11 Apr Evolution of a Cheeseburger
At first glance, the cheeseburger seems easy, even downright plebian for a seasoned kitchen crew to execute. The true burger connoisseur, however, will tell you that an amazing burger denotes a kitchen worthy of greatness! Ann Arbor is surrounded by great burger makers, The Roadhouse, Blimpy, Sidetrack and Casey’s, so we had our work cut out if we wanted to play on the A2 level cheeseburger field.
When we opened in 2011, we started with a relatively uninspired burger, coupled precut fries and a house-brined pickle. In short, a completely forgettable plate. Since those days, we’ve matured and benefitted from the vision and wisdom of several different Chefs, each with their own passions. We moved from the basic burger to an overly-complex array of flavors copied from the west coast. Although tasty, with thick cut bacon, gruyere cheese and a fried egg on top, it was too much to eat, extremely messy.
When Chef Frank Fejeran took over the kitchen, we decided our signature burger would either feature housemade everything or we were going to toss it in the trash. So we set out to make, in our humble opinion, the perfect house ground beef burger patty. We researched great burger blends across the country, even spending a few days in Chicago (for “research” purposes, really!)
We decided on a blend of beef chuck and brisket which we found gave our burger the right balance of nutty, grassy, rich, beefiness. We also wanted a fat ratio of around 20% which the chuck gave us. We decided on beef finished with corn for better flavor so our burgers, preferably cooked medium rare, would come out juicy. We also decided to buy our meat, from Sparrow Market in Kerrytown, whole and unground so we could control the entire process. We grind in house, daily, to ensure freshness and minimize waste.
Next, we needed a cheese that could stand on its own to contend with the strong beefiness of the burger. We chose a Dutch cheese called Beemster X-O, which is aged for 26 months in historic warehouses in The Netherlands to bring out its creamy flavors of butterscotch, whiskey and pecans. We choose not to melt the cheese, but instead place it on the burger just prior to plating. This allows the flavors to remain undiluted and you get an unhindered combination of flavors between the Beemster and the burger.
Our next step was to address the dressing… only housemade ketchup AND mustard for this burger. We showcased a few different ketchups to some of our brave regular customers for their feedback and the majority preferred a blend containing clove, garlic, celery seed, fennel and onion. We spent a significant amount of time on mustards, playing around with whole seed and powders. At the end of the day, we couldn’t decide which route to take so we took them all! We have a Boudreaux mustard which contains its namesake plus brown and yellow whole mustard seeds for our Charcuterie and Cheese plates. Our yellow mustard is flavored with, of all things, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, for our cheeseburger. To top the cheeseburger itself we added housemade pickle chips and a Challah bun from our friends at Avalon International Breads. Finally to complete the entire plate, we add a housemade pickle spear and a pile of hand-cut, skin on, French Fries made from Russet Idaho potatoes.
Thus ends, for now, our journey toward cheeseburger nirvana! Are we there yet? You decide, stop by and try one!
Until next time.
Jeff Paquin (Owner)