I love my new home in South Florida. The weather is awesome, the lifestyle is fantastic and even the food is good. But I do really miss my friends.
Being 1,300 miles apart from all my friends in Jersey has been rough, particularly being away from those who I have shared my best foodie memories with.
One of those folks who has been in my thoughts a lot lately is my friend Christine Nunn, who recently had to close her restaurant, Picnic, as another casualty of the usual economic malaise hitting everyone nowadays. Christine has instead chosen to focus on her catering business, which is still doing well.
While Picnic got incredible reviews, and the food was utterly phenomenal the financials of the place did not work out. Sometimes this happens when restaurants get too ambitious, and indeed this was without question one of the most ambitious restaurants I had ever seen in New Jersey.
Picnic was a wonderful place while it lasted, and I considered it the best restaurant in all of Bergen County. I was extremely privileged to be able to document the start-up of the restaurant and to come in for periodic visits, and get access to the kitchen where I probably shot the best food photos I’ve ever taken in my entire life.
Today while I was out shopping, I thought about Christine, her restaurant and all the good times we had.
While I was in the midst of my thought processes, I got the whiff of grilled beef, probably wafting out of a fast food restaurant near the supermarket. Hamburgers. Oh God, I wanted a hamburger, right then, right now.
The smell of burgers kicked off a taste memory in my synapses.
And then I remembered the Hamburger that was meant to end all hamburgers, the Burger Mountain. I’ve had posts about all sorts of hamburgers on Off the Broiler over the years, but none got anywhere near as much attention as that thing that Christine created.
People were emailing me (and Christine) from all over the world where they could get one, and where it was served.
The thing is, we only did that burger once, as a total goof. At her restaurant, a less complicated version was served once or twice, but it was a crazy expensive and labor intensive.
I could never attempt to make anything as sophisticated as Burger Mountain. I don’t have the culinary training like she does. But I could make a really freaking big hamburger that would taste good. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.
First, I decided to think about the roll. Now, normally you don’t build a burger around a roll. The other components typically take precedence, like the meat grind itself. But this was going to be a very big burger.
Publix’s bakery had these pumpernickel boules used for “Bread Bowls”, the kind you hollow out and fill with soup or chili. So I picked up two of these.
Next, the execution. At Publix I bought some really high quality sirloin burger meat in 1lb packages. The intention originally was to make one giant, one-pound burger patty and grill it on my Weber.
But it got late and I didn’t want to fire it up, so instead I decided to pull out one of our griddles and threw it on the electric range.
I heavily seasoned the burger meat with sea salt and cracked pepper, and was about to put a giant one-pound patty on the hot griddle when I realized I was going to have difficulty maneuvering it, so I compromised and made two 8-ounce patties, which I intended to layer on the giant bread bowl bun in some way.
See, when you don’t have proper culinary training you just have to wing it sometimes.
I also sliced up a nice big sweet onion of which half I reserved raw, and the rest to cook in the juices of the griddling burger patties.
As the burgers started to approach rare, I thew two slices of Pepper Jack on top of each patty and then thew a metal salad bowl on top to steam the big thick burgers, the onions and the cheese so it melted nice.
This is a technique called “Doming” which I first saw applied at Jackson Hole, a small burger chain based out of the New York metro area. I think Cheeburger Cheeburger also domes, but I can’t verify that for certain.
Burgers, Cheese and Onions post-doming.
Here’s our mega-burger ready for assembly. The bread bowl has been sliced through, and hollowed out some to make room for the ingredients. As you can see by kitchen portioning scale next to the bread bowl, this is a very, very big bun.
The bottom layer has a nice ripe Hass avocado that has been spread all along the bottom. This adds a creamy texture similar to what mayonnaise would be used for.
Next, the burgers and the griddled onions. One patty had to be cut in half in order to fit on the bun properly.
Next, thick slices of sweet onion and ripe, local Florida tomatoes.
Lettuce and some basil leaves fresh from our garden top this monster off, along with the top part of the bun.
I suppose if I was so inclined I could eat the entire thing myself. But I decided to share it with my wife.
And there you have it, Son of Burger Mountain. Arguably, probably slightly healthier than its predecessor and purist in its implementation with the use of lean ground sirloin and no condiments at all. I wanted the beef and the fresh ingredients to be the primary focus.
We didn’t use tons of butter in it or drench it in a Sauce Bearnaise with thick cuts of crispy bacon like the original, but I think it is worthy of its heritage based on pure size.