Cheeseburgers.....let's talk about 'em. Juicy meat...mmmm....creamy melted cheese, oozing with every bite, all on a bun baked in heaven. Eating a delicious cheeseburger will make your soul glow as bright as the flames that cooked it to perfection. I have a serious passion here folks and it's been lifelong. The beauty of this delectable dish is it's willingness to be personalized to the liking of your belly. The possibilities when it comes to building a burger are seemingly endless. Let's just travel down this path for a bit, starting with the basics. Our beloved cheeseburger has 3 obvious components: meat patty, cheese, and bun.
The meat is what we slap between the buns. Ground beef is what I would call the traditional meat choice. It's how a burger came into existence and deserves to be enjoyed first and foremost. The beef alone can differ from ground chuck all the way to filet (for those fancy-pants burger lovers.). How the meat is prepared is entirely a separate element from the type of meat itself. Grilled, broiled, cast ironed, George Foreman-ed (yes, I know people still using these things.) to the temperature of your liking and thickness all bring the meat a different kind of flavor. Cheeseburgers have evolved since the early days, offering other variations of ground meat too. Turkey, Chicken, Pork ground and given a good hand patty have slipped their way between the buns as well. Leaving me pleasantly surprised. Odd, I know.
Cheese. Goddamn. By itself can make or break a man. Some so sharp, sticky, and pungent. Others creamy, nutty and smooth. Cheese (when paired with anything) is like a designated driver for other foods, safely guiding them into that happy place we call our stomachs. Applying this element to the meat will give it some direction. For example, American cheese will add a subtle creaminess and leave the meat simple yet rich. While a pepper-jack cheese will spice things up creating a level of excitement with every bite. Blue cheese's robust flavor is delightfully mellowed by the hearty meat and swiss just gives it a loving hug while it gently melts around it. Shit, I can hardly contain myself now and we're not even through the basics! I will NOT pardon my gastronomical arousal folks, we're talking about cheeseburgers here!
Whew! Alright, we are on to the buns. Fluffy, fresh and delicious. The bun is extremely underrated and personally I believe is what "makes" the cheeseburger. We could have the most perfectly cooked meat, complemented by an amazing cheese and get robbed by a poor quality bun. For those of you who have never considered this, you've been cheating your cheeseburger. The regular white bun has it's place in the world of burgers, but doesn't maximize the burger's potential. From there it's kaiser rolls and sesame seed buns (now we're moving in the right direction.). For some extra flavor, get into the onion buns and poppy seed buns. These are great for supplementing a cheeseburger that may have limited access to other toppings. There's rye bread, grilled of course, for all of the patty melt lovers out there...mmm. To go above and beyond in the "realm of bun" I highly recommend hitting the bakery. Their signature buns, breads, and rolls will turn the cheeseburger into a love machine for our mouths. If you couldn't really tell, I'm fuckin' obsessed over here. It's almost gross.
The toppings, oh sweet Jesus, soooo many toppings. Simply put though, we've got proteins, the garden, and spreadable sauce. Bulk-up the cheeseburger with some extra protein. Bacon, ham, black bean, chili, shaved steak, fried egg, smoked salmon, peanut-butter, etc. all have their places between the buns. The garden keeps it fresh with its lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, avocados, olives, pineapple, mushrooms, peppers, herbs and all of their earthly buddies. The spreadable sauces create depth and bind all the components of the cheeseburger together. Mayo, ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, pepper jam, alfredo, garlic spread, and ranch are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to spreadable sauces. Honestly, the kind of sauce and how it's spread, is between ourselves and the cheeseburger. It's an intimate moment when the sauce gets spread, it's always right before you touch the cheeseburger to your tongue.
Lately I've been asking people about the cheeseburgers they prefer to eat. I tell you what, I'm impressed. Cardiac arrest aside, we have discovered truly impressive ways of channeling our cheeseburgers through our hearts. I will eat a cheeseburger in all of its possible variations. My approach is loving yet fearless. From the fast food quick pick me up cheeseburgers, to diner style comfort cheeseburgers, sliders to get a fix or fresh off the grill - cheeseburgers are perfect. Casual to gourmet, monogamy is not an option when it comes to this amazing finger food. I have to have them all!
I realize there's absolutely one kind of "cheeseburger" I left out of the mix. It's the damn veggie burger. Seriously people, veggie burger? I don't care how the veggies are prepped, they will never become their own burger. I respect that you vegetarians are trying to claim a piece of the greatest food on earth, but you're not bullshittin' me on this one. Veggies go ON burgers. There, I said it. Now go back to enjoying your "veggie patty sandwiches" and ogle in envy our real cheeseburgers when you see 'em. (I still respect you as a people, and you hope you come back to our side someday. You're missing out!)
Enough ranting already, here's the perfect cheeseburger for a guy like me. A half pound grass-fed beef patty seasoned with kosher salt, cracked pepper, garlic and teriyaki sauce. Grilled to almost medium, leaving me a deep pink and juicy inside. Alpine Swiss is my cheese of choice, melted. Topped with thick-cut bacon, grilled marinated portabella mushrooms, onions and garlic both caramelized. A thin slice of tomato for good measure. All stacked up on a brioche bun, both sides slathered with a fresh herb mayonnaise. BOOM-ski! Now lately I have been fantasizing about a burger topped with bacon wrapped shrimp or smoked oysters. What kind of burger inhabits your dreams? The world wants to know.
Scotty J - No cheeseburger ever gave up on me.