Where’s the beef? Burgers beyond the ordinary

Almost everyone loves a good burger, even if there’s been a backlash in recent times, with some food folk complaining that one of the ultimate American favorites has been overexposed.

I asked a couple of Atlanta chefs and an award-winning barbecue team leader about that. Not only did they assure me that burgers are forever, they offered some recipes for patties and toppings with flavors that go beyond the usual ground beef topped with cheese.

Chef Todd Ginsberg became famous for the double patty burger he created at Bocado, often voted the best in Atlanta. Now at The General Muir, Ginsberg is overseeing a menu of classic Jewish deli favorites. But he hasn’t forgotten about burgers.

READ: Our review of the General Muir.

“Obviously, people love burgers,” Ginsberg said. “To be known as one of the best at anything you do, especially making a burger, is a huge compliment to me. I’ve never taken that for granted. Actually, when I got to the General Muir, I wanted to make a better burger than Bocado.”

At lunch, Ginsberg’s Double Burger Stack is topped with shaved onion, American cheese, pickles, lettuce and Russian dressing on an onion roll. But he upped the ante at dinner with The Burger, which adds house-cured-and-smoked pastrami, Gruyere cheese, and caramelized onions.

“I thought the Stack was as good as Bocado, but I wanted to do a burger you couldn’t find anywhere else,” he said. “I don’t want to rest on my laurels.” With that in mind, we wondered if Ginsberg would design a burger that wasn’t beef-based? He came up with what he calls the Backyard Lamb Burger, mixing ground lamb with eggs and saltines to fashion a big, juicy patty.

“The thing about ground lamb is that can be a little dense and a little bit strong in flavor,” Ginsberg said. “I think by adding the egg and the saltines, it lightens it up, while making it easier to form, and more juicy after it’s cooked.”

I spoke with barbecue champ Chris Hart, who has a new cookbook with his Boston-based team partner, chef Andy Husbands — “Wicked Good Burgers: Fearless Recipes and Uncompromising Techniques for the Ultimate Patty” (Fair Winds Press, $22.99) — that includes burgers made with everything from salmon belly to beets.

“Burgers can be pretty simple,” Hart said. “But it’s how you approach a simple recipe that makes all the difference. There’s a big difference between buying ground beef wrapped in plastic at the supermarket or buying a piece of chuck and grinding it yourself five minutes before you put it on the grill.”

For the recipes in “Wicked Good Burgers,” Hart uses those same principals to make burgers from the likes of breakfast sausage and bacon or black beans and portobello mushrooms.

“We definitely love to explore how to cook things simply and then find the layers of flavors you can add,” Hart said. “As a barbecue guy, it was really hard for me to make veggie burgers. Burgers are supposed to be indulgent, so the trick is to make them more succulent, and I think we did that. We created that rich umami flavor with things like mushrooms.”

At Atlanta’s Watershed on Peachtree, chef Joe Truex has three different burgers on the lunch menu, including the beef Wp Burger with sharp cheddar, the Border Springs Lamb Burger with herb feta spread, and the Crabby Shrimp Burger with remoulade sauce.

READ: Our review of Watershed on Peachtree.

“We sell a lot of burgers,” Truex said. “You can’t stop them. Everybody loves a burger.”

Truex’s blend of shrimp and crab in a burger may be his most interesting take. It’s made without fillers or binders, and is simply poached before being brushed with butter and finished on the grill.

“It’s all seafood — that’s what I love about it,” Truex said. “There’s no egg or anything. It’s all protein, and it’s gluten-free, too. “It comes from a French technique for making crab cakes using scallop or shrimp mousse to bind the crab meat. It has Old Bay and some garlic and lemon zest and just gives you that pure seafood taste.”

RECIPES

These creative burger recipes are made with ingredients other than beef, including crab and shrimp, lamb, pork sausage, and black beans and mushrooms.

Crabby Shrimp Burgers

Makes: 6 burgers

Hands on time: 20 minutes Total time: 30 minutes

This seafood recipe from Watershed on Peachtree chef Joe Truex uses a combination of cooking techniques, including poaching to bind the mixture, and grilling to finish and brown the burgers.

