July 3, 2013

Soup to Nuts: Grilling the perfect burger for July 4

We chatted up some local burger kings for the lowdown on how to make sure the beauties coming off your grill on Thursday set off fireworks.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

The Red, White and Bleu Burger, the creation of Ben Berman and Jack Barber, owners of the Mainely Burgers food truck, is topped with pickled red onions, bleu cheese and thick-cut bacon.

Gabe Souza

click image to enlarge

Jack Barber of the Mainely Burgers food truck slides a Red, White and Bleu Burger onto its bun.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer


CHANCES ARE you won't be going out for a burger on July 4. But when the cook-outs are over and the calendar moves on, there are plenty of unique and delicious burgers to choose from on menus around town:

BACK BAY GRILL: Chef Larry Matthews' Back Bay Burger has become so popular with his customers he has to bring it back every few months. Made with 8 ounces of naturally raised beef, it's served on a brioche bun and topped with shredded romaine dressed in Stilton and creamy garlic dressing.

CAIOLA'S: Chef Abby Harmon sells about 200 of her Caiola's Burgers every week. It's made with 85/10 ground beef from Caldwell Farms, topped with Sunset Acres bacon and Cabot cheddar cheese and served on bread from Southside Bakery. For a Southern flair, Harmon might add pimiento cheese and a bacon jam.

PETITE JACQUELINE: This bistro's "French Attitude Burger" is topped with gruyere, caramelized onions and house aioli. It's called "French Attitude" because you have to eat it the way it's served to you, with no substitutions.

PO' BOYS & PICKLES: Need a good alternative to a factory-farmed fast-food burger? Try this sandwich shop's Cheeseburger Po' Boy. The toppings are simple and traditional -- tomato, mayo, mustard, ketchup, onions -- but in taste and freshness, it beats a Big Mac.

TWENTY MILK STREET: The restaurant's Piedmontese Burger is made from Piedmontese beef, known for its high protein content and for being lower in fat and cholesterol than turkey. It's served with crispy fried onions, shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato and a side of the restaurant's secret sauce. Add an egg for $1 more.

NOSH KITCHEN BAR: It sells for $20, but Nosh's Apocolypse Now Burger lives up to its name. The generous burger is topped with American cheese, crispy pork belly, bacon, foie gras, mayo and cherry jam, and it's served on a brioche bun.

EAST ENDER: The Surf & Turf Burger served here is topped with Maine lobster, brie cheese, lettuce, and chive mayo.

DiMILLO'S: The restaurant's Fiery Calamari Burger is topped with cornmeal-dusted calamari, srirachi aioli, lettuce, tomato, quick-pickled onion and pepper jack cheese. It's served on a butter-grilled challah roll.


Servings: Six

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

6 sesame seed sandwich rolls, split, toasted

1 cup watercress or mixed spring greens


1 tablespoon curry powder

1 tablespoon Caribbean jerk seasoning

1 teaspoon salt


1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons grated lime peel

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine ground beef and seasoning ingredients in large bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Shape into six 1/2-inch thick patties.

Place patties on grill over medium ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 8 to 10 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, 7 to 9 minutes) until instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into center registers 160 degrees, turning occasionally.

Meanwhile, combine sauce ingredients in small bowl; set aside.

Spread sauce on cut sides of rolls. Place one burger on bottom half of each roll. Top evenly with watercress. Close sandwiches.

Source: Dave Zino and



Ben Berman and Jack Barber will be serving burgers from their food truck, Mainely Burgers, on the Eastern Prom on July 4. Featured on the menu that day will be their Red, White and Bleu Burger, which is topped with pickled red onions, bleu cheese, and thick-cut bacon. If you'd like to try this at home here's the burger boys' recipe for the pickled red onions:

For a pint jar:

3 red onions, thinly sliced in rings

2 garlic cloves, minced

11/2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill

1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

2 teaspoons of kosher salt

1/2 cup of vinegar

Combine ingredients and fill rest of way with water. Shake well and make sure ingredients are dispersed. Refrigerate and let sit for 24 hours.



When it comes to actually cooking the burgers, there are different schools of thought.

Spangler likes to keep one side of the grill really hot, another side much cooler. That way he can get a good sear on the burgers without overcooking them. Once he gets some color on the outside of the burgers, he moves them to the cooler side to cook through.

Zino suggests keeping the grill at a medium heat. If it gets too hot, you run the risk of charring the burgers on the outside while leaving them undercooked on the inside. If the grill is too cool, you won't get proper browning to help hold the juices in.

All of our experts agreed on one thing: Give the burgers time to cook. Don't get impatient and squish the patties with your spatula.

"Never, never, never press down on the patty when it's on the grill," Zino said. "I know we love the sound of the sizzle, but actually what we're doing is we're pushing flavor out of the burger and into the coals."

Most experts said the burgers should only be flipped once. Let the grill do its job. Campbell said a good rule of thumb, depending on how thick the burgers are, is two minutes on each side for rare, three minutes on each side for medium-rare, and five minutes each side for medium-well.

"Let it rest rather than throw it onto a bun so quickly, which makes for a bloody bun," Campbell advised. "It gives time for the juices to go back through the meat and settle, keep in more flavor."

Zino said it's OK to flip occasionally as long as you don't overdo it.

"It depends on how thick you make your patty," he said. "You don't want to flip every 10 seconds because you're losing a lot of heat that way."



Everyone has their own ideas for toppings. The owners of Mainely Burgers are known for their creative toppings, such as sliced green apple and maple mayo. (See sidebar for instructions on how to make their "Red, White, and Bleu Burger" for the Fourth.)

Gabe Clark's favorite burger is seasoned with salt, pepper and either cayenne or paprika, then topped with pepperjack cheese, avocado and bacon.

"With burgers, you can have fun," Clark said. "You can have blue cheese burgers. There's spicy arugulas and things like that."

Campbell recommends caramelized Vidalia onions or shallots, baby portabello mushrooms and flavored mayonnaises. To make a flavored mayonnaise, just toss some herbs -- maybe basil or thyme -- or even some roasted tomatoes, onion or bacon into a food processor with some mayonniase and process for 2 to 3 minutes.

"Really spicy stuff is not my thing, but pepper jack cheese has a nice little bite to it without being overpowering," Dee Dee Caldwell said. "I think that, or just good old American sharp cheddar, are the two best cheeses to put on a burger."

For something a little different, Zino suggests a tzatziki sauce made with cucumber, garlic and yogurt, or maybe a mango salsa. Or go Hawaiian by grilling pineapple slices and adding barbecue sauce to the burger.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: MeredithGoad


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