The month of March is the start of the backyard chargrill cook off season, or at least it is in temperate places that are not still catching the tail end of winter. Burgers are like an astrological sign that foretells warm summer weather is near. Drive-In burger joints dust off the winter muck and slap on a coat of fresh paint. Drive-In burger joint waitresses put new wheels on their rollers skates for the summer season. Backyard chefs scrape down the char grill and freshen the BBQ rig up with thermal paint. Weekend warriors spruce up the RV Camper and fill the propane tanks. Historians in the distant future just might draw the conclusion that the lifestyle of mankind in the present age revolves around burgers. This is not far from true.
Warm weather brings the burger flipper out in all of us. Flipping burgers on a char grill at a backyard pool party is a prime opportunity for a host to impress guests. Flipping plain burgers at a backyard party, like a fast food burger joint cook, does not impress much of anybody these days.
Plain burgers are great, but during the last 20 years the gourmet fancy burger trend has increased in popularity. Part of this is due to home cooks becoming more creative and part of this is due to celebrity chefs creating gourmet burgers on TV cooking shows.
In reality, many signature restaurants that are endorsed by a celebrity chef's name are kind of a farce, because the celebrity chef is almost never present in the restaurant. The cooking at signature restaurants is usually done by average cooks who work for mediocre corporate wages. Often the food is lacking in quality at these places.
The quality of gourmet burger creations that are offered at signature restaurants often are hit or miss, because of the lack of oversight from the celebrity chef. If the food at a signature restaurant is fantastic and the celebrity chef is never present, then who is the real celebrity chef? The hard working chef de cuisine that runs the kitchen in the famous chef's absence!
If the celebrity chef is never present, then all that chef probably does when planning menus, is to look at sales statistics and menu changes are only made when necessary. A chef who manages from a remote location and takes a statistical approach to menu planning can only go so far, because intuition, hands on experience and direct customer reaction feedback are all menu planning factors that can only be assessed by a chef that is present at the restaurant site.
Many times a talented chef de cuisine is restricted to only cooking the menu food that an unseen celebrity chef designed and there is no room for the chef de cuisine to express creative ability. In a way, many celebrity chef signature restaurants actively take part in fascism, by artificially boasting the famous chef's name and by restricting the opportunities of fame for the chef de cuisine, who actually is in charge of the food production. Given the opportunity, a good chef de cuisine can usually outperform the celebrity chef that is represented.
What does this have to do with gourmet burgers? A chef de cuisine at a celebrity chef signature restaurant can whip up great gourmet burger creations, when given the freedom to create. A chef de cuisine at a signature restaurant that has the freedom to create specials du jour, can certainly increase customer interest, while increasing profits. The food quality would be a higher caliber, because a hands on chef aggressively creates special board items with seasonal ingredients that are well suited for the tempo of the moment, instead of simply cooking tired creations that have been on the menu ever since the celebrity chef originally wrote the menu as part of a signature restaurant contract agreement.
Gourmet burgers should be new and exciting and they should not be featured on worn out old a la carte menus that are past their prime. "One Timer" special du jour gourmet burger creations that are marketed for a limited amount of time on a special du jour board always seem to sell the best. When the tide turns after a few days, then it is time to create a new gourmet burger special du jour that will once again captivate customer interest.
Hard working restaurant chefs that offer gourmet burger creations on special du jour menus actually are the biggest influence in the gourmet burger trend. This is because working chefs who are not glorified by the media do tend to take a hands on approach with one goal in mind. The goal is to increase profits by increasing customer satisfaction.
Hands on chefs aggressively create appealing food each day as specials du jour as a form of liquid advertising with the goal of increasing customer interest. The featured gourmet burger on a special board is an item that allows a chef to "really let it all hang out" as far as creativity is concerned. Gourmet burgers are crowd pleasing items that have actually gained a foothold in fine dining cafés and semi formal fine dining restaurants. The thought of a gourmet burger in a fine dining restaurant actually is no longer subject to ridicule and many gourmand fine dining customers take interest in eccentric gourmet burger creations
Gourmet burger specials du jour are rarely advertised or promoted outside of a restaurant, unless the restaurant theme revolves around gourmet burgers. There is only one way to for a customer to find a great one of a kind gourmet burger creation and that is to dine at a variety of trendy restaurants, till a place is found that has a chef who takes pride in creating great burgers. Simply going to a celebrity chef signature gourmet burger restaurant to find a great burger is easy to do, but there is drawback to this approach. There is an ever present probability that disappointment may enter into the dining experience, because the celebrity chef in absentia is usually not the cook who is actually flipping the burgers in the kitchen!
Today's gourmet burger creation features a meld of Grecian and Italian cuisine flavors. Organic non-GMO yellow heirloom tomatoes have a nice sweet fruity tomato essence that goes well with premium grade Greek olives. Sauce Livornese is a traditional Italian tomato and olive sauce for veal that has many applications. Local forest mushrooms sometimes are part of an authentic Livornese Sauce recipe that is made in Italy. In Italian American restaurants, olive and capers are usually the featured ingredients in this sauce. I published a Salmon Filet Livornese recipe a few years ago, so this sauce can even be adapted to seafood entrees. Livornese sauce can be made thin or thick, depending on what the sauce is used for. For a gourmet burger, the sauce should be made like a thick compote, so the topping stays in place.