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup scallions, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 cup water

1 pound lump crabmeat

1 pound fresh shrimp peeled, de-veined and medium-diced

Zest of one lemon

1 tablespoon melted butter

lettuce, sliced tomato and remoulade sauce to taste

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and cook scallions and garlic until soft, remove from pan, cool and reserve. In a small bowl, combine 1/8 cup of water with the Old Bay, Worcestershire and salt.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse ½ of the shrimp adding the seasoned water until the mixture is smooth.

Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and fold in the sautéed scallions, remaining ½ pound of diced shrimp, crabmeat and lemon zest. Gently mix well and shape into 6 patties.

In a large saucepan, bring water to a low simmer. Prepare a large bowl with ice water and a sheet pan lined with paper towels. Poach the patties in water for 5 minutes, shock in ice water, remove with a slotted spoon and and transfer to the lined sheet pan.

Brush burgers with the melted butter. Finish on a grill or griddle or in a sauté pan, until browned.

Serve on your favorite bun with lettuce, tomato and remoulade sauce.

Per burger: 188 calories (percent of calories from fat, 29), 29 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 6 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 184 milligrams cholesterol, 769 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from a recipe by Watershed on Peachtree chef Joe Truex

Remoulade Sauce

Makes a generous 2 cups

Hands on time: 10 minutes Total time: 10 minutes

1/4 cup shallots, minced

1/4 cup cornichons, minced

1 tablespoon capers, minced

1 teaspoon tarragon, minced

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

2 cups mayonnaise

In a medium bowl, combine shallots, cornichons, capers, tarragon and parsley. Add mayonnaise and thoroughly combine. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 103 calories (percent of calories from fat, 96), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 12 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 5 milligrams cholesterol, 133 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from a recipe by Watershed on Peachtree chef Joe Truex.

Backyard Lamb Burgers

This recipe was designed by The General Muir chef Todd Ginsberg to make burgers that are big and juicy. It’s important not to overwork the lamb mixture when you’re forming the patties, and let the burgers rest for a few minutes before serving.

4 Holeman & Finch burger buns or other good quality buns

4 Lamb burger patties (see recipe)

4 heirloom tomato slices or 4 oven dried heirloom tomatoes (see recipe)

1 cup arugula

1/2 cup aioli (see recipe)

Wickles Pickles

olive oil and a rosemary branch

Lamb patties

Makes: 4 8-ounce patties

Hands on time: 20 minutes Total time: 20 minutes plus 45 minutes for chilling and resting

2 pounds ground lamb (preferably shoulder)

1 egg and 1 yolk

12 saltines (crumbled fine)

2 tablespoons ice water

Salt and fresh black pepper for seasoning

1 branch rosemary dipped in olive oil for brushing the burgers

In a large bowl, combine the lamb with eggs and saltines and slowly add ice water until the mixture becomes sticky.

Divide the mixture into 4 patties. Transfer to a sheet pan and chill for 1 hour or more.

When ready to grill season aggressively with salt and fresh black pepper. Cook on a grill (preferably charcoal), basting frequently with the rosemary olive oil branch, and flipping once, about 4 minutes per side or until a thermometer reads 135 degrees. Rest for 3-5 minutes.

To serve: Brush buns with olive oil and briefly grill, smear each side of the buns with the aioli and serve lamb burger on the buns with arugula, tomatoes and pickles.

Per patty: 557 calories (percent of calories from fat, 70), 33 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 43 grams fat (18 grams saturated), 235 milligrams cholesterol, 262 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from a recipe by The General Muir chef Todd Ginsberg.

Oven Dried heirloom tomatoes

Serves 4

Hands on time: 15 minutes Total time: 1 ½ hours

2 ripe heirloom tomatoes (tennis ball shape)

¼ cup olive oil

1 garlic clove, sliced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

Cut tomatoes in half horizontally and gently squeeze out seeds and juices. Transfer to a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and roasted in the oven for 1 14 hours until the tomatoes have reduced by half.

Per serving: 135 calories (percent of calories from fat, 88), 1 gram protein, 4 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 14 grams fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 539 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from a recipe by The General Muir chef Todd Ginsberg.

