June 19, 2009

(Faux) Niman Ranch Burgers and Carmelized Onions

I really struggled with what to make for dinner tonight. I thawed out some ground beef without a clear picture of what I wanted to do with it. My default meal was regular hamburgers on the grill; but while those sounded good, I still wanted something with a little more oomph. Finally, inspiration struck at 5 pm. I had seen this recipe on Ina's show and in my Back to Basics cookbook. I did not have the fancy grass-fed Niman Ranch beef, but I thought that normal, pedestrian, hamburger would be an okay facsimile. After all, we are simple folk and not used to super-special beef, anyway. My tax bracket just doesn't allow for it. Anyway, I followed Ina's recipe but just substituted the ground beef that I had on hand (I had a couple of other changes...see my notes for the rest of my substitutions). Eureka! Dinner dilemma solved!!! Ina's burgers combine the best part of my ideas, easy burgers that wouldn't have ho-hum flavor! That woman is a genius, I tell ya.

Now about the onions...

On the show (and in the cookbook), the Barefoot Contessa herself strongly urges you to make these burgers with the caramelized onion recipe, as well. She makes a very convincing argument for why a person should take the extra time and make the onions. Ina's the boss. If she says to pair her burgers with caramelized onion then I am required to listen to her. She is pretty much a kitchen goddess, so I felt that I needed to take her recommendation seriously and make her onions. Let's just say I am glad that I took her advice....but you will have to read on to know why. I paired her burgers with some baked (microwaved) potatoes and steamed Brussels sprouts. Whew! Dinner was done.

(Faux) Niman Ranch Burgers and Caramelized Onions
Adapted from: 2008, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics/foodnetwork.com

1-2 pounds ground Niman Ranch beef OR other beef (80 percent lean and 20 percent fat)
1 tablespoon good Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra for brushing the grill
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 sandwich-size English muffins, halved OR toasted hamburger buns of your choice
Good mayonnaise, for topping
Caramelized Onions, recipe follows

Build a charcoal fire or heat a gas grill.

Place the ground beef in a large bowl and add the mustard, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix gently with a fork to combine, taking care not to compress the ingredients. Shape the meat into 6 (3 1/2-inch) patties of equal size and thickness.

When the grill is medium-hot, brush the grill grate with oil to keep the burgers from sticking. Place the burgers on the grill and cook for 4 minutes. Using a big spatula, turn the burgers and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until medium-rare or more, or cook longer if you prefer hamburgers more well done.

Meanwhile, break apart the English muffins and toast the 6 halves cut side down on the grill. Spread each half with mayonnaise and top with a burger and then with a heaping tablespoon of caramelized onions. Serve hot.


Caramelized Onions

2 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds yellow onions, peeled and sliced in half-rounds
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large shallow pot, add the onions and thyme, and toss with the oil. Place the lid on top and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes to sweat the onions. Remove the lid and continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes, until the onions are caramelized and golden brown. If the onions are cooking too fast, lower the heat. Add the vinegar, salt, and pepper and cook for 2 more minutes, scraping the brown bits from the pan. Season to taste (they should be very highly seasoned).

Jen's Notes:
Okay here are my substitutions:

For the burgers: As we discussed, I didn't use fancy beef. I used regular ground 80/20 beef (by the way, that is the faux part of the recipe). Also, I did not have English muffins, so I used regular whole wheat hamburger buns that were lightly toasted on the grill. Yum! Both were really good substitutes, and ones that I will use again.

For the onions: I did not have sherry vinegar. Instead omitted the sherry vinegar and used 1 teaspoon of dry Sherry and 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar. Both subs worked out perfectly!

The Results:
Lordy Mama!!!!! Were these burgers fan-freakin'-tastic! Simple, yet super flavorful. And I could have eaten the onions on their own with just a spoon. Also, Ina was right...the onions and burgers went together like peanut butter and jelly. It was a match made in heaven. Seriously, don't skip the onions!!!!! They were unbelievably delicious with the burgers. Overall, I am really impressed that such simple fare can be so good. It was one of the best burgers that I have ever had at home, that is for sure. This will definitely be my go-to burger recipe from now on. Ina did not steer me wrong!


nick said...

Caramelized onions make almost everything that-much-better.

Also, when you have no clear idea of what to make for dinner, thawing out some ground beef is like the best first step possible!

Scandalous Beauty said...

Saw this today on Barefoot Contessa and can't wait to try it tonight! Thanks for the rundown!