You Want Prize with That?

In an upset victory at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami this February, Radius chef Michael Schlow’s eponymous Schlow Burger beat out more than a dozen bunned contenders to be crowned best burger in America. Just in time for cookout season, we grilled the burger king himself for pointers on turning our own humble hockey pucks into prizewinning beauties.

[sidebar]SOLID GROUND Bite the bullet and use fatty ground chuck (80 percent lean). Salt the meat generously, then shape into 9-ounce “fat boys” about 1 1/2 inches thick. Gently, though: A loosely packed burger has more air pockets, which capture flavorful juices. Adding a tablespoon of olive oil per burger further keeps the meat moist, even when pink-fearing guests demand well done.

SUPPORTING ROLL Leave the tooth-tugging rustic bread for fancier affairs. Radius bakes its own soft, fluffy buns, but for a good substitute, try the potato rolls from Hi-Rise Bread Company in Cambridge.

VEG OUT Salads belong on plates, not buns, says Schlow. Forgo tomato and lettuce in favor of toppings that lend both potent flavor and textural interest—like onion slices deep-fried to a crisp.

CRUNCH TIME For a contrast to the softer ingredients, toast the cut sides of the bun for 30 seconds on the grill. Watch carefully: There’s about a 10-second window between toasted and blackened.

Aged cheeses look ugly when melted—but this is a burger, not a pageant contestant. Choose an older cheddar (like Grafton) for superior flavor.

SLOW AND STEADY High temperatures cause beef protein to seize up and become tough. Schlow recommends searing the patties on high heat for three minutes per side, then finishing on the cooler side of the grill with the gas turned off and the lid shut. Plan on eight additional minutes for medium rare, and 12 for medium.

POUR IT ON Schlow slathers his burger with a creamy horseradish sauce spiked with bracing lemon, providing a cool, refreshing foil to all the hot, savory components. “It’s the glue that holds everything together,” he says.

Go on to the next page for the recipe…


Schlow Burger
Makes 2 “fat boy” burgers

The sauce can be made up to three days ahead; the onions can be prepared early on the day they will be served.

18 ounces ground beef (Ask the butcher for 80 percent lean. Do not change this part, please!)
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons prepared white horseradish
Juice of half a lemon
2 thick slices good quality Vermont or English cheddar cheese
2 hamburger buns, split in half (buy the best ones you can get; I like brioche buns)
Crispy Onions (see below)
Fresh ground pepper

1. Combine the ground beef with the olive oil, salt, and plenty of black pepper.
Divide the meat into two 9-ounce patties and refrigerate until the grill is ready. (Don’t do this more than an hour in advance.)
2. Combine mayonnaise, horseradish, and lemon juice in a mixing bowl and season with black pepper. (You can do this ahead of time and store it in the fridge.)
3. Heat the grill to high.
4. Take the hamburgers out of the refrigerator 5 to 7 minutes before you are ready to grill them.
5. Place the burgers on the preheated grill and cook 1-1/2 minutes (for rare).
6. Give the burgers a quarter-turn to "mark" them, and cook 1-1/2 more minutes.
7. Flip the burgers over and cook 1-1/2 minutes.
8. Rotate a quarter-turn to "mark" and cook 1-1/2 more minutes.
9. Transfer the burgers to the grill’s top shelf or to a cooler section of the grill and cover each one with a slice of cheese.
10. Turn the grill off and shut the lid.
11. 4 minutes, open the lid. The cheese will be melted and the burgers cooked rare to medium-rare. Toast the buns, if desired, and place a burger on each.
Spread plenty of the horseradish sauce on each burger; it should drip down the sides.
12. Top with Crispy Onions and season with freshly ground black pepper.
13. Slather more sauce on the other half of the bun and place it on top of the burger.
14. Grab a cold beer or iced tea and get ready to make a mess. This is not a dainty meal!

Crispy Onions
Makes about 1/2 cup, enough for two Schlow Burgers

1 large yellow onion, sliced into very thin rings, 1/3- to 1/8-inch thick
2 cups canola oil

1. Place onion rings and oil in a small sauce pot. (Don’t worry if the rings break apart; it won’t ruin the final product.)
2. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce heat to a very low simmer. The heat releases the onion’s natural sugars, and in essence, causes them to melt.
3. Turn the onions with a fork every thirty seconds or so, and cook until they turn golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Adjust the heat if needed to maintain a low simmer.
4. Remove the onions from the oil and arrange in a single layer on paper towels. (At this point the onions won’t yet be crispy, but I promise you that after a few minutes, as the caramelized sugars cool and harden, the onions will become deliciously crisp.)


From: It’s About Time: Great Recipes For Everyday Life

by Michael Schlow (Random House)

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