Aioli

Makes generous ½ cup

Hands on time: 10 minutes Total time: 10 minutes

2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 garlic cloves

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup mayonnaise

In the bowl of a food processor, whiz together the lemon juice, garlic cloves, salt and pepper to form a paste. Add the mayonnaise and combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Per 2-tablespoon serving: 200 calories percent of calories from fat, 98), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 23 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 10 milligrams cholesterol, 423 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from a recipe by The General Muir chef Todd Ginsberg.

Breakfast Burger

Serves 4

Hands on time: 15 minutes Total time: 15 minutes

This burger is a brunch favorite at Boston’s Tremont 647, where it’s made with freshly ground sausage patties. If you can’t grind your own, try getting fresh bulk sausage from your butcher to make the patties.

4 4 ounce pork sausage patties

4 slices American cheese

8 slices bacon, cooked to crispy

4 English muffins

4 eggs, cold from the fridge

Ketchup, mayo or condiments of your choice

Before you start, have the cheese and hot cooked bacon ready and close at hand.

While the sausage is cooking, put the English muffins in to toast. While the sausage is resting, in a second skillet, cook the eggs to your liking; try to keep them as compact as possible. (Using fresh, cold eggs straight from the fridge will help to keep them from spreading out.) If you scramble the eggs, try not to break them up. Instead, fold them, omelet-style, into a square or triangle about the same circumference as your English muffins.

To serve: Place the sausage patties on the muffin bottoms, top with the cheese, bacon, eggs and ketchup or other condiments. Top with other halves of muffins. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 860 calories (percent of calories from fat, 71), 34 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 67 grams fat (26 grams saturated), 327 milligrams cholesterol, 1,698 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from “Wicked Good Burgers: Fearless Recipes and Uncompromising Techniques for the Ultimate Patty” by Andy Husbands, Chris Hart and Andrea Pyenson (Fair Winds Press, $22.99).

Black Bean Portobello Burger

Makes: 4 burgers.

Hands on: 30 minutes. Total time: 24 hours, 45 minutes.

This meatless burger gets its meaty flavor from Portobello mushrooms, highlighted with fresh herbs and spices. For extra umami try it topped with mushroom mustard, made with roasted mushroom stems reserved from the burger recipe.

6 roasted Portobello mushrooms tops and stems separated, diced and reserved

2 roasted shallots, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thin

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

7 ½ ounces canned black beans (1/2 can) strained and divided

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced

1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced

8 basil leaves, julienned

2 cups panko bread crumbs, divided

½ cup cooked jasmine rice

Oil for cooking

4 burger buns

Mushroom mustard (recipe follows)

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, place half of the black beans, half of the chopped mushroom stems, the shallots, rosemary, garlic and tablespoon of olive oil and process until smooth. Scrape into a bowl and add diced mushroom tops, remaining black beans, basil, ½ cup panko, and cooked rice. Fold until incorporated and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350.

Divide the mixture into 4 even portions and shape into patties. Coat each side of the patties with remaining panko.

Heat a skillet over high heat until very hot. Brush a bit of oil onto the skillet and sear the burgers 1-2 minutes until golden brown.

Flip the burgers, place the pan in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and rest while you toast four burger buns. Serve on buns with mushroom mustard and other condiments.

Per burger: 420 calories (percent of calories from fat, 24), 15 grams protein, 66 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 11 grams fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 298 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from “Wicked Good Burgers: Fearless Recipes and Uncompromising Techniques for the Ultimate Patty” by Andy Husbands, Chris Hart and Andrea Pyenson (Fair Winds Press, $22.99).

Mushroom Mustard

Makes 1 ½ cups. Hands on time 5 minutes. Total time 5 minutes.

½ cup Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Reserved chopped mushroom stems

1 clove garlic, chopped

¼ cup olive oil

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine Dijon mustard, mustard seeds, lemon juice, mushroom stems and garlic and process until smooth. With motor still running, slowly stream in oil to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Per tablespoon serving: 31 calories (percent of calories from fat, 87), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 3 grams fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 63 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from “Wicked Good Burgers: Fearless Recipes and Uncompromising Techniques for the Ultimate Patty” by Andy Husbands, Chris Hart and Andrea Pyenson (Fair Winds Press, $22.99).

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