Let’s talk last meals.
Not like a real last meal, where I imagine actual enjoyment of food is perhaps overshadowed by larger issues, but the kind of last meal you talk about when also deciding on which 5 albums you would take with you to a desert island. That kind of last meal.
For me there have been many contenders (tacos! fried chicken! all of the dim sum!), but time after time, the burger proves itself to be the truest one. I feel like I finally understand the sentiment behind the emoji of the cat with hearts for eyes when I think of burgers.
And this burger…this is a beast of a burger.
I love a stacked, sloppy, 2-handed kind of burger and this one delivers just that. The original recipe recommended a more brioche-style bun, but I have found that the pretzel one is sturdier and holds up better. Also, despite the numerous toppings, everything is pretty quick to prep and the burgers can get done in a pan or on the BBQ. So just make them, okay? They would make any weekday 8000 times better automatically.
Jamie’s Insanity Burger
Adapted from Jamie Oliver (Jamie’s Comfort Food)
Burgers and Assembly:
1 ¾ lb ground chuck (or ground beef with at least 20% fat – not lean!)
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
1 red onion, finely sliced
½ cup red wine vinegar
8 slices of smoked bacon (not thick-cut type)
4 tsp Dijon mustard
4 thin slices Red Leicester cheese (or a very sharp orange cheddar)
4 tsp ketchup
4 pretzel buns
Thick-cut pickles, to serve
3 generous tbsp mayonnaise
1 generous tbsp ketchup
1 tsp Tabasco or other hot sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp bourbon
¼ head iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
To make the burger patties, place the ground chuck in a deep mixing bowl and very gently break it apart with your hands. Try to touch the meat as little as possible. Sprinkle in the salt and a good grind of black pepper. Mix the salt and pepper into the meat very gingerly by hand, without squeezing the meat and working it too much. Divide the meat into 4 lumps and shape each into a patty. It is very helpful to measure the diameter of your bun and make your patties just slightly bigger than that, since they will shrink up a bit during cooking. Your patties should be uniformly thick, with the exception of the middles, which should have noticeable thumb indentations to help it maintain an even thickness during cooking. To get the edges of the patty more even, it helps to pack the meat from the sides lightly while also gently pushing down on the top of the burger. Place the patties on a lined baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to use.
Place the red onion in a bowl and pour the red wine vinegar over to cover the slices as well as possible. Periodically toss the onions to evenly submerge them in the vinegar. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the bacon in a single layer on a cooling rack-lined baking sheet. Roast the bacon in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the bacon is done to your preferred level of crispiness. I like burger bacon to be crunchier than breakfast bacon, but do whatever floats your boat.
While the onion pickles and the bacon crisps, make the burger sauce. Mix together all of the sauce ingredients, except for the lettuce. Once the sauce is evenly mixed, toss in the lettuce and gently stir. Taste and season if desired. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Cook the burgers in a large, lightly oiled non-stick skillet set over medium-high heat. While the burgers cook, brush the exposed side with Dijon mustard. After 1-2 minutes of cooking, flip the burger and brush the other side with mustard. Top the patties with cheese and continue cooking until the cheese melts. It helps to add a spoonful of water to the pan and cover the burgers briefly with foil or a lid to get the cheese really gooey. Wipe out the pan as best you can. Split the pretzel buns and brush each side lightly with the bacon fat from the sheet pan. Toast the buns in the skillet until lightly toasty.
To assemble the burgers, add a generous spoonful of burger sauce to the bottom half of each toasted bun. Top with the burger patty, followed by the bacon, and finally the pickled onions. Add pickles if desired. Spread ketchup over the remaining bun halves, top the burgers, and unhinge your jaw. Devour.