O Burger: Truffle Burgers with Grilled Onions and Spinach

Thursday, May 17, 2012

This is a panty-dropper burger.

This burger is so intense and amazing I caution you -- if you're not great at sex, you may not want to serve this burger because it's officially better than you.

This burger is a must try, on multiple levels....

Ok, so I go into Whole Foods the other day knowing I wanted to make burgers. Seattle's been enjoying unseasonably good weather lately, and I was in the mood to grill. I wanted burgers but not the usual this time. So I head over to my Happy Place, also known as "the cheese section" and was delighted to see my friend Jordan there. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "Hey, what's going on?"
J: "Not much! Whatcha thinking?"
Me: "Burgers."
J: "Yeeeessssss."
Me: "I'm building the burger around the cheese this time."

Jordan's eyes lit up and I could see he had something up his sleeve, something amazing and incredible and outrageously good. I couldn't help but widen my eyes in equaled excitement.

He reaches over the counter into a small pile of tiny cheeses -- creamy, soft, with one delicate blackened line running through the otherwise perfectly ivory colored creamy heaven.

"This," he continued almost reverently, "is what you must use. This -- is truffled cheese."

Me: "Oh. Hell. Yes."

Jordan offered simply a nod of mutual appreciation. Then I began filling out the burger...

Me: "...grilled onions....walla-walla of course...wilted spinach perhaps to mellow out the truffleness..."

J: "Oh yes. And the meat? What are you going to do with the meat?!" he excitedly asked.

Me: "Simple. Beef. Salt. Freshly ground. A light hand of fresh thyme."

J, his eyes getting larger: "And mixed with....pork."

Me: "Yeeeeeesssssss....."

....and so this burger was born.

Much like how good sex has a build up to it I offer this conversation to wet your palate panties. I couldn't wait to get home and do this burger.  The mix of beef and pork added wonderful flavor, even to this beef purist when it comes to a proper burger. I make the exception here because truffles and pork are pure heaven together. I keep the seasonings simple -- salt and freshly ground black pepper -- and added some fresh thyme to the ground beef as I mixed the meat in and created the patties. The thyme adds a lovely woodsy note to the burger that compliments the meat and cheese beautifully. For greenery I chose the humble spinach -- delicate and slightly sweet in flavor, it balances out the more aggressive truffleness in the burger. And makes it "healthy." To bring it home I took Jordan's recommendation and did brioche -- sliced thickly, the sweet egg-based bread held its own against the formidable filling and complimenting it perfectly. Instead of fries I threw some asparagus on the grill to balance out the heaviness of the burger. And it was a perfect meal. 

Truffle Burger with Grilled Onions and Spinach and Asparagus "Fries"
1.5 lb ground beef -- at least 15% fat
1/4 lb ground pork
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, torn from stem
truffle cheese, sliced thinly
1 large walla-walla onion (or other sweet onion like vidalia)
1 cup wilted, cooked spinach*
fresh brioche loaf
1 bunch fresh asparagus
olive oil

Prepare your grill for cooking.

Take the beef and pork and place in a large mixing bowl. Bring up to room temperature so mixing is easy. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I usually do 1 tablespoon of each) and add the thyme leaves, then gently mix together until combined. Form into desired thickness and number of patties -- I like larger, thicker burgers for this so I made 6 equal patties out of 2 lbs of meat. Set the patties aside.

Take the onion and cut off the stem and top. Then with the skin still on, slice into thick circle-shaped slices. Leaving the skin on will keep the rings together better as they cook on the grill; you will remove them before eating. Brush gently with olive oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Trim the ends off the asparagus and discard. Take the spears, toss in some olive oil, season with salt and pepper and set aside with the onions.

Slice the brioche bread loaf into thick slices for the burgers. Conversely you can use brioche buns if you can find them. Brush both sides of the slices with oil (or melted butter). Set aside.

Cook the burgers on the grill until desired doneness. The pork fat will make the burgers flare up, so be cautious when working with them and make sure you don't put them on too soon with too high a flame if using a charcoal grill. Add the asparagus and onions to the grill and cook until tender -- asparagus about 5 minutes and the onions about 7-8; remove and set aside. The last 2 minutes of cooking the burgers top with the sliced cheese, close the top of the grill, and cook until cheese melts 2 minutes. Remove. Add the bread slices all at once and toast on both sides, about 30 seconds per side.
To assemble the burger, simply take a slice of bread, top with a cooked patty with cheese, add a whole onion patty (don't forget to remove that outer skin!), top with some spinach, and the other slice of bread. Very gently press down with your hand, then slice in half. Serve with the asparagus fries on the side.

*To easily wilt spinach, simply heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a saute pan with a lid. Add the spinach all at once (or in batches) and cook on low heat, turning occasionally with a wooden spoon and placing lid on so as to steam. Cook until bright green and wilted. You'll need around 4 cups of fresh spinach to yield 1 cup cooked.

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