The burger: Yes, there is a deep-fried cheeseburger on the menu at the Copper Cow Bar & Kitchen. This total talker is exactly what it sounds like, an entire cheeseburger that’s dipped in batter – bun and all -- and eased into the deep fryer. I’ll leave the virtues of this State Fair-esque behemoth to my Outta Control colleagues, who are well-schooled in the exultation of excess.
That widowmaker is one of 11 burger options on the Copper Cow menu; there are a dozen, if you include the build-your-own option. If there was a popularity contest, chef Kyle Darling said that the blue ribbon would be pinned on the “Cow and the Sow,” which features a patty that’s a 60/40 beef/bacon combo, crowned with bacon Cheddar, aioli, pickles and butter lettuce. “It’s a user-friendly bacon cheeseburger,” he said.
As I perused the menu and considered the merits of various add-ons (roasted mushrooms, beer-braised pulled pork, tomato aioli), my appetite landed on the “Sweet Milkmaid” (pictured, above) for two reasons: I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered figs as a burger embellishment, and the inclusion of chevre is such a burger rarity that it sounded intriguing. Turns out, both are superb additions to the burger topper pantheon.
“I’m a huge fan of goat cheese,” said Darling. “I’ve got it on two of the burgers, and they’re probably my favorites. [The second is titled, “A Cow, A Duck & A Goat Walk Into A Bar,” and it’s paired with duck confit]. I was interviewing for this job when I made the burger last year, and I used fresh figs, which I knew I wouldn’t be able to do year-round. I later tried dried Mission figs, and they add a little texture.”
And a marvelous, goes-well-with beef flavor. Turns out, another ideal cheeseburger component is creamy, tangy chevre, making me wonder why it’s so rarely called upon in Cheeseburgerworld, at least beyond goat and lamb burgers.
The other flavor-enhancing topper is a compote that's fashioned from red onions that are cooked for three hours with red wine, red wine vinegar and sugar (“I call it a ‘red wine marmalade,’ but it’s not necessarily that,” said Darling). It’s a subtle way to introduce a bit of onion-ey bite to counter-program the sweetness of those dried figs.
Still, the real story here is the whopper of a patty. Thick, juicy and engineered to deliver a profoundly beefy bite, it ranks as one of the region’s better burger building blocks. The goodness begins where so many top-rated Twin Cities burgers start, with well-raised Limousin cattle from Peterson Craftsman Meats in Osceola, Wis.
When he was mapping out his hopes for the restaurant’s signature beef grind, Darling knew that he wanted to include flavor- and texture-enhancing qualities locked within short rib. “But the price is outrageous,” he said. That roadblock disappeared when the farm’s co-owner, Andy Peterson, made a helpful suggestion. “He gives me the short rib end pieces,” said Darling. “Once he cuts that beautiful rib eye square, there’s a byproduct, and he doesn’t have a use for it.”
Bingo. That’s blended with chuck, sirloin, “and what Andy calls ‘beef trim,’” said Darling. “It’s essentially beef belly. It looks like pork belly, with this beautiful white fat. It’s more of a byproduct for him, he doesn’t have any use for it.”
It’s an impressive formula, one that requires very little seasoning: salt and pepper, sprinkled once the patty hits the stove. Darling also tosses in a pinch of paprika, plus a small amount of sugar. “That helps add to the caramelization,” he said.
The patty isn’t the only component that’s getting all kinds of scrutiny. Those who have enjoyed the splendors of the burgers at the Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen -- the Eat Street sibling to the Copper Cow -- know that co-owner Danielle Bjorling and her crew are masters at crafting a memorable burger bun.
“It’s a different type of brioche from the ones you see everywhere,” said Darling, who got his start in the restaurant business 18 years ago, washing dishes at Gianni’s Steakhouse in Wayzata. He’s right: sweetened with honey and enriched with milk, the golden results have the strength required to stand up to the weight of those juice-laden patties (a protective layer of peppery arugula, placed between patty and bottom bun, also helps). That the insides get a generous brush of clarified butter before they’re toasted on the grill only enhances their appeal.
They’re baked on the premises every morning, to the tune of 800 per day. Practice does indeed make perfect.
Price: $13 for the “Sweet Milkmaid.” Others range from $11 to $14, and the build-your-own option starts at $8.50, with additional ingredients ranging from 50 cents (icebox pickles) to $2 (roasted wild mushrooms) to $5 (an additional beef patty).
Fries: Included, and difficult to resist. “We did a lot of practicing and testing,” said Darling. “What worked out was the russet, that was the most consistent.” Here’s the process, for those who want to replicate it at home: The potatoes are cut (but not peeled) and soaked in cold water for two days. Then they’re blanched in the fryer – it’s canola oil, heated to 265 degrees – and cooled. When they’re ordered, they get refried – again, in canola oil – at 350 degrees. The only seasoning is salt and pepper. “So you taste the potato, and nothing else,” said Darling.
Fun fact: Owners Danielle and Chris Bjorling have installed a convenient kiosk at the neighboring Unmapped Brewing Co., allowing beer fans to enjoy Darling’s handiwork. A Copper Cow staffer runs orders across the street to the taproom.
Where he burgers: “I don’t go out to go out and eat burgers, not when I’m grinding beef every day,” said Darling. “I follow P.S. Steak on Instagram, and I really want to try that one, it looks amazing.”
Address book: 5445 Eden Prairie Road, Minnetonka, 952-297-8066. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Talk to me: Do you have a favorite burger? Share the details at firstname.lastname@example.org.