Bring on the Burgers

In Eat, June 2020 by Raleigh Magazine1 Comment

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Grilling season is upon us. Fire it up and kick it at home for National Hamburger Day on May 27 with these burger recipes from chefs at some our favorite local restaurants. Don’t feel like cooking yourself? We don’t blame you for taking yourself out on hot burger date. Hey, you deserve it!

Atomic Nuclear Burger

Morgan Street Food Hall, 411 W. Morgan St.

8 oz. burger
2 oz. Sriracha ketchup
2 oz. Jack cheese
1 oz. pickled red onions
6 slices raw jalapeños
2 oz. CowBar Hot sauce on top and bottom bun 

CowBar Hot Sauce (Raged Bull)
80 habaneros
1 gallon white vinegar
4 onions
32 oz. sugar

Place all the ingredients into a stock pot and bring to a boil. 

Once the mixture has boiled, turn down the heat to low/medium and allow it to simmer for 45 minutes.

While still hot, ladle 32 oz. at a time into a Vita-Mix and blend until smooth and the right consistency. Continue until all of the mixture is done; should take about 6 turns.

Once finished, put it into a 6-quart container and ice bath it, stirring every 20 minutes to avoid separation and to help the cooling process. Set a timer for each stir.

Jalapeño Popper Showstopper

The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar 
4208 Six Forks Road, Ste. 100

1 brioche roll, or roll of your choice
½ oz. butter
1 ½ oz. red leaf lettuce
1 slice fresh tomato
½ oz. sliced 1/8” jalapeño pepper, 4-5 slices
½ oz. jalapeño citrus sauce
8 oz. ground beef
2 oz. jalapeño cream cheese
2 slices jalapeño bacon
½ oz. fried jalapeño peppers (4 -5 slices)

Butter the brioche roll and toast it.

Cook the burger patty to desired temperature.

Place the lettuce, tomato and sliced jalapeños on the bottom bun. Drizzle the jalapeño citrus sauce on lettuce and tomato. Place 2 oz. jalapeño cream cheese on the cooked burger patty. Place fried jalapeño peppers and jalapeño bacon on top.

Ranchero Burger

MoJoe’s Burger Joint
620 Glenwood Ave.

Photo by Felicia Perry Trujillo

6 oz. hand patted Sterling Silver Choice beef
2 slices jalapeño salt bacon
1 slice pepper Jack cheese
1 fried egg
¼ oz. salsa verde

Salsa Verde
12 roasted tomatillos 
1 medium sized chopped white onion
2-3 roasted jalapeños, depending on your palate
½ clove chopped garlic
salt to taste
½ cup chopped cilantro
½ cup fresh lime juice

Blend everything except the tomatillos and jalapeños in a food processor. Roast the tomatillos and jalapeños in an oven, or even better, on an open flame until soft. Add them to the mix and blend. Allow mixture to cool and refrigerate overnight. The salsa will become thicker and more flavorful the next day, after refrigeration.

Cook burger to your liking. 

Add bacon, cheese, fried egg and salsa verde to your burger and bun.

Sacre Bleu Burger

2519 Fairview Road

Onion Marmalade
1 Tbsp. canola oil
3 medium red onions, julienned
10 oz. port wine
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup sugar

Add the oil to a large sauté pan and sweat the onions over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes. Add the port wine, increase the heat to medium and cook the wine until it is reduced by half.

Add the remaining ingredients and reduce the heat back to low. Slowly cook the onions, stirring frequently until the liquid evaporates and the onions are thick and syrupy. Remove the marmalade from the pan and refrigerate until cool.

1 ½ lb. chuck
½ lb. Mandolin bacon
salt and pepper
brioche bun
Danish blue cheese
cooked bacon strips
whole grain mustard

Grind the meat through a medium die grinder. Mix together in a bowl by hand and form 6 patties. Season with salt and pepper.

Grill over charcoal or wood until cooked to desired temperature.

Toast buns over grill.

Assemble burgers with whole grain mustard, onion marmalade, bacon and blue cheese.

Spinach Burger

NoFo @ the Pig
2014 Fairview Road

(Makes 12-15 patties. Freeze any uncooked patties.)

2 lbs. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/3 lb. cream cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup ground parmesan
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 large Tbsp. Dijon mustard
½ large white onion, minced and drained
1 Tbsp. granulated garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Mix well and form into patties. Cook on flat griddle, cast iron or nonstick pan in butter or your favorite oil. Top with whatever you like.

