In praise of burgers

Jim's burgers are the perfect summer meal. PHOTO: Commons

“You know, Jim, you could open a diner and call it Jim’s Burgers. These are the best!”

And they were. My husband Jim made the most delicious hamburgers. They were happily anticipated every Saturday night during barbecue season. That is praise indeed because for me, beef is not a favourite. But these were mouth-watering good. What made the difference? There were a number of factors:

As an engineer, Jim did everything with precision; the grill was brushed clean each time and well-oiled in preparation and the tank checked for sufficient fuel.

The whole grain hamburger buns from Montmartre Bakery (105 Midwest Road, 416-757-7771, an excellent bakery with a wide range of fresh quality bakery items) had to be purchased. They would be toasted on the grill just before serving to be warm and crisped. The buns make a huge difference to the overall burger experience. These are just the right size for the burger, not too big nor too soft but have a good balance of flavour with nuttiness from the whole grain, especially when toasted.

The lean ground beef used was from local organic farms. It’s important to have a little fat for juiciness, thus, lean rather than extra-lean ground beef. No doubt you have your favourite butcher. One you may want to try is The Butcher Shop at Markham and Eglinton 416-266-7381. If you like bacon on your burger, you can purchase it there, too. Jim’s burgers never fell apart on the grill. The trick was mixing the ingredients well, then packing them firmly and allowing them to chill in the refrigerator at least half an hour before grilling.

Of course, the condiments are essential: sliced Ontario tomatoes, preferably garden tomatoes in season, garlic dill pickles, Dijon mustard or your favourite, relish, thinly-sliced sweet onions and shredded old cheddar as the final topping before the lid of the burger bun came down to finish off this masterpiece. Sometimes the cheddar was omitted in favour of a nob of Stilton to be inserted in the centre of the patty which would melt during cooking and become oozy with warmth. The finishing touch was my job – a big mixed green salad to complement the burgers the minute they were ready. Are you salivating?

This Father’s Day try the recipe from Jim’s Diner. Wishing you a Happy Father’s day!

Jim’s Burgers

This recipe could be used with ground lamb, ground chicken or ground pork. The only difference would be to change the herbs and seasoning:

For ground lamb, omit ketchup and Worcestershire sauce and use 1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh lemon juice and 2 tbsp (25 mL) finely chopped fresh mint.

For ground chicken omit ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, add 2 tbsp (25 mL) fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp grated lemon rind and 1 tbsp (15 mL) dried tarragon.

For pork, delete ketchup and Worcestershire sauce and use 1 tbsp (15 mL) chutney and 1 tsp (5 mL) curry powder.

Serve the lamb burgers with tzaziki, the chicken and pork burgers with sweet mustard. Other condiments stay the same.

1 lb (500 g) lean ground beef
1 slice of fresh brown bread made into crumbs (about 1/2 cup/125 mL)
1 egg
1 tbsp (15 mL) ketchup
1 tsp (5 mL) Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fresh black pepper

In a mixing bowl, mix together beef and bread crumbs. Bread crumbs can be made in the food processor or blender; they should be about ½ cup (125 mL).

Stir in egg, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Mix ingredients well so that it is evenly blended. Form into 4 even sized patties about ¾ inch (2 cm) thick. Place on plate; cover with waxed paper and refrigerate at least ½ hour or up to 24 hours.

A half hour before grilling; pre-heat oiled grill to medium – high.

Arrange patties on pre-heated grill and cook until golden brown; turn with metal spatula and grill other side until rich brown and internal temperature of an instant-read thermometer reaches 160 F( 71 C) or if a knife inserted in center shows no sign of pink, about 15 minutes. Burgers need to be cooked through to be safe.

Serve at once on heated buns with condiments and salad(s).

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