Long before kale recently became a trendy health food item, kale was a common leafy green vegetable that was cooked as a side dish in Italy. In America, kale was limited to being used as a non-functional garnish for a long time. Because kale is now en vogue, it is acceptable to use it as an integral garnish on sandwiches. Organic purple kale adds an interesting visual effect to today's burger creation and it is integral, because kale is use in cucina di Italia.
Okay! So the Livornese topping combines Italian cooking ideas with Greek olives. This is not enough to warrant giving today's burger the Greco Roman name. Organic grass fed non-GMO ground beef is a great choice for a burger patty in this age of mad scientists that create food which has a detrimental effect on the environment. To jazz up this nice burger patty, a complex spice mix was added to the ground beef. Spice mixes for items like moussaka or stews can be fairly complex in southern Greece, because of the influence of the ancient Persian Arabic spice trade.
Basically, the spices that are used to flavor many meat entrees in southern Greece are similar to the spices that are used to make kofta. There are many ways to spell Kofta and the spelling depends on the dialect. Kefta, Kufta, Kafta, Kyuft'a, Cufta, Kayufte, Kufteh etc. Kofta is a highly spiced minced meat mixture. Cinnamon, cumin, mint, fenugreek, cardamom, coriander, black pepper, mace and marjoram are pretty much the basic spices for a kofta spice mix, bet the seasoning mixture varies from culture to culture. Greece has its own regional kofta spice mix recipes, even though the word kofta is not used to describe the spice mix. Part of this is due to Greece trying to promote its own unique culture, when the Persian empire was an overwhelming influence in ancient times.
A gourmet cheeseburger should always be topped with a nice gourmet cheese. Sini Fulvi is an Italian cheese company that consistently produces great traditional Italian cheese. Sini Fulvi's Telaggio is a soft cow's milk cheese. Val Telaggio has been made in Bergamo, Italy for over 1,000 years. This cheese has a delicate sweet flavor that is slightly acidic. The light mold rind gives this cheese a very pleasant aroma. The rind of this cheese should be scrapped off, before serving. Tellagio has a fairly high fat content, so it easily melts.
Grecian Spice Burger Patty:
This recipe yields one large 8 ounce organic grass fed beef burger patty!
Place 8 ounces of ground organic grass fed beef in a mixing bowl.
Add 1 teaspoon of garlic paste.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Add 2 pinches of dried mint.
Add 2 pinches of oregano.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground fenugreek.
Add 2 pinches of cannella or mild cinnamon.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
Add 2 pinches of cardamom.
Add 1 pinch of nutmeg or mace.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest.
Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
Chill the mixture for 30 minutes, so the flavors meld.
Shape the ground beef mixture into a large thick burger patty shape.
Keep the burger patty chilled till it is needed.
Yellow Heirloom Tomato and Grecian Olive Livornese Burger Topping:
This recipe yields enough topping for 1 large burger! This topping should be made to order shortly before the burger is served. This is a modified Italian Livornese Sauce.
High quality Greek olives are sold whole and they must be pitted. A jar of assorted Greek olives usually contains 3 or 4 varieties of olive. Greek delicatessens also sell assorted olive mixtures. There are specific Greek names for these olives, but generic descriptions are used in this recipe.
Heat a small saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Add 2 cloves of thin sliced garlic.
Saute till the garlic starts to become a golden color.
Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
Add 1 tablespoon of small chopped onion.
Briefly saute for about 1 minute, till the onions become aromatic.
Add 1/2 cup of small bite size pieces of yellow heirloom tomato.
Add 2 pitted Greek green olives that are split in half.
Add 2 pitted Greek white olives that are split in half.
Add 2 pitted Greek red olives that are split in half.
Add 2 to 3 pitted Kalamata olives that are split in half.
Add 1 teaspoon of capers. (optional)
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Add 1 small pinch of chopped basil.
Saute till the tomatoes start to become tender.
Add 3 ounces of dry white wine.
Add 2 ounces of water.
Rapidly simmer and reduce, till most of the liquid evaporates. The sauce should be thick and chunky when used as a burger topping.
Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
Add 1 pinch of chopped Italian parsley.
Add 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
Keep the burger topping warm on a stove top.
Burger Plate Set Up:
Split a burger roll in half.
Brush the roll with melted unsalted butter or olive oil.
Grill the roll on a griddle over medium/medium low heat, till it is toasted.
Set the bottom half of the roll on a plate.
Place a bed of purple kale leaves on the bun.
Garnish the plate with Italian parsley sprigs and pickles of your choice.
Greco Roman Burger:
Heat a char grill, a ribbed cast iron griddle or a flat grilled to a medium/medium hot temperature.
Season the grill with a vegetable oil cloth.
Grill the Grecian Spice Burger Patty, till it is cooked close to the preferred state of doneness.
Note: Medium to Well Done is good for this burger, because heat releases the flavor of the spices. Any burger that is cooked for children or for those who have compromised immune systems, should be fully cooked with an internal temperature of 155º to 160º.
Place a few thin slices of Sini Fulvi Telaggio cheese on top of the burger.
Place an inverted small stainless steel mixing bowl over the burger, so the heat is captured by the bowl dome and the cheese melts. It only takes about 10 to 15 seconds for Telaggio to melt!
Remove the mixing bowl dome and place the cheeseburger on the burger set up on the plate.
Spoon a generous amount of the Yellow Heirloom Tomato Grecian Olive Livornese Topping on the burger.
Lean the top half of the burger roll against the burger.
Viola! Another great gourmet burger! This burger is full of lively flavors that are perfect for shaking off the winter blues. Yum! ... Shawna