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What does it take to make an epic burger?
To some, an epic burger may be topped with macaroni and cheese, a fried egg and jalapeno poppers. While that would be a sinful delight, I’m learning from the masters to go back to the basics.
True culinary genius is not dumping the kitchen sink on a patty. It is appreciating the flavor of the beef, cooking it to perfection and accentuating it with thoughtful ingredients.
So in order to fulfill my promise of epicness, I pulled my #BurgerMonth inspiration from world-renowned “On Fire” chef Francis Mallmann. The Argentina native has a gift of using fire to create masterful, yet simplistic meals.
The Argentina Technique
I grew up eating burgers cooked two ways – either grilled or pan-fried on the stove. The grill provides that familiar backyard barbecue smokiness, but the pan creates the caramelized beefy crust.
In Argentina, cooks have found a way to combine the best of both of these methods. They use a chapa or plancha, which is essentially a piece of tin or cast iron placed over the coals.
The coals heat the metal just as a stove heats a pan, but when you close the lid over the pan and coals, the familiar smoky taste of barbecue is encapsulated into the meat. Again, best of both worlds.
Grill Your Cheese
The plancha also makes it possible to grill your cheese. You heard me right. I’m not talking about white bread and American cheese sandwiches. I’m talking about half-inch slices of crispy, melty cheesy goodness.
You place the cheese on the plancha. The bottom will form a crust similar to Parmesan crisps and the top will melt into itself. It’s a messy technique that takes a little practice, but eating your mistakes is your A-for-effort reward.
Keep Your Toppings Fresh
With a third of a pound of beef and a half–inch slice of cheese, your burger doesn’t need anymore heavy flavors. Instead, brighten everything up with seasonal vegetables and an herbaceous chimichurri sauce.
Lastly but equally important, pay attention to your buns. They are merely a vessel to hold all of this goodness together. If you go with something too thick or dense, you’ll have a mouthful of bread and you won’t be able to appreciate your crispy patty, melty cheese and fresh veg. My go to burger bun is brioche. It’s airy, but strong enough to hold a hefty burger.
Argentina Burger with Chimichurri and Plancha Grilled Cheese
- Red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 tbsp sea salt, divided
- 6 tomato slices
- 2 lbs ground beef (80/20)
- Sea salt
- 6 brioche buns
- 6 1/2-inch thick slices provolone cheese
- Yellow mustard
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsps shallot, diced
- 1/2 serrano pepper, seeds removed
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley
- 2 tbsps fresh oregano
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsps sea salt
- Slice the red onions. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.
- Spread the tomato slices out a paper towel to absorb excess liquid. Sprinkle with sea salt.
- Light charcoal in a chimney starter. Let burn for 10 minutes. Pour into your grill. Place the grill rack on top. Then, place a plancha, chapa or cast iron skillet on top. Heat to medium high (350 degrees).
- Shape the ground beef into 6 patties. Brush both sides with olive oil. Season with sea salt. Place on the skillet. Cover the grill. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Flip and smash with the spatula. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove set aside and tent with foil.
- Wipe the skillet with a paper towel. Place the buns cut side down on the skillet to lightly toast, 10-20 seconds. Set aside.
- Place the bottom buns on a plate. Spread with a thin layer of yellow mustard. Top with a burger patty. Drizzle with chimichurri sauce.
- Cooking one at a time, place a cheese slice on the skillet. Let cook for one minute without disturbing. Using two spatulas, work your way under the cheese and place it on top of a burger patty. Repeat with the remaining cheese slices.
- Top each burger with red onions, a tomato slice and the top bun. Serve immediately.
- Place the garlic, shallot and Serrano in a food processor. Pulse to mince. Add the herbs and vinegar. Pulse to chop. Spoon into a bowl. Stir in the olive oil and sea salt. Let rest for 1 hour. Store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.