I want to thank the LA Times for helping me prove how crazy I am. They did it with the Steakhouse Burger, one of the 5 finalists for their yearly Battle of the Burgers. It’s a contest. The kind of contest where readers get to send in recipes for their favorite burgers. They get submissions from all over the country, post them online and folks vote for their favorites. Which means the “best” aren’t always guaranteed to be the “best” of the group. But at least they narrow the most popular burgers down to the top 20. Then the pros at the LA Times Food Section (not that it’s a section anymore) take over and judge these 20 most popular burgers for themselves. They determined that the Steakhouse Burger was one of the best. I can say for a fact that I wholeheartedly agree. After all it’s a burger made from home ground rib-eye.
This is where the crazy part starts.
When I woke up this morning I saw that they had winnowed the winners down to the 5 best burgers. In the past I’ll admit to having sometimes rolled my eyes at their previous selections. I even aired my dismay at bit last year right here on this blog. But this year I saw more than merely razzmatazz in the final burgers. I even saw things that made me hungry. Which is how I know that the Steakhouse Burger is indeed a winner.
As I type this it is just past 4pm on the very same Saturday that these burgers hit the newsstands and I can say I have already eaten a Steakhouse Burger. That’s right, I dropped whatever I was doing (which was nothing) and did what it takes to get a Steakhouse Burger made in time for lunch. It seemed like such a good idea. Which is how I found myself caramelizing onions before I even had my second cup of tea.
I should have finished my tea before I read the instructions because I didn’t quite understand what I was getting myself into. This burger took a trip to two stores and 6 1/2 hours to make.
A Day in the Life of a Los Angeles Times 5 Star Steakhouse Burger goes something like this:
8:28 AM- I peruse the recipe, or maybe I should say recipes. There are 5 recipes for this single burger. But that doesn’t scare me. No sir. I skim through the ingredients and discover the only things on the list (lists) I don’t have are: rib eye, powdered onion, mushrooms and Madeira wine. I start caramelizing the onion. The recipe indicates that this as the second item on the to-do list, but I have everything I need without going to the store so I move them up in the rotation. Besides I have caramelized onions enough times to know that it takes a good hour or more to do it properly. No big deal. I might as well get it out of the way. I can caramelize onions, drink tea and read the paper at the same time. So I do.
9:31am- The onions are looking good, so I put them on the simmer plate and turn them to very, very low. I’m confident enough about their progress to leave them unattended and run upstairs to take a shower.
10:10am- The onions look done to me. So my partner Ken and I take the dog on a walk in the hills. If I’d read the recipe closer I might have skipped this task. But the dog will not be ignored and besides I have burgers to eat and a little exercise won’t kill me.
11:48am- I return from the store a little frazzled. I went to Trader Joe’s (never a good idea on a Saturday, no matter what time it is). They had nice looking rib-eyes, good mushrooms and even Madeira wine. They did not however have onion powder. I’m a bit peeved about having to go to Gelsen’s to get $5.00 onion powder that I’ll probably never use again. But once I start something there’s no stopping me.
11:50am- I start to make the mushroom reduction. This is where my not reading the recipe carefully really comes back to haunt me. The mushrooms, the recipe indicates, take almost two hours to make. Yeah I’d call that reduced. I wouldn’t really mind except that means lunch cannot possibly happen until after 2pm. Ken is already getting hungry I can tell. So I send him down the hill to get a haircut. It’s a tactic that works too. Ken loves to get his hair cut.
1:18pm- The mushrooms are looking fantastic. Despite what the recipe says, the mushrooms are not going to need another hour of cooking. I’m beginning to think I can get lunch up before 2pm. I decide to keep an eye on the mushrooms while I make the steak sauce. It’s a damn good sauce recipe and it comes together with almost no effort.
1:30pm- I decide to grind the meat, which I should have done earlier. It needs at least a half hour for the flavors to come together. This is where the onion powder comes in. I guess onion powder needs some time to “bloom”. No biggie. But it does mean that lunch is going to be after 2pm after all. No biggie. Ken’s new haircut looks great and I think that won me a little extra time.
1:55pm- I can’t wait for the onion powder to “bloom” much more. So I fire up the grill and form the patties. They’re a bit sloppy from the egg the recipe called for but I’m pretty proud of the grind job my Cuisinart pulled off. I decide to taste the meat a la tartare. Raw beef. Raw egg. No biggie. I told you there was no stopping me once I get going.
2:07pm- The burger is on my plate. Burgers don’t take long to cook. In my house we eat them rare.
2:12pm- Photo shoot. This is where Ken begins to get impatient. His haircut is good, but not that good.
2:13pm- My Steakhouse Burger lunch is served. It’s one of the best damn lunches I ever made!
4:14pm- This post goes live.