“Man who invented the hamburger was smart; man who invented the cheeseburger was a genius.” — Matthew McConaughey
The beloved burger, a culinary national treasure is honored in the month of May with a designated holiday that bears its name. Creative liberal-minded chefs have converted the classic burger into an equal opportunity food allowing a wide range of gustatory groups to earn their grill marks. Here’s a primer to help you celebrate National Burger Month whether you’re a die-hard carnivore, pescavore, pollitarian or vegetarian.
While organic beef is best since it comes from cows that don’t do drugs, including growth hormones and antibiotics, it is even better to buy grass-fed beef. Cows are ruminants with stomachs divided into four compartments so they can digest cellulose like hay, grass and cornstalks. As nature’s lawnmowers, they are not equipped for digesting grain, which raises acid levels in their rumens, producing a dangerous environment where acid-resistant E. coli can thrive. So where possible, buy grass-fed.
For those who don’t do bovine, try elk, a close cousin to the deer as an alternative carnivorous offering. As forest dwellers, elk naturally feed on grasses, plants and bark, producing a lean, dense, low cholesterol, high protein meat. More tender than beef, elk does not require marinating. Elk burgers pair well with goat cheese, baby arugula or spinach, and a sweet onion chutney.
Bison (aka American Buffalo) are free- spirited animals roaming on grassy plains, not manhandled or tainted with chemicals, hormones or antibiotics. The meat is pure and wholesome with a sweeter taste than beef, but not gamey. Since it’s leaner, it should be cooked slower and at a lower temperature to prevent overcooking. Nice accompaniments to bison burgers are cabernet caramelized onions, tangy escarole and smoky barbecue sauce.
If elk and bison are too wild for your taste buds, choose the savory immune- boosting lamburger with Mediterranean toppings such as feta, black olive tapenade and refreshing yogurt dill sauce.
For the cholesterol-conscious pollitarians, turkey and chicken burgers from ground breast meat are light, super lean and high protein, although tend to be a little dry, especially the former fowl. Slather with plenty of barbecue sauce or tart cranberry mustard and juicy toppings to counter the dryness.
A Pork in the Road
Wild boar burgers have gained popularity as an exotic beef alternative. An ancestor of the modern domesticated pig, wild boar must be cooked thoroughly (internal temperature 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit) to insure food safety, and a tender texture. As lean as chicken breast, but rich and dense, wild boar has a slightly gamy, sweet, smoky flavor.
Fish for Compliments
For pescavores firm fish like mahi mahi or wild-caught salmon are best patty choices nicely topped with Asian accompaniments like daikon radishes and wasabi mayo. Crustacean cakes made from lump Dungeness crab, deep-sea scallops or jumbo wild-caught pink shrimp, chopped and blended with lemon mayo, scallions, Worcestershire sauce, panko breadcrumbs and choice herbs and spices, gently pan fried make light yet satisfying burgers with a mother lode of heart-healthy omega-3s.
Hunters and Gatherers
So Cal’s Burger Lounge at locations scattered around town is featuring a limited time prehistoric patty called the “Paleo” burger. On a bed of lettuce sits chunky slices of grilled zucchini, crispy strips of nitrate-free bacon, a single-source grass-fed beef burger topped with a grilled tomato slice and a dollop of jalapeno relish.
Wild Mushroom Topping for Burgers
• 1 1/2 pounds assorted mushrooms, sliced
(Portobellos, Oysters or Shiitake — your choice)
• 1/2 red onion, diced • 2 garlic cloves, minced • 6 tablespoons virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
• 1/2 cup red wine
• 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
• 1/4 teaspoon each turmeric, ginger powder, rosemary, thyme • Cayenne pepper to taste
■ Method: In a skillet, sauté onions and garlic in the oil until glassy. Add mushrooms, Worcestershire, vinegar, herbs and spices. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add wine, simmer 5 more minutes. Ladle over your favorite burger.
— For burger recipes or if you’d like to beef about something, e-mail the Kitchen Shrink at email@example.com