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Burger Bar Cookbook: The Burger Nest.

So, I’m a pretty awesome burgerboyfriend.  So, come Christmastime, I got burgergal Hubert Keller’s cookbook, among other awesome super-thoughtful gifts.  The book has a lot of recipes that I will probably never make, but it’s got some interesting ones, too.  And it has pretty pictures.

One of the more intriguing recipes is called “burger and fries.”  It’s a pretty innocent title for what is actually nothing like burger and fries.  Burger IN fries, maybe, but nothing like burger and fries.  It’s more like a nest of fries, with a burger inside of it.  It looks very difficult to make  Since burgergal and I are on a healthy kick (or something… I mean, we are getting Momofuku bo ssam on Saturday, so…), we decided to try this one, since it seems to be less terrible for you than a burger on a squishy potato bun.  Never mind the fact that it is pan-fried.  That is but a trivial detail.

With a Monday off, lunch time seemed to be the best time to finally make it happen.  I defrosted the pound of ground Sun Fed beef that I had picked up at the market back when I used to brave it on Wednesday afternoons at the office.  For having been frozen, the meat was surprisingly good looking.  It was in one of those hermetically-sealed vacuum bags, so that seemed to keep everything in good shape.  After making the patties and letting them chill for a bit, it was time to get it going.

I first took care of the julienning the potato.  Since our mandoline doesn’t have a fancy julienne attachment, I had to do a little knife work by hand, but that was ok with me.  I seasoned up the potatoes in a bowl, and let some of the moisture seep out.  Right before making the nest, I gave the potatoes a quick squeeze in a kitchen towel and got to work.

First, I brushed the hamburger patties on one side with a beaten egg white, and laid the patties on heaps of the potato strips, hoping that the potatoes would stick.

Then, I delicately placed another heap of potatoes on top of each patty, and again, hoped they would stick.  Right off the bat, I found that my julienned potatoes were nothing like Hubert’s.  His were so much finer, so much more… French.  But no matter, all of this was going to get fried in olive oil, so who cared what it looked like?

First pass.

Second pass. Much better.

Then, with my clumsy American hands and fatly julienned potatoes, I went to work “pressing firmly yet gently” to get the cocoon of potatoes just right.  After a few minutes of sheer frustration, I just decided to go with what I had.  I was getting hungry, anyway.

Now, the fun part.  It was time to fry up the burgers.  We pre-heated the oven to 450 and got a pan going with a good amount of olive oil.  As I stared at these potato-strip-covered patties, I wondered how I was going to transfer these things from my jelly board into the oil.  The whipped egg-white “glue” was not exactly the most reassuring of bonding agents.  I was worried.

I carefully placed the potato burgers into the pan.  As you can see, I had some collateral damage going, and lost most of wrapping on the sides.  I took a mental note for next time (rather, burgergal watched and told me): get more potatoes going, so that they are veritably smothered in potato… enough has got to stick.  I also thought that using the egg white as part of a dredging process could work, too.  I’ll have to let everyone know how that goes.

After a few minutes on one side, it was time to flip.  Again, this wasn’t so easy since the “fries” weren’t exactly stuck to the patties like a starchy-tuber-wallpaper.  I got my widest spatulas and did my best.  I lost some potatoes again, but it turned out better than expected.  And, special bonus: the fries had actually crisped up!

They are kinda like meat latkes, aren’t they?  Despite all of my concerns, the smell that was filling the apartment was delightful.  I wish I could send it along to you all, because it smelled like a mix of burgers on a griddle, fries in a frier, and the smell of a garlicky vinaigrette that burgergal was making for the healthy component of the dish, the salad on the side.  From the stovetop, the burgers went into the oven to finish cooking through.  About ten minutes later, we had some perfect medium-cooked hamburgers.  I let them rest on a rack for a few minutes, then plated them up.

The burger-fry cocoon was delicious, I must say.  It had all of the satisfying traits of a hamburger and fries, just without the squishy bun, which I did not miss (too much).  Through some of the errors of my ways, I think that I will be able to hit this one out of the park next time.