Have it your way. Or mine (above): a beef patty pre-seasoned with Worcestershire sauce, minced shallot, salt and pepper with sharp white cheddar cheese, sliced mushrooms sauteed with sherry vinegar, micro greens, fresh onion and tomato, garlic-parsley mayo and a dollop of Dijon mustard on a homemade egg wash-brushed roll. Only a suggestion.
I haven’t had this much fun with hamburgers since Grimace was a plush toy. It all began when my brother, my cousin, and her boyfriend planned to come for dinner over the weekend. Something from past experience told me to keep the meal simple, and after all, it was early spring — time to get your burger fix. While this solution seemed like a simple way out, there were plenty of toppings on hand with which to make your own burger anything but.
Ingredients ripe for the picking: fresh-baked rolls, chipotle mayo, garlic-parsley mayo, tomatoes, lettuce and onions. Not pictured but eaten: Sliced and sauteed mushrooms, sliced McClure’s Pickles, ketchup, and mustard.
Rosemary roasted baby red potatoes fresh from the Union Square Greenmarket
But not only were hamburgers the right choice for a deliciously varied virtual palette of food, it was also the unspoken glue to our party. The five of us had never dined together before, and a few of us were just meeting each other for the first time. The opening question, “So what do you do?” would reveal that we were, around the table: a neurosurgeon, a medical student, a computer science PhD student, a graphic designer, and a copy writer. As we settled down with our first drinks and conversation, we soon realized that we each had no clue about what everyone else did.
Then the appetizer, cantaloupe and prosciutto, didn’t turn out to be so wise a choice for my cousin’s Kosher diet. (Thank god with hamburgers, you don’t have to bury a calf in its mother’s milk — though three of us happily opted for cheese with ours.) But once the main course was grilled to order, and we sat down and began to pass condiments and sides every which way around the table, family-style, dinner had finally hit home.
Baby mesclun salad with shallot balsamic vinaigrette and roasted potatoes — can’t-go-wrong sides that any diet or persuasion can digest
Thanks in part to the tight space that made serving dish travel more interesting, large, rich and poofy rolls, and fresh homemade vanilla ice cream waiting for dessert, dinner was a long, slowly-enjoyed affair. And added to the novelty of sharing a meal with a new group of people was sharing the notion of not eating out to those who had never dreamed of it before. (It’s been a little while since I’ve had the pleasure of eating with people who didn’t already jibe me for this.) In return, I gleaned the opinion of a doctor and a medical student that Scrubs was the most accurate portrayal of a hospital on television. Glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t enjoy any of those melodramatic series.
I’ll spare the basic recipes, which are really only seasoning suggestions, and just add that even the best-rated burger in New York Magazine could offer nowhere near the amount of satisfaction wrought from making your own with homemade toppings on a homemade bun. At least, if I can still remember that far back…