Monday, March 28, 2011

The Ultimate Meatball Experience

What is a burger but a large flattened meatball? In my opinion, a homemade burger is the ultimate meatball experience. Burgers are the quintessentially American food, and like it or not, our all-American beef patty served on a bun is the food poster child for our country. All too frequently there are troubling reports and concerns raised about the over 38 million American hamburgers eaten daily in our country, and as iconic as they are, I simply cannot remember the last time I ate a mega-chain burger. I do have a weakness though, for cheeseburgers served in small town cafes such as The Crow's Nest in Montesano. We stop there often when we're driving through, and of course, the Pioneer Farm beef burgers Judy Pederson cooked up at the Snohomish Farmers Market last summer were an almost weekly treat. I don't think that all burgers are all bad, but I do agree there are a lot of really bad burgers being sold and eaten.

Being a passionate home cook, with a special fondness for a good burger, and having worked in several small cafes that served good all-American burgers, I often make them at home. They are sometimes exotic, like the Banh/Bahn Mi Pork Burgers I made (and misspelled) last summer, or more often than not, I make a straightforward all-American-style burger. Just as a drive-through burger is a quick meal to grab when life is hectic, a burger made at home is one of the quickest and easiest thing in the world to cook. I learned this from my Old Granny (click here), who always kept on hand a stack of beef or elk burger patties in her freezer. As marauding teens we knew we could show up at her doorstep with any number of friends in tow, and she would make burgers for us all. Many adventures (and misadventures) began (or ended) with, "Hey, let's stop at Grandma's house!" At any time of day or night, if her lights were on and she was still up, we could stop by and she would always ask, "Are you kids hungry?" Buns from the freezer were quickly toasted, and frozen meat patties went straight onto the griddle. A patty of good quality ground meat, not too lean or too fat, served on a bun with various condiments pulled from the fridge, all ready to eat at her kitchen table within just a few minutes. Of course, she would invariably make up a salad or something else to have along with the burgers, and she always had ice cream in the freezer and a cake of some sorts under cover on her counter for us to polish off.

We made burgers twice last week -it was one of those weeks. I wasn't thinking 'blog post photos' when I was making them and didn't take any -everyone knows what a burger looks like anyway. I often portion and freeze individual patties, as my Old Granny did, when I'm not using all of a package of ground meat, or when I'm thinking ahead to having an answer for, "What can I make for dinner that can be ready in the next fifteen minutes?" I shape individual patties in a plastic sandwich bag and stack them in the freezer. If I have the time and plan ahead, homemade burger buns are absolutely heaven, but if not, my Old Granny's always-keep-some-buns-in-the-freezer trick is good for RIGHT NOW meals -or we simply use whatever bread is at hand. Burgers from different meats each have their own character and goat and lamb are both very tasty. I made this week's burgers with ground beef that was raised by my sister-in-law. Because I intimately know where the ground meat for our burgers comes from, I don't have to cook the living daylights out of them. Mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard (or a dollop of special sauce) are the usual requisite condiments, along with some lettuce, tomato and dill pickle slices -cheese and onions are optional- and Zucchini Relish. My cousin, Michelle says Zucchini Relish is the whole point to having a hamburger, which may be going a bit too far, but it is definitely an important part of a good homemade burger like those eaten at my grandmother's kitchen table.


  1. I'll admit, I hovered over 'zucchini relish' hoping for a link....

    I've got canning on the brain after cleaning 100+ jars this week!

  2. Last summer, we didn't have any luck growing zucs (shockingly) and so I haven't posted making zucchini relish, yet. I can't imagine two years in a row without a surplus of zucchinis, and I have big plans to make more of this special relish this summer.