Final Stunt Burger (Ever): I Meet My Match in the Dreaded Butterburger
For the last Stunt Burger Saturday of BlogHer's Month of Burgers, I was inspired by Matt Brimer, the chef de cuisine at Maverick in my hometown of San Francisco, served up "butterburgers" every Tuesday night this past spring
They became legendary, both for the $17 price tag (which included a glass of wine), and for selling out before most people could get their hands on one. Oh -- and also because they were ground with butter, then cooked with butter, then cooked with butter again:
The recipe's not online, but the chef ran it down to Thrillist, so I gave it a whirl:
Brimer ground chuck he cured overnight with salt and pepper with cold butter in a 70%-30% ratio. That's a scosh more than two parts meat to one part butter.
My chuck cured for about two hours in salt and pepper. I ground it with 30% butter.
Brimer formed the butterbeef into patties and cooked them sous vide at 52 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes, then seared them in a cast iron skillet.
I don't have sous vide equipment, so I skipped it, figuring my butterburger wouldn't be as evenly cooked as the original, but edible -- I'd just have to cook it a little longer in the skillet.
Brimer served the burger on a homemade English muffin with "martini mayo," mayonnaise doctored with juniper oil, olives, and vermouth.
I used Thomas' English muffins. Having no juniper oil, I soaked juniper berries in vermouth, stirred about a tablespoon of that into some Best Foods mayo, then mixed in chopped olives.
The butterburger shared a plate, according to Thrillist, with "cornichons tossed in truffle oil, and steak frites that're dusted with green garlic chili powder, fried, and then dipped in a fermented black garlic ketchup."
No accompaniments. I mean, come ON.
The Butterburger Results:
First Attempt: Total FAIL.
I made the first patties like the ones in the video, about 3/4 inch thick. It was instantly clear that skipping the sous vide step was ... unwise. The butter in the patties melted the moment they hit the skillet. The patties disintegrated immediately. What was left in the skillet I can only describe as butter-poached ground beef.
I scooped the results onto half of an English muffin and drizzled with the "martini mayo" to make what was essentially an extremely rich loose meat sandwich. The olive mayo did taste fabulous with the beef and the butter, but the sandwich wasn't juicy whatsoever. The texture was ... crumbly. Very crumbly. It was more or less hamburger helper, with butter and mayo "helping."
I considered the lake of browned butter left in the pan, and briefly considered skimming the solids and attempting a very nasty (and potentially offensive) beef ghee. I did not act on this impulse.
Second Attempt: Still Mostly FAIL.
I reasoned that if I made the patties much thinner and got everything so cold the butter wouldn't melt immediately, I might just stand a chance.
It worked, kind of. The patties got a nice browning and didn’t crumble quite as much. They still experienced considerable erosion, but held together enough not to blush when addressed as "patty." And I can see how the butter could add unctuous "juiciness."
But the patties were so thin that they didn't feel burgerlike. The butter + beef aroma didn't work for me at all. And I was pretty much done -- with dinner, with red meat, with extreme cookery -- after two bites of each "burger." I felt like I had just glugged a bowl of butterbeef soup with English muffin croutons and a mayonnaise martini.
Stunt Burger Lessons Learned
- The sous vide machine must be the key to the mysteries of the butterburger -- and when you think of it that way, $17 is just amortizing the cost of the fancy equipment.
- Putting other stuff into burgers doesn't make them better.
- Vegan burgers are not burgers, but other than semantics they're tasty.
- I'm pretty ready for A Month of Salads.
Brimer also did a Jucy Lucy version stuffed with smoked gouda and topped with sauce gribiche and a sous-vide egg yolk. When he got bored with that, he chicken-fried the whole thing and topped it with mashed potato and gravy. Behold: