From simple to complex, the hamburger is a blank canvas

Hamburgers, burgers, Hamburg steak, Salisbury steak.

Only something so loved and so ubiquitous could have so many names, not to mention the myriad variations: elk burger, veggie burger, roo burger.

The history of this modest lunch is a bit murky. Chopped steak and chopped steak sandwiches have been popular for a couple hundred years both in Europe and in North America. The Germans (or the Danes. See? Murky.) developed a dish called frikadeller, a flattened, chopped steak meatball, which could be the precursor to our present-day hamburger. Just slap a frikadeller between two slices of bread and voila.

But closer to home there are at least ten contenders from the late 1800s for inventor of the hamburger patty in a bun sandwich. What we do know is that after the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair, the national profile and thus popularity of the dish took off. Now you can cook one at home for less than a dollar or spend US$3,600 in Holland for the single-serving “most expensive burger in the world 2017”, which includes Waygu beef, lobster, foie gras, saffron, and a bun covered in gold leaf. If you want to share with friends you can go for the US$5,000 monstrosity out of Juicy Foods in Oregon. That one weighs 350 kg. Bring a lot of friends.

We’re going to keep it simple. At its most basic you want good quality hamburger meat, salt, pepper, and a bun.

We’ll start there.


Burger anyone?//Photo credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

Salty Chef Burger
Serves 4
1½ pounds Certified Island Beef
(medium ground 80% lean)
4 slices cheese (optional)
4 hamburger buns, split; toasted, if desired
1½ Tbsp canola oil (to oil pan or grill)

1. Divide the meat into 4 equal portions (about 6 ounces each). Form each portion loosely into a 3/4-inch-thick burger and make a deep depression
in the center with your thumb.
2. Just before cooking, season both sides of each burger with salt and pepper.
3. Cook the burgers on high heat, either on a BBQ or in a frying pan (cast iron is best).
4. For a frying pan, sear the burgers on 1 side on medium high heat. Cook for 4-5 minutes and then flip burger to finish cooking. For food safety reasons, burgers should be cooked till there is no pink to the meat.
5. Top with cheese in the last 3 minutes of cooking.
6. Serve on bun, top with desired condiments.
Note: When using any cooking method, do not press the burgers under a spatula or turn them too often. This causes the meat to lose juice and will make the burger very dry.



Maple Bacon//Photo credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

Maple Bacon
12 slices of bacon
½ cup maple syrup
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
2. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
3. Place a baking rack on the lined sheet pan and lay out the bacon, being sure not to overlap the slices.
4. Whisk the maple syrup and mustard together.
5. With a pastry brush, brush maple syrup mixture over the top of the bacon, and then bake for 15 minutes.
6. Turn the bacon over and brush again with syrup mixture. Bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the bacon is done to your liking.



Maple Crème Brûlée
Serves 8
1 litre Purity Dairy 35% whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup sugar
6 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup brown sugar (see note)

Maple Crème Brûlée before sugar is caramelized on top//Photo credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

1. In a medium size saucepan heat cream, sugar, and vanilla until just below a boil. Stir to make sure all the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.
2. In a large heatproof bowl, whisk egg yolks and maple syrup together. Very slowly add hot cream to egg mixture, gently stirring the whole time. After half of the cream is added, you can add the remaining half more quickly.
3. Divide equal amounts of cream mixture into eight 6-ounce ramekins (custard cups).
4. Place ramekins in a deep baking pan and fill pan with warm water halfway up the sides of ramekins.
5. Bake in preheated 325° F oven for 45 minutes to one hour until custard is set. When set, custard will jiggle in the center like a jelly; it should move like a wave from one side of the dish to the other.
6. Remove from water bath and cool 30 minutes before placing in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight. Don’t cover until fully cool or moisture will form under the plastic wrap.

Use a torch to brown the sugar//Photo credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

7. Just before serving, sprinkle top of each custard dish evenly with brown sugar*, tipping off any excess sugar. You just want the amount that clings to the surface of the custard. With a butane or propane torch caramelize the sugar until well browned but not black. Alternatively, they can be placed under the oven broiler under tops are caramelized brown. Be sure to watch carefully to avoid sugar burning.
Note: Dry brown sugar is the best for finishing crème brûlée. This can be done by drying the sugar on a sheet pan set in an oven that is very low heat (100 degrees). After the sugar is very dry it can be ground to a fine powder in a food processor. Alternately, you can also use white sugar or fine organic raw sugar.




About Stephen Hunter

Stephen Hunter teaches the à la carte practical program at The Culinary Institute of Canada at Holland College in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. He's also the Chef Instructor for evening dining at the Lucy Maud Dining Room.

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