For the last 3 years Hart and I make the relatively short trip to Baltimore for a Beer & Oysterfest at Heavy Seas Brewing (aka Clipper City Brewing before they changed the name) in February. Yes, you read that right. Beer & OysterFEST. Four hours of unlimited consumption of all of their beers and professionals shucking fresh oysters while you wait. it is one version of heaven that I would be ok with. I would also be ok with a heaven full of ice cream. Or chocolate. Or donuts.
Sorry, got distracted….
So Baltimore. We usually leave Friday, come home Sunday and pretty much just drink and eat and drink and eat and drink and eat for the weekend. When we are done with that we drink some more, then grab some food.
Its a pretty awesome weekend.
So this year armed with a lap top & smart phones off we go, but this year our friend Jacob decided to join us – he really likes oysters and beer, too. We got into town a little after rush hour Friday night with a 9pm reservation at The Brewer’s Art. It was an incredible meal. And their beers – amazing. It was one hell of a start to the weekend. The boys went to Max’s after dinner for MOAR BEER and I went back to the hotel to pass into a happy food coma. It was a good day.
Saturday dawns, OYSTER DAY!! The guys went for a wander and found some incredible croissants at this little French bakery; we happily destroyed the floor in the lobby of the hotel while munching prior to heading to go consume far too much. Then we consumed far too much. Then we went back to the hotel and had a short coma. Then dinner.
We needed the exact opposite of oysters. Beef. We needed beef. Burgers to be exact. Hart consulted Google. Google said Hamilton Tavern. Hart, Jacob & Mindy said why the hell not? And off we went. And then we ate what was possibly the best goddamn burger that I have EVER put into my mouth. It was over the top. This is the menu description:
Crosstown Burger $11
Roseda Farms beef, shredded iceberg lettuce, onion, & horseradish cheddar
…Add sticky-spicy bacon or a fried egg for $1 (both for $2)
So unassuming. It really doesnt sound like much. But we got ours bloody with the sticky-spicy bacon AND the egg AND hand battered onion rings. What? Is it ever a bad idea to put a fried egg on something? I think not. Gluttonous, yes. Am I sorry? HELL no.
I’ve thought about this burger many times since I’ve eaten it – thats how you know its good. And I thought about it today. I was all set to let you all in on my super secret recipe for homemade chocolate pudding. Instead I decided to recreate this masterpiece. I sent Hart to the store with a list. He is an exceptional shopper.
First – the cow. They used a locally sourced natural grass fed beef. It was DIVINE. Hart found a grass fed ground beef at the Big Bird…at $10 a pound. He bought it because its just the 2 of us so we only needed a pound, but I am going to have to find a place to source grass fed beef locally, that’s stupid expensive. Is it worth it? Yeah…I can totally taste the difference and prefer the hormone & antibiotic free meat for beef or chicken; natural is definitely my preference and I will spend the extra on it. Just not the Big Bird extra – they slap a premium price on the “natural” foods because they can; this I don’t like. It definitely doesn’t encourage people to eat or buy it and that sucks.
There are really only a few secrets to a perfect burger.
- Quality ground meat – we covered that up there. All the grass fed stuff aside, beef for burgers needs to be 80/20 blend or close to it. Significantly less fat (90/10, 85/15) and the burger just doesn’t taste good. At that point just eat a turkey burger.
- The perfect patty – there is no need to smash the ever loving hell out of it, the burger meat should be pressed together just enough to hold it together and thats it. It should be sized just slightly larger than your bun and seasoned simply with salt & fresh ground pepper. Proper thickness is about 3/4″. Weight around 8oz.
- Cook it correctly – I know there are some people out there who eat their burgers cooked to death. You are wrong. It’s ok, really, we still love you, but you are wrong. I cooked these on my griddle, but the grill would be ok, too. You want a medium high heat, enough to sear the outside but not smoke the whole house out as it cooks. For a perfect Medium Rare its about 3 minutes per side, for Medium a little over 4 per side. Oh, and if you even THINK about smashing with a spatula while it is cooking I will know, I will find you and I will rap your knuckles with a ruler. NO! Side note: top your burger with cheese when you flip it over. Gives it plenty of time to melt perfectly.
- The BUN – often forgotten but one of the most important parts. Nothing is worse that sitting down to some decadent burger only to take a bite and have a soggy bun that just cant hold all that awesome. Brioche buns FTMFW. Lightly toasted to perfect. They are tough enough to hold up not to mention delicious. Also bought from Big Bird.
Follow those steps you will always have a fantabulous burger. Now for THIS fantabulous burger…
Sweet & Spicy Bacon – 2 slices per burger,
Preheat your oven to 375, line a sheet tray with parchment and lay out 2 slices of THICK sliced bacon per burger. Mix together 2 Tbsp of light brown sugar with 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper and a few grind of black pepper (per 2 slices made). Mash it up with a fork until its all evenly distributed and feel free to spice it up or mellow it out as your tastes prefer but a little kick is yummy on the burger. Sprinkle the tops of the bacon with the sugar mix & press it on, flip over and do the same with the backs. Bake until crisp & let cool some on the tray before transferring to a towel to drain off the grease. The brown sugar on the pan will burn, the stuff that stays on the bacon makes this gorgeous mahogany glaze.
So we’ve covered the cow, the burger patty, the cooking, the bun and the bacon. Whats left?
Cheese – extra sharp vermont aged white cheddar, shredded because it melts & looks better than sliced.
Vegetables – crisp leaf or bibb lettuce, sliced roma tomato (they are better this time of year than reg ones) and some thinly sliced red onion.
And the cherry on top? Sunny side up egg.
I also tossed together a really fast macaroni salad circa 1975 to go with this monstrosity because I was apparently feeling a little bit like a picnic for dinner tonight.
Macaroni Salad – that I really used cavatappi pasta for, that’s what Hart bought
- 1# Stabby Pasta, cooked & cooled
- 5 Hard Boiled Eggs, shelled & chopped up.
- 2.5 cups (roughly) Mayo – I use an olive oil one
- 3 Tbsp Spicy Brown Mustard
- 3 Tbsp Cider Vinegar
- Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
- 1 small onion, chopped up fine
Make the mayo sauce, with the onions, in 1 bowl and mix it all up. Pour it over the pasta and chopped eggs in a larger bowl. Stir until its all wet and coated. Taste and adjust seasonings if you need to.
Now I want more of that damn bacon….but we ate it all. Sad Panda. Guess Ill just have to make more then…