From the “land of bacon stomachs” (a location otherwise known to you and I, as the ‘American South’) and via Portuguese scientist & diplomat, Abbé Correia — who, early in the 19th Century, travelled (READ: ate his way) through Kentucky & Georgia — came this simple paean to the virtues and joy of pork fat. They’re not wrong.
I stumbled across both the mention of this extraordinarily talented, polymath man — described in the lede — as well as finding that subject line quote (from a contemporary of Correia, apparently a local Virginian worthy) in the same piece on Sean Brock, published all the way back in 2011. My, we were both so much younger then, weren’t we?
Brock has long been a chef I’d give house-space to if he offered to cook for me for the rest of my life (for the absence of doubt, he hasn’t offered. Yet). He loves Ossabaw hogs. And makes pork-roasted pork? Man’s a stone genius. This piece will definitely repay your time — you feel the enthusiasm & commitment to his (at times monomaniacal research & testing) screaming right off the page at you.True Grits | The New Yorker
And finally, another dive down the rabbit warren that is the internet.
Sorry about that; you’ll no doubt curse me as you in turn spend hours & hours & hours & hours on non-paying ‘research’. I’m starting to read the biography of Ed Levine who started the website Serious Eats (how can you not love a man like that?) and in the introduction by J. Kenji López-Alt — another genius chef who I’ve raved about before here and who slings his skillet (amongst other items) at Serious Eats — I read about a recipe for a ‘burger that takes around 30 hours to prep and cook, invented by the equally insane Heston Blumenthal.
Here’s a short video of Heston demonstrating the ‘Perfect Cheeseburger’ recipe on his “In Search of Perfection” TV show back in 2007:
OK, assuming that, like me, you just have to try doing this to see how it turns out, here’s the long form recipe. And if you’d like a (slightly) contrarian view on the ingredients and The Hallowed Heston Process, this article here is a good one to see a little counter-balance. And Kenji’s take? That’s well worth a read of course...
Oh, and good luck! Enjoy the result. And don’t blame me for all the hours you’ll use up…
By Heston Blumenthal from “Further Adventures in Search of Perfection”.
List of Ingredients
For the pre-ferment
400g Canadian very strong bread flour
1g fast-action bread yeast
400g cold water
For the dough
700g pre-fermented batter
200g free-range egg yolks (approximately 10 eggs)
60g water at 20C
400g Canadian very strong bread flour
100g unrefined caster sugar
70g skimmed milk powder
15g table salt 14g fast-action yeast (2 sachets)
60g browned butter, strained and at room temperature
30g grapeseed oil
35g Trex, at room temperature
For the egg wash
50g whole free-range eggs
20g free-range egg yolks
sesame seeds, as needed
For the burgers
625g 6oz beef chuck
1.2kg short-rib meat, minimum 30-day dry-aged
625g beef brisket
For the cheese slices
750ml Manzanilla sherry
9 garlic cloves
8 black peppercorns
6 sprigs fresh thyme
16g sodium citrate (available from chemists)
850g Comté cheese
For the tomato concentrate
3kg tomatoes, very ripe
salt, as needed
For the finished burgers
8 sliced buns
16 cheese slices
grapeseed oil, as needed
8 hamburger patties
table salt, as needed
tomato concentrate, as needed
mustard, as needed
mayonnaise, as needed
pickles, as needed
3 of the reserved tomatoes, each cut into 8 slices
one onion, sliced thinly and the rings blanched for 20 seconds in boiling water
1 head crisp lettuce, such as iceberg
PREPARING THE PRE-FERMENT
1. Tip the flour into your mixing bowl and add the yeast.
2. Using a dough hook, begin mixing on low speed and gradually pour in the water until it has all been added.
3. Continue mixing on medium speed until a very liquid batter has formed.
4. Pour this batter into a clean, dry container (at least four times bigger than the volume of the batter). Cover and leave in a cool place for 24 hours to ferment.
MAKING THE DOUGH
1. After 24 hours, weigh out 700g of pre-fermented batter and put it in a mixing bowl with a dough hook attachment. Add the egg yolks and the water and begin mixing on a low speed until the dough is homogeneous and very liquid again (approximately two minutes).
2. Sift the flour, sugar, skimmed milk powder, salt and yeast into a separate bowl through a very coarse sieve (this will help prevent them forming lumps when added to the dough). Stir to combine. If a suitable sieve isn’t available, simply stir the ingredients together.
3. Gradually add the sifted ingredients to the dough while continuing to mix on slow speed. Once all have been added, increase the speed to medium and mix for another 2-3 minutes. The dough will look very sticky and wet.
4. Brown the butter in a pan until it develops a very nutty aroma, then strain it and discard the butter solids.
5. Add the browned butter, grapeseed oil and Trex to the dough and continue to mix for another 3-4 minutes, until well combined.
6. Stop the mixer and let the dough sit for ten minutes to absorb the water, then continue to mix on medium speed for another four minutes.
7. Cover the dough and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.
8. In the meantime, cut a piece of baking parchment to fit a large baking sheet.
9. Cut eight sheets of aluminium foil 50cm long. Fold the sheets of foil in half in the shorter direction, then continue to fold in half until you have an aluminium strip 1cm wide and 50cm long. Tape one end of the strip to the other with a bit of overlap to form a ring approximately 12cm in diameter. Repeat this process with the other sheets of foil.
10. When the dough has chilled, weigh out eight 85g portions. Any remaining dough can be wrapped up and frozen to use another time.
