Total time: 40 minutes
Note: This recipe from Nancy Silverton was the centerpiece of a story by Emily Green. According to Silverton, the key to a great hamburger is the meat, which should have ample fat. Ask the butcher to coarsely grind 2 3/4 pounds of prime chuck (10% to 15% fat) with 4 to 6 ounces of prime sirloin fat (the combination should have 20% to 28% fat total). Though she offers three cheeses, she says that from experience, most takers go for Gruyère, 25% might take cheddar and one of a group will want blue. The cheeses should be good quality, such as Point Reyes Blue, aged Gruyère and Grafton cheddar from Vermont or Fiscalini or Straus cheddar from California. The buns should be good-quality soft sesame or poppy seed hamburger buns.
12 strips applewood-smoked
2 ripe avocados
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons snipped chives
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large, ripe heirloom tomato
3 ounces blue cheese
3 ounces cheddar
3 ounces Gruyère
6 iceberg lettuce leaves, each about 5 inches wide
Best Foods mayonnaise
(or Hellmann's, east of the Rockies)
Dijon mustard, smooth and coarse-grained
Dill pickles, sliced vertically in quarters or eighths
1. Fry the bacon in a hot skillet until done but not too crisp, about 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
2. Cut the avocados into quarters or sixths. Sprinkle lightly with lemon juice, add the chives and toss. Season with sea salt and pepper. Set aside in a serving dish.
3. Cut the tomato into slices about one-fourth-inch thick and season lightly with sea salt and pepper. Set aside. Cut the red onion into very thin (about one-eighth-inch) slices and season lightly with sea salt and pepper. Set aside.
4. Crumble the blue cheese and cheddar into separate serving bowls. Slice the Gruyère with a cheese plane onto a serving plate and set aside.
Burgers and assembly
6 large sesame or poppy seed hamburger buns
About 3 pounds ground beef (see note)
3 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Brush the cut side of each bun with olive oil and set aside. Light an outdoor grill or place a seasoned cast-iron skillet over high heat.
2. Being careful not to overwork the meat, shape it into 6 patties, about 2 inches thick and 4 inches in diameter. Sprinkle each side of each patty with about one-fourth teaspoon of kosher salt and 4 to 6 grindings of freshly ground black pepper.
3. Place the burgers on the hot grill or in the hot skillet. Sear them until they can be turned without sticking, then turn them. For rare, cook about 4 minutes, then flip and cook another 4 minutes (for medium-rare, 5 minutes on each side; for medium, 6 minutes).
4. As the burgers are cooking, toast the buns, cut side on grill or pan, for a minute or two. Just before the burgers are done cooking, garnish with a little good-quality sea salt, then top with cheese and let it melt. Have guests place lettuce, onion, tomato, bacon and avocado on the bottom half of their toasted bun. Place the burger on top, then cover with the top of the bun. Serve ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, pepperoncini and dill pickles with burgers.
Each serving (with 2 slices bacon, 1/6 an avocado and 1/2 ounce of cheese): 794 calories; 50 grams protein; 36 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams fiber; 50 grams fat; 17 grams saturated fat; 160 mg. cholesterol; 1,351 mg. sodium.