The Baconmaster

160 East Cedar St., Ste. 100, Cary
*temporary burger shop from the fine folk at Postmaster
(now closed)

The Baconmaster is our homage to the Wendy’s Baconator. Each burger consists of the following:
Union Special seeded bun
Tomato aioli
Pickled green tomatoes
2 Brasstown beef patties (3 oz.)
Gov’t cheese

Tomato Aioli
2 egg yolks
1 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp. H2O
1 tsp. black pepper
1 pinch MSG
½ tsp. salt

Put your yolks, mustard and tomato paste into a food processor. Slowly drizzle in the canola oil to form a proper emulsion. Slowly add your water to thin out the super thick aioli. Season with your black pepper, MSG and salt. Voila, you’ve made some delicious mayonnaise.

Shortcut: if you don’t want to do any of this, mix 2 Tbsp. tomato paste with 2 cups Duke’s mayonnaise.

Pickled Green Tomatoes
This can and should be done ahead of time.
1 lb. green tomatoes, sliced ½” thick
4 oz. white distilled vinegar
4 oz. apple cider vinegar
4 oz. H2O
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup salt
½ tsp. celery seed
½ tsp. mustard seed
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
½ tsp. black pepper
1 pack fresh dill

Core and slice your green tomatoes, put in a container with your fresh dill.

Put all liquids, sugar and spices in a pot on high heat. Cook until all sugar and salt dissolves. Pour over green tomatoes and dill. Let sit at least overnight.

Shortcut: if you don’t wanna do any of that, buy them from the store.

Buy it. Cook it to desired doneness. 

Gov’t Cheese
Full disclosure: this is a huge pain in the a** but we do it for the love of burgers.
1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese; we recommend Tillamook
1 Tbsp. sodium citrate
²⁄₃ cup H2O

Shred your pound of cheddar cheese. Heat your water and sodium citrate over medium-low heat until dissolved. Add your cheese to the mixture. Stir until smooth and homogenous. Pour into a bowl and chill. Once the cheese has fully set, you can scoop it and squish it with a tortilla press. Now you have your own “American” cheese.

Shortcut: this is a lot and sodium citrate is hard to find. Buy Kraft singles, it’s easier. You can find sodium citrate at

Burger Patty
Set a well-seasoned cast iron pan to medium-high heat. Let it get hot.

Have your 3 oz. beef patties in a ball, ready to rock. Add a small amount of canola to the pan. Place your patties in the pan and smash the hell out of them. Like, super flat. Cook them until the fat begins to bubble up through the holes and there’s a good amount of browning, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook for another minute. Put a slice of cheese on each patty and let melt a touch. Remove from heat.

For the Build
Toast your buns in a clean cast iron with some full fat butter.

Once bun is toasted, put a good amount of aioli on both sides of the bun. Place your bacon (4-6 slices) on the bottom bun. Next, add two slices of pickled green tomatoes on top of the bacon. Add your patties with cheese and close your burger.

Carolina Smash

Oak Steakhouse
417 W. Hargett St.

We use fresh, house-ground Certified Angus Beef for the burgers but feel free to prepare to your liking.

1 yellow onion, minced 
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 lb. ground beef
¼ cup mustard
3 Tbsp. chili powder
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ can tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

Sauté minced onions and grated garlic.

Add ground beef and start to brown. Add mustard, chili powder, brown sugar and tomato. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

1 head Napa cabbage
½ cup white onion
1 rib of celery
¼ cup mayonnaise 
3 Tbsp. mustard
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Shred cabbage. Mix with sliced onion and celery.

In a separate bowl, mix together mayonnaise, mustard, crushed red pepper, apple cider vinegar and sugar.

Combine cabbage, onion and celery mixture with dressing and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

It’s in the Meat

When it comes to making burgers at home, the quality of your meat is just as important as what you put on top of it. It can be tricky to navigate the shelves of meat options at your local grocery store, so we called in The Butcher’s Market owner, Derek Wilkins, and director of operations, Jeff Gregory, to help us lead you in the right direction. 

The Butcher’s Market offers three different types of pressed burger patties: a plain patty, a filet pressed patty using the trimmings of tenderloin and filet mignon and a Butcher’s Blend patty that combines sirloin, brisket and short rib. Both Wilkins and Gregory say they are partial to the Butcher’s Blend patty, which gets its meaty flavor from the sirloin, its fat and juiciness from the brisket and its additional tastiness from the short rib.

If you’re shopping at a standard grocery store, you can still get good quality meat to go with the nice cheeses and unique sauces from local chefs that are featured in these recipes. Gregory recommends talking to the butcher behind the meat case at the grocery store and asking where the meat is ground, when it was ground and what he or she would recommend. Gregory says to look for meat that is freshly ground in-house rather than shipped to the store in pre-made packages.

You’ll find there are a number of different lean-to-fat ratios at your grocery store. Gregory and Wilkins say an 80 to 85 percent lean beef is your best bet. 

“You definitely want some fat in there,” Gregory says. “It lends flavor and makes [the burger] more juicy.”

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