11. Lightly flour your hands and quickly roll each piece of dough into a small ball using the palm of your hand. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet and place a foil ring around each one.
12. With wet hands, lightly pat the balls flat, then cover the baking sheet with cling film to prevent the dough from drying out.
13. Set the dough aside in a warm place (between 18-22C), for 1―2 hours to let it prove.
14. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 225C/425F/Gas 7, and mix all the ingredients for the egg wash except the sesame seeds.
15. Using wet hands, lightly flatten the dough balls within the foil rings.
16. Just before baking, pour some water into a tray and place at the bottom of the oven to make it lightly steamy. (This will prevent the buns from cracking on the surface and developing too thick a crust).
17. Bake the buns for seven minutes, then remove from the oven and brush the tops with the egg wash. Generously cover each one with sesame seeds.
18. Return to the oven for a further seven minutes, or until the buns are done. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool.
MAKING THE BURGERS
1. Cut the chuck into 3 x 3cm cubes and toss with the salt in a bowl. Cover with cling film and store in the fridge for six hours. The salt will penetrate the meat during this time and begin to draw out some of the moisture.
2. In the meantime, cut the short-rib and brisket meat into 3 x 3cm cubes and combine the two.
3. Using a meat grinder with a 3mm plate, grind the short-rib and brisket twice. Refrigerate this meat until very cold.
4. Combine the cold ground meat with the cold diced chuck and mix well.
5. Before you begin the final grinding, place two layers of cling film across a chopping board or baking sheet and position under the mouth of the grinder.
6. Using a coarser, 8mm plate, pass the meat mixture through the grinder. This will retain some larger pieces of the chuck.
7. As the meat comes out of the grinder, have a second person use their hands to lay out the strands of meat on the cling film. Try to keep the grain of the individual strands running lengthwise in the same direction without getting tangled together. To do this, start laying the meat down at the edge of the sheet furthest from the grinder and work across to the closest edge.
8. Wrap the meat up tightly in the clingfilm, twisting the ends in opposite directions to form a log shape. Prick a few holes in it with a pin to release any air pockets trapped inside, then continue to twist the ends to tighten until the log is about 12cm in diameter.
9. Wrap the log in another layer of cling film to keep it from coming apart, and refrigerate until needed.
10. When the meat has chilled thoroughly, place the still-wrapped log on a cutting board and use a very sharp knife to cut slices about 150g in weight. (The cling film helps to keep the meat from falling apart.) Place the finished patties on a baking sheet and refrigerate for later. If you have more patties than you need, they can be individually wrapped at this point and frozen until needed.
11. To finish the patties, take each one between the palms of your hands and gently press into a burger shape the same diameter as the bun and 2cm thick. Take care to keep the grain of the meat running in the same direction.
12. Cover the burgers with cling film and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them.
MAKING THE CHEESE SLICES
1. Combine the sherry, garlic, peppercorns and thyme in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
2. Remove from heat and allow the ingredients to infuse for ten minutes.
3. Strain the infused sherry, then allow it to cool.
4. Pour 500ml of the cooled and infused sherry into a pan and whisk in the sodium citrate.
5. Shred the cheese and add to the liquid in small amounts, whisking each addition until it melts and you have a very smooth, fondue-like texture.
6. Pour the liquid cheese on to a large sheet of baking parchment and quickly use a spatula to spread it into a layer about 3mm/1/8in thick. Cool completely.
7. Using a circular cutter or a knife, cut pieces about 10cm in diameter and refrigerate until needed.
MAKING THE TOMATO CONCENTRATE
1. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop the pulp and seeds into a bowl. Avoid damaging the central veins, so that the sliced tomatoes retain their form. Reserve some of the tomato halves for garnish.
2. Press the pulp through a very coarse sieve to remove any seeds and large pieces of flesh and core.
3. Pour the liquid into a pan and reduce at a simmer until the liquid takes on a thick, ketchup-like consistency. Stir often as the concentrate thickens, and lower the heat to avoid burning it.
4. Season with a little salt. The taste will be very intense, but when spread on the buns, it will really enhance the meaty flavours of the burger.
ASSEMBLING THE BURGERS
1. Brown the butter until it develops a very nutty aroma, then strain it and discard the butter solids.
2. Slice the buns in half and brush the cut sides with the browned butter. Place under a hot grill to lightly toast them.
3. When the buns have a nice golden colour, remove them and place a cheese slice on each cut side. Set these aside, but keep the grill on.
4. In the meantime, place a large cast-iron pan over a high heat until very hot – about 5-10 minutes.
5. Drizzle a layer of the oil into the pan, then add the patties, being careful not to overcrowd them.
6. Flip the patties every 30 seconds. This helps create a wonderful crust and even heat gradient, mimicking the action of a rotisserie, which helps to get edge-to-edge, medium-rare meat while still forming a nice seared crust.
7. When a crust has formed on both sides, usually after about two minutes (the patties will be rare; if you prefer them more cooked, increase the cooking time), remove the burgers from the pan one at a time and use a digital probe to check the temperature. If the meat is above 52C, transfer the burgers to a warm place to rest. Keep the pan hot.
8. Finish the buns by placing them back under the grill until the cheese slices have melted.
9. Remove the buns from the oven and spread with some of the tomato concentrate, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, sliced tomatoes, blanched onions and lettuce.
10. To finish, brush the burgers with the browned butter and quickly sear both sides of them in the hot pan for about 15 seconds. Remove from the pan and blot any excess juice with kitchen paper. Place the burgers on the prepared buns, sandwich together and serve right away.