Our third of five finalists is James Pike of Los Angeles. Needless to say, it's a glorious mess of a burger. He writes:
"We believe that the true spirit of burgerism is a personal devotion to one's ideals. The ideal burger has a juicy, flavorful patty that requires no augmentation. The ideal burger has toppings which provide a sensory explosion, but one that complements the meat, rather than masks its flavor. The ideal burger reminds you of your local burger joint, but also provides an unforgettable gourmet dining experience. After a year of practice, the men of the Sigma Tau Gamma burger team are proud to present a burger that fulfills this promise, the Save The Gravy Burger.
"The Save The Gravy Burger balances the sweetness of the caramelized pears with the saltiness of the bacon and mushrooms to create a smorgasbord of flavors for the palate. The onion ring provides a satisfying crunch, while the goat cheese enriches this with a creamy, tangy burst. The gravy is a synthesis of the flavors, ensuring that every bite contains a myriad of sensations and tastes. The heat of the patty itself serves to tie the entire experience together."
"This burger is awesome!"
This year, we received almost 50 submissions from readers and grill-masters across the U.S. and Canada. We asked you to vote for your top 20, and then we got down to testing.
Over 48 hours, we shopped (using a seven-page grocery list), prepped, cooked and grilled our hearts out testing a whole host of burgers (our Test Kitchen went through more than 20 pounds of meat alone, including hand-ground sirloin and salmon).
The results were judged by the Food staff, including editor Russ Parsons, restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, deputy editor Betty Hallock, Test Kitchen director Noelle Carter and Web producer Jenn Harris.
The five finalists and their recipes will be featured in the Saturday section on June 29. In the meantime, we'll be giving a daily shout-out to each on our blog. Congratulations all!
STG (SAVE THE GRAVY) BURGERS
2 hours. Serves 8
Sigma Saulos's caramelized pears
2 Asian pears, vertically sliced as thinly as possible (as if slicing "chips")
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
3 to 6 tablespoons black truffle oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
In a large, non-stick skillet, saute the pears in the vegetable oil over high heat for 3 minutes, to give the slices a little color. Add the truffle oil and salt and simmer the slices until softened, about 10 minutes, carefully stirring so as not to break the slices. Stir in the sugar and continue to cook until the slices are caramelized, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve both the pears and pear juice separately, holding each in a warm place.
Tau Ted's sauteed mushrooms
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 pound white button mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
Salt and pepper
In a large saute pan heated over medium-high heat, melt the butter and stir in the mushrooms. Stir in the garlic, along with one-half teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are soft and lightly-browned. Remove from heat and strain the mushrooms, separately reserving both the mushrooms and any leftover liquid and holding in a warm place.
1 pound bacon
2 tablespoons flour, more if needed
Reserved mushroom liquid
Reserved pear juice
2 cups apple juice, more if desired
1. In a large skillet, crisp the bacon strips. Set the strips aside in a warm place, reserving 2 tablespoons bacon fat.
2. In a saute pan, heat the flour over medium heat. Whisk in the mushroom liquid, then the bacon grease, then the pear juice. Continue mixing to form a lumpy roux (add more flour if needed to form a lumpy roux). Whisk in the apple juice and bring to a simmer, whisking until the mixture has the consistency of ketchup (whisk in additional flour and/or apple juice to form the right consistency. Remove from heat. This makes about 2 cups gravy; set aside in a warm place.
Ogre's onion rings
1 white onion
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup flat stout beer
2 cups of corn oil
1. Peel and slice the onions into rings 1-inch thick.
2. Fill a large mixing bowl with ice, and set a medium mixing bowl inside, surrounded by ice.
3. Into the medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Form an indentation in the center of the flour mixture.
4. In a measuring cup, combine the water and beer. Slowly pour the water/beer mixture into the flour, mixing until the batter has the consistency of lumpy pancake batter.
5. In a large saucepan, heat the oil to 350 degrees. Dip the onion slices into the batter, then fry until golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on a rack and hold in a warm place.
The pinky patty
3 pounds (80/20) ground beef
1 (12 ounce) package pork chorizo
1/2 onion chopped, about 1/2 cup
2 to 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Scant 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 tablespoons Montreal steak seasoning
2 teaspoons salt
1. In a large bowl, combine the beef and chorizo along with the chopped onions. Season with the Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, Montreal steak seasoning and salt, kneading until the seasonings and flavorings are evenly disbursed. Divide into 8 burgers, shaping the patties so they are slightly larger than the diameter of the buns (they will shrink while cooking).
2. Grill the patties to desired doneness. Hold in a warm place.
STG (Save the gravy) burgers
8 burger buns, divided
Fried onion rings
1 (8-ounce) log goat cheese Mushrooms
To assemble each burger, spoon about 2 tablespoons gravy on the bottom of each bun. Top with a layer of caramelized pears, and divide the bacon strips evenly between each. Place a burger patty over the bacon on each bun, then top each patty with an onion ring and a dollop (1 ounce) of goat cheese. Top the onion rings with mushrooms and spoon over more gravy. Complete the burger by adding the top bun.
To whet your appetite for the remaining finalists, here's a super-fast look at all the burgers we tasted.