It was time – time for IMBB that is. Time for the grill. Time for smoke and flame and wood and charred meat and primeval smells. Time to return to the vast temperate zone forest of the world, covering Europe, North America, Asia. Time to hunt, to grill the spoils over the fire. Time to kick back with a cold beer and reflect on the hunter part of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
So I made burgers – about the most processed, most removed from tearing raw flash from the bone, most removed from the old, slow life revolving around the seasons, most global corporate machine food that there is.
I went to the store and bought the best looking ground round I could find and also some very fine ground lamb and ground turkey. I also hunted down (with much more difficulty than I should have had) some dried cranberries, some major grey’s mango chutney, some shallots, some cilantro, some nice italian bread and some applewood smoked bacon. Everything else I needed could be obtained by gathering.
In the garden I rapidly gathered some tomatoes, some arugula, some fresh sage. I had what I needed and was ready to grill.
Fire is a magical thing, new come into our world anthropologically speaking. It transforms food from the mundane, the public health menace, the smelly into magical creations that delight the senses and healthily nourish the body. It’s also just plain fun.
There are lots of options for grilling. Using a grill pan over a range is clearly not an option when you live in California, have no air conditioning and it is ninety degrees outside. In fact, cooking on the nice grill on our range is also not really an option, plus gas grilling is for when you are in a hurry. When you have some time and want to savor the process there’s only one way – charcoal. Actually, wood is good too, so that is technically two ways, but you end up at the same place either way – a pile of glowing embers.
I chose a midway point. I used lumpwood charcoal, the kind that looks like chunks of wood that happen to be made of charcoal. I piled up the chimney starter and let it rip and then dumped the results twenty minutes later into a mixed pile of more lumpwood charcoal and some mixed wood (poplar and apple wood) and let it burn for another fifteen minutes or so until I had lots of glowing embers and some active flame left.
Now we cut back in time to when I returned from hunter-gathering. I made four separate kinds of burger.
Burger number one – the BLT burger.
This burger was made from minced applewood smoked bacon, minced sundried tomatoes, salt, pepper and about one and a half pounds of ground round. Fold it all together as gently as possible so that it is well mixed but not heavily worked. Form gently into patties about three inches across and almost an inch thick in the center. Grill on an oiled grill very hot for about four minutes a side until just cooked through.
This was surprisingly ordinary. Oh well. We live and learn.
Burger number two – as yet unnamed.
This burger was made from about a pound and a half of ground turkey, a cup of dried cranberries, about two tablespoons of finely minced fresh sage, salt and pepper and a little olive oil to keep it moist. Grill as for burger number one.
A BIG success – recipe still needs a little work but this was a winner – a REALLY good burger.
Burger number three – the greek lamb burger.
Made from a pound and a half of ground lamb, a quarter cup of red wine, four finely minced shallots, half a bunch of cilantro finely mined, half a cup of kalamata black olives finely minced, salt, pepper, a little olive oil for moistness.
Surprisingly bland for those ingredients – could work out but needs a lot of work on how to make it more lamby and more greek.
Burger number four – the kashmiri burger.
A pound and a half of ground round. Half a jar of major grey’s mango chutney. A teaspoon of kashmiri masala paste. Half a bunch of cilantro diced. Four minced shallots. Salt, pepper.
By far the most subtle of the burgers. At first many thought it disappointing. But it grew and grew until it became the favorite. Well worth the effort and perhaps some more tinkering.
I provided ketchup, mustard, tomatoes, lettuce, arugula, salt, pepper, french bread and hamburger buns and people did what they wanted to make the burger. No cheese because I wanted feedback purely on the burger taste, but we may add feta to the greek burger mix next time since several people mentioned it as a possible fixer-upper.
And in good old American rabble-rousing tradition, we held this all together with a potluck and a political dinner/discussion about the lies, distortion and bias of Fox News. For more on that, see Outfoxed.