Our early Sonoma spring inspired locals to fire up the grill and welcome the premature heat with open arms, so the new “Wicked Good Burgers” cookbook should provide easy inspiration for dressing up an old friend. It’s a cinch to expand your burger repertoire with this collection of inspiring recipes, which includes a wide range of non-traditional ingredients from beets to oysters. Of course there are plenty of beef recipes too.
Chefs Andy Husbands and Chris Hart, who have celebrity cooking and BBQ circuit chops, have put together a tidy collection of informative chapters on burger basics, toppings, side dishes and one of the most important accompaniments, shakes (known as frappes in Boston,) to complement their burger recipes. Andrea Pyenson, a food writer, also collaborated on the book.
You might think that making a burger is as easy as slapping a patty together and throwing it on the grill, but the detailed instructions on how to shape and cook your burgers was quite helpful, including the tip on making a dimple in the center to prevent the burger from puffing up into a ball. They also cover cooking methods, equipment and information on how to cut up large slabs of beef chuck and grind your own meat.
The first chapter keeps it simple—how to make the best burger with just three burger recipes, two for beef and one for turkey, with additional recipes for condiments, including Best.Mayo.Ever, and toppings, like Glo’s Bean Salad. When I got my review copy I made the turkey burger for some non-beef eating friends and we found it quite moist, juicy and savory, maintaining a shapely silhouette after following the shaping instructions. The suggestion to cook burgers on a griddle over the flame to keep them from falling through the grate was very helpful.
The New American Classic chapter covered enticing recipes for alternative meats and toppings, such as sausage, lobster, pastrami, foie gras and truffles. The chapter made sense, though some recipes were a bit over the top with the number of rich, expensive ingredients, until the last recipe, which wasn’t a burger at all—Bacon Cheeseburger Soup. I guess the presence of ground beef qualified it for this section.
The most intriguing recipes, especially for local cooks, came from the “Where’s the Beef” chapter. Salmon, beets (!), duck, lamb and bison all take center stage and several recipes address vegetarian BBQ options.
One of my favorite chapters was “Burgers Beyond Borders, where the international flavors of Vietnam, Korea and Morocco went wild. I’m going to have to search my local meat markets to recreate the Caribbean Goat Burger, though you can substitute lamb.
One challenge in the book is that certain categories of recipes were scattered throughout the book. Toppings, such a Gram’s Bread and Butter Pickles and Mango Chili Slaw, as well as vegetarian options, such as the Moroccan Chickpea Burger and the Beet Burger, were in different chapters. Perhaps there could have been a separate index for certain groups of recipes so they could be located more easily. While I did appreciate the variety of recipes for the complete burger experience there were quite a large number of non-burger recipes. Many of the recipes were accompanied by full color photos of the dish and there were several helpful step-by-step photo tutorials.
If you like burgers you’ll find inspiration to expand your universe in “Wicked Good Burgers” and if you’re not a traditional burger fan you’re likely to find some unique flavors to tickle your fancy.
Tortilla-Wrapped New Mexican Chile Burger Recipe
Make the green chile relish: In a small bowl, mix together the New Mexican chiles, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper.
Set aside until the burgers are ready.
Green Chile Relish
- 2 New Mexican green chiles (or poblano chiles), roasted, peeled, seeded, stemmed, and roughly chopped
- 1⁄4 medium red onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon (1 g) chopped fresh cilantro
- 11⁄2 teaspoons (7.5 ml) fresh lime juice
- 3⁄4 teaspoon (4 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1⁄2 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1⁄2 teaspoon (0.6 g) red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
- 11⁄ ground chuck, or chuck for grinding
- 1 teaspoon (2.1 g) cumin seeds, toasted and ground
- 2 tablespoons (13 g) New Mexico Chile Ground (see Resources, page 201)
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper,to taste
- Oil for frying
- 8 slices pepper Jack cheese or your favorite cheese
- 4 burger buns, toasted
- 4 twelve-inch flour tortillas
- 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon (15 ml)
- water, for tortilla wraps
Make the burgers: If you are grinding the meat, mix the chuck with the cumin and chili powder and grind according to the technique in chapter 1 (page 15). If you have ground meat, add the spices and mix thoroughly. Shape the burgers according to the technique in chapter 1 (see page 17).
Heat a skillet over high heat until very hot. If you have an infrared thermometer, the skillet should register at least 500 F. Or test by brushing on a bit of oil. When the skillet starts to smoke, it is ready.
Brush oil onto the skillet and sear the burgers for 2 minutes per side. Skip the resting step. Instead, remove the burgers from the heat and transfer to a sheet pan. Quickly spread about 2 tablespoons (30 g) of Green Chile Relish on each one and quickly top with 2 slices of cheese. Let the burgers rest on the pan for a minute so the cheese sets. Fill a saucepan with of oil and heat to 350 F.
While the oil is heating, wrap the burgers. Place each burger in a bun. One at a time, invert the burger, in its bun, onto the center of a tortilla and wrap the tortilla around it, making overlapping folds and using egg wash to hold down each fold. The result should look something like a pentagon.
Place burgers in the pan, fold side down. Fry for about 2 minutes per side until the tortillas are evenly browned and crispy. Serve immediately with green chile relish.
Wicked Good Burgers: Fearless Recipes and Uncompromising Techniques for the Ultimate Patty
Fair Winds Press
By Andy Husbands, Chris Hart, Andrea Pyenson
Available at Amazon and other retailers
Lists for $16.08