A burger packed with culture

  • By J.M. Hirsch Associated Press
  • Tuesday, June 12, 2012 7:20pm
  • Life

Crafting great burgers has been one of the most satisfying experiences of Marcus Samuelsson’s culinary career. This from a man who earned three stars from The New York Times and oversaw President Barack Obama’s first state dinner.

“As a chef coming up, I always had this love affair with the burger,” said Samuelsson, who got his start at a three-star Michelin restaurant in France. “We work with this French food all day. But at night we want a burger.”

So Samuelsson — who was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden and learned to cook across Europe — embraced the burger, which he calls “the most iconic meal in America.”

But like the rest of his cooking — a fusion of European sensibilities and American and African ingredients — Samuelsson’s burgers blend cultures. And he says he has a rich palette from which to draw.

“When you do the history of the burger, you realize that every country and culture in the world has something like a beef patty with bread and a pickle,” he says. “It really shows how unified we are as a people. We want something comforting. We want some heat on it. And we want something pickled on it. And that’s essentially what a burger is.”

Here, Samuelsson used bison meat because of its iconic stature in the U.S. He tops that all-American meat with a fried egg, heirloom tomatoes and a spicy ketchup spiked with horseradish, smoked paprika and chili powder.

“It’s something you can really put your personality into,” Samuelsson says of burgers. “You can’t do that with beef bourguignon.”

Buffalo burger with spicy ketchup

For the ketchup:

2red bell peppers

2poblano peppers

2tablespoons olive oil

1cup ketchup

1/4cup Dijon mustard

2teaspoons horseradish

2teaspoons smoked paprika

1teaspoon chili powder

1/8teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8teaspoon garlic powder

8drops Tabasco or other hot sauce

For the burgers:

1pound buffalo loin, fat trimmed, cut into 1/4 inch cubes

1/2pound flank steak, finely chopped

2cloves garlic, chopped, plus 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

2shallots, chopped

1/4pound shredded Jack cheese, plus 4 slices

5drops Tabasco or other hot sauce

4drops Worcestershire sauce

2teaspoons Dijon mustard

Salt and ground black pepper

1teaspoon chili powder

2tablespoons olive oil

4Napa cabbage leaves, cut in half

4potato buns


1red onion, thinly sliced

1heirloom tomato, sliced

To make the ketchup, brush all 4 peppers with the olive oil. One at a time, use tongs to hold the peppers over a gas burner, turning until well charred. Set the peppers aside until cool enough to handle. Once the peppers have cooled, peel and discard the skins, then halve each pepper. Discard the ribs and seeds.

In a blender, combine the ketchup and peppers. Puree until smooth, then transfer to a medium bowl. Add the mustard, horseradish, paprika, chili powder, pepper, garlic powder and hot sauce. Mix well, then set aside.

To make the burgers, in a large bowl combine both meats, the chopped garlic, shallots, shredded cheese, hot sauce, Worcestershire, mustard, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper and the chili powder. Use your hands to mix until well combined. Shape the meat into 4 patties, about 4 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick.

In a large saute pan over medium, heat the olive oil. Add the cabbage and sliced garlic and saute for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Heat a grill to high. Place the buns on the grill and toast.

Place the burgers on the grill and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Let rest for 3 minutes.

While the burgers are resting, heat a nonstick pan over medium. Crack the eggs into the pan and cook to over-medium. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place a dollop of spicy ketchup on the bottom half of each toasted bun. Layer with the cabbage-garlic mix. Place the burger on top and arrange an egg, cheese, tomato and onion slice on the burger. Top with the other half of the bun and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

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