Growing up as the baby of the family, 5 years younger than my sibling, I looked to my brother for almost everything. When I was 6, I went through a phase of wearing umbros and giant t-shirts. So somehow his pattern of food research became engrained in me at an early age. He went on a caesar salad kick for a few years trying to hunt down the perfect combination of salad, cheese, dressing and croutons.
This summer has been my excursion into burgers and dogs — a staple of summer food and a personal favorite. From my childhood, burgers were a home-cooked thing and McDonald’s/Swensons was a rare treat reserved for “Junkfood Fridays”. The standard: thick, medium rare, small burger, bun with ketchup, grey poupon and pickles. As I got older, I drifted to the cheeseburger, eventually the bacon cheeseburger, the triple cheeseburger. But I didn’t realize the vast array of condiments I was missing until this summer when I had a burger at the Beer Engine and ordered the Southwestern Burger.
Oh my god. Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod. Pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, roasted red peppers and chili sauce?! I am completely hooked on this burger but more to the point, I’m in love with the idea of jalapenos on a burger. My favorite little trick is tucking them in under the cheese when I make them at home so they don’t slip out. Number one rule: ALWAYS TOAST THE BUNS.
New Burger Adventures:
Srichacha in place of ketchup
Beets instead of tomatoes (if you love beets this will be your new favorite – sweet, slightly firmer consistency than a tomato)
Worcestershire sauce and chopped onions worked into the burger meat (so much juicier and flavorful)
And as for hot dogs, my taste is undeveloped and seeking new ideas. For some reason, in my household, hot dogs are always cooked in a skillet with water…this I detest — mostly because the water turns an icky color and the dogs look pallid and unhappy. The happiest dog I have found is on a grill or in a skillet without water. The skin crackles a bit, gets some nice color and then when it’s all done I take a knife to the top and score the meat on top, releasing the flavor and the color contrast is actually sort of beautiful in its own way.
Another trick I learned early on was putting the sparse condiments I use (ketchup and grey poupon) inside the bun first and the dog on top making it easier to eat. As for most foods cooking away on a grill I really love a good old-fashioned IPA. Recently I tried Green Flash West Coast IPA and found it to be a nice little hop bomb with a good amount of bitterness in the finish. IPA’s that are not too floral I find are a good combination when eating grilled meats.