Sometimes you just want to be bad. Of course, “bad” is in the eyes or, in this case, mouths of the beholder. We all have a guilty pleasure we turn to when we’re feeling the urge to indulge ourselves. For some it’s pizza. For others, ice cream or cake. The possibilities are endless and the choices are personal.
For me, it’s a good, juicy burger — one with melty, gooey cheese and a slathering of mayo and ketchup (sorry, burger purists). I do like to work a little bit of a health angle into it, so I’ll top it with some crisp, cold iceberg lettuce and maybe a thin slice of onion. All of this deliciousness needs to be nestled in between two halves of a worthy bun.
Halfway through eating my guilty pleasure, I inevitably notice that I’m full. Being only human, though, I continue to eat the rest of the burger. It’s a problem. But thankfully, there is a solution — the slider.
For those of you who haven’t been to a bar or a Twins game in the past decade, a slider is simply a smaller version of a full-size burger. It hits all the right notes and does it in fewer bites. Fewer bites mean less guilt … and fat and calories. Problem solved. The fact that I can make several at a time and have them done in minutes makes them even better, and me even more popular with my three sons, who prefer their sliders in multiples.
Recently, I’ve been experimenting with a burger-making technique that’s been all the rage in trendy restaurants for the past few years and in diners for the past five decades — the smashed burger.
It’s an easy process to follow, and shockingly effective. You make a small ball of ground beef, place it in a hot skillet and smash it down with a spatula. The result is a juicy, ultra-crusty patty. The crust is due to the caramelization that occurs when protein meets (no pun intended) heat. Caramelization equals flavor, and in this case, it doesn’t just make it taste better, it makes it taste beefier.
While I normally stick with the straightforward cheeseburger, in an effort to mix it up a bit I experimented with an Italian version that’s now a family favorite. It has all the essential elements of my idea of a good cheeseburger — meat, cheese, mayo, something tomatoey, something green — but in a different form. A beefy patty is topped with a dab of marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese and steamed for just a moment, which allows the sauce and cheese to meld together. It’s then sandwiched between a toasted ciabatta roll that’s been slathered with a robust Parmesan and garlic mayo. Basil stands in for the lettuce and the result is smashing (pun absolutely intended).
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @meredithdeeds.