The patty or protein of choice may take center stage with burgers, but toppings and condiments can make or break burgers. And so with the three-day Labor Day weekend holiday close at hand just a week away, it’s time to ditch the standard ketchup, mayo and mustard (or at least spice them up) condiments, toppings and bun.
Here are a dozen ways to dress up any burger whether it’s made with beef, poultry, lamb or is a vegetarian-style.
▪ Buns: Potato buns are sturdy and flavorful and they toast nicely. Want a tad sweeter Brioche buns are on the sweet side. Pretzel buns are trendy. Whatever your bun of choice, toast the insides on the grill along-side the burger.
▪ Cheese: The sky’s the limit and don’t skimp. Soft cheese like brie and Havarti melt well and put the burger over the top. Ditto with Gouda. Good all-American cheese and aged cheddar are classics. Looking for spice? Add Pepper Jack.
▪ Crispy fried onions: Marinate half a pound sliced shallots in half a teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and one and a half cups of favorite ale for 12 hours or overnight. Mix half a teaspoon freshly ground black pepper with one and a half cups all-purpose flour. Heat a deep pot with two to three cups canola oil to 350 degrees.
▪ Greens: For a hearty crunch, use iceberg lettuce or romaine and use leaf lettuce for a mild crunch. For non-crunch fans, use soft Bibb lettuce or add a layer of baby greens. Arugula will add a pleasant peppery bite, while baby kale and spinach give a hearty taste.
▪ Onions: Red has a bit of spice, white is nice and crunchy and sweet. Slice about quarter-inch thick or less. For sweeter flavor, grill the slices.
▪ Roasted red peppers: Roast red bell peppers on the grill until the skins are charred. Place in a bowl, cover and let rest 10 minutes. Remove charred skin, slice the peppers. Or you can buy jarred roasted red peppers.
▪ Curry ketchup: Heat two teaspoons vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add one teaspoon curry powder, half a teaspoon hot paprika and half a teaspoon chili powder; cook, stirring, until toasted, 20 seconds. Mix with half a cup ketchup and one teaspoon each Worcestershire sauce and honey.
▪ Honey mustard-glazed bacon: Place eight bacon slices on a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet; bake at 375 degrees until just starting to crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Brush both sides with honey mustard; sprinkle the tops with coarsely ground pepper. Bake until crisp, 12 more minutes.
▪ Herb mayonnaise: Mix half a cup mayonnaise with two tablespoons fresh chopped favorite herbs, garlic and chives, pinch of salt and one teaspoon vinegar.
▪ Pesto: Use any store-bought pesto or make your own. For creamy pesto, swirl in some mayo.
▪ Spicy or sweet mayonnaise: Start out with half a cup mayonnaise. For herb mayo, mix in favorite fresh chopped favorite herbs, garlic and chives, pinch of salt and one teaspoon vinegar; for spicy mayo, stir in two to four tablespoons gochujang (Korean chile paste) or Sriracha to taste, one tablespoon lemon or lime juice and a pinch of salt. To make sweet mayo, stir in Asian sweet chili sauce or honey or honey mustard or honey Dijon.
▪ Spicy blue cheese butter: Mash three tablespoons softened unsalted butter with one tablespoon chopped chives; season with hot sauce and salt. Stir in a quarter cup crumbled blue cheese.
Sources: Shake Shack Recipes & Stories by Randy Garutti & Mark Rosati (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, $26.); Detroit Free Press Test Kitchen; Food Network magazine, June 2017 issue.