grill pan, to be specific. This simple solution had eluded me for years, primarily because I’d never heard of such a thing. All it took was one glimpse of this sturdy little thing at a local yard sale for me to perceive my ignorance. I snapped it up and I was ready to grill!
Baked Vegetable Fries
Cooking this batch of chunky turnip fries requires almost an hour, so get them in the oven before you start on the hamburgers (recipe below).
- 1 pound turnips
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Cracked pepper to taste
Method: Preheat the oven to 425°F and place a large, rimmed baking sheet in the middle rack to warm up. Meanwhile, peel your turnips, halve them horizontally, and cut each half into chunky steak fries: 2.5 inches long and 0.5 inches thick. Do your best to cut each piece evenly, or grab a ruler to cut a starter piece. Otherwise, you’ll have to be prepared to pick out the “done” fries from the rest toward the end, as the cooking time can be affected dramatically by thicker or thinner slices. Toss the turnips in a medium bowl with the oil, salt, and pepper. (If you are substituting rutabagas, carrots, or parsnips, toss them with salt and microwave for seven minutes, drain off the water, then toss with oil and pepper). Working quickly, remove the hot baking sheet from the oven, arrange the turnip slices in a single layer, and place in oven to bake for 25 minutes. (Now start your burgers!) Then, using a thin metal spatula, stir the turnips and flip them over, returning them to a single layer. Put the baking sheet back in the oven for another 15 minutes, then check the fries every 10 minutes, flipping as necessary. Mine baked for sixty-five minutes in total, until they were caramelized, golden brown, sizzling, and delicious. Toss with minced parsley if desired and serve with homemade burgers.
Homemade Burgers with Balsamic Shallots
No matter how you dress it up, the most important part of a good burger is the beef. Make sure you start with fresh, high-quality, ground beef. (Denver locals–have you tried our ground beef, fresh from Colorado’s Best Beef Company?)
- 1.25 lb ground beef chuck
- Kosher salt and white pepper
- 4 Ciabatta buns (or regular hamburger buns)
- 4 large shallots, peeled and sliced
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1.5 tablespoon horseradish sauce
- 3 tablespoons Mayonnaise
- Lettuce (optional garnish)
Method: Combine the horseradish and mayonnaise and set aside. Spray the cast iron grill pan lightly with oil (use Pam or your own oil mister) and place it over medium flame. Take care to use high-heat cooking oil rather than olive oil, and heat the pan until it smokes gently. Meanwhile, season the ground beef with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon finely ground white pepper and shape it into four ½ inch-thick patties. Cook the patties 3 to 4 minutes per side in the grill pan for medium rare. While patties are cooking, heat a small skillet and add 1 tablespoon oil. Fry the shallots, stirring often, until tender, 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar (consider Extravagonzo’s Classic Balsamic Vinegar, imported from Modena, Italy). Toast the buns, if desired, and spread them with a bit of the horseradish/mayonnaise mixture. Top the burgers with lettuce and balsamic shallots and serve with the vegetable fries, which can be dipped in ketchup or additional balsamic vinegar. Try out a funky sauce on your burger too if you want, and enjoy!