If you are a U2 fan, you know the pub Half Moon on Herne Hill in London. It is where U2 held its first sold out crowd concert in London in June 1980. It was a visit to this pub while searching for some U2 history that I unexpectedly found one of the most flavorful burgers outside of the states. It was interestingly small, incredibly juicy and served on a roll rather than a bun. It also provided the inspiration when I began experimenting on how to create an exceptional burger.
Using the Flavor Tiers Method to ensure all of the ingredients shine in their most favorable light and elevates the savory flavor intensity. Adding wild mushrooms to ground chuck for burgers was the result of a highly successful mushroom foraging trip and the need to use the mushrooms before they turned. The earthiness they add to the meat is subtle but important to create a solid Flavor Tier for the next ingredients.
Frankly, adding the bacon and bourbon was simply a natural progression of my love of both and a desire to create a steak house worthy burger. The bourbon’s sweetness balances the earthiness of the mushrooms and hardiness of the bacon. Frying the burgers in ghee (clarified butter) ensures all those juices remain in the burger and are not left in the skillet.
While any cheese would provide an acceptable Flavor Tier, smoky Gouda provides the perfect amount of smokiness to compliment the bacon as well as a creamy base for the mushroom topping.
Why use a plain white bun when the unique taste of pretzel buns, my favorite, or brioche buns create their own Flavor Tier. Toast the bun to provide a solid foundation to hold the juiciness of the burger. Serve stone ground mustard and sriracha sauce along side and you have a fabulous steakhouse burger!
The burgers could easily be made into 4 large burgers rather than 8 minis, but the smallness contributes to the intensity of the flavors. In the recipe below, the burgers are cooked in a cast iron skillet on a cooktop, but these could easily be placed on a grill for a quick cook.
This is a playlist reminiscent of the London pubs music scene and impromptu jam sessions. You will find some U2, The Police, Gavin Rossdale and some other London legends. Since there is bourbon here, the songs are more mellow than rocking loud.
1 # lean ground chuck (Chuck provides the perfect percentage of fat for ultimate flavor
8 strips bacon, finely chopped, partly cooked
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 # wild mushrooms (cremini, shitake, oyster), divided
6 T ghee (clarified butter), divided (unsalted butter can be used but the flavor will be slightly less intense)
½ c bourbon
Kosher salt, to taste
8 oz shredded smoky Gruyere
8 small broiche or pretzel buns, toasted
Finely chop ¼ pound of the mushrooms. In a small skillet, fry the bacon pieces until limp but not cooked through. Cool.
In a large bowl, mix the mushrooms, beef, bacon, Worcestershire sauce and 1/2 t. pepper. Divide into 8 even portions. Form into 1“ thick patties and set aside.
To a cast iron skillet over medium heat, add remaining mushrooms and 2 T ghee. Cook until the mushrooms are golden-brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the bourbon and cook until liquid is reduced in half, 4 to 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and cover.
Increase the heat to medium high and add 4 T ghee. Swirl the skillet until the ghee melts, about 1 minute. Add the patties. Cook until seared and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium doneness, turning once.
(Burgers can also be cooked on a grill over a level two fire for 3-4 minutes per side, turning once, over direct heat. Move to cooler side of grill, top with cheese and cook an additional 1-2 minutes to melt cheese.)
Turn heat to low. Divide the cheese between the patties and cover the skillet. Allow cheese to melt, 2-3 minutes.
While burgers are cooking, brush cut sides of buns with 2 T melted ghee. Toast buns cut side up under a broiler for 1-2 minutes until golden or on a griddle cut side down for 1-2 minutes.
Place burgers on the bun bottom halves. Top with mushrooms. Serve with the stone ground mustard and sriracha mayonnaise.
Summer seems to bring out the whites so a great choice is Domaine Pascal Bouchard Chablis 1er Cru Montmains, this white wine is fresh and vibrant so holds up well to the burger; for red go with a Pinot Noir such as Twomey Pinot Noir Anderson Valley.
Stout drinks well with a burger this intense and a coffee stout more so, try Bell’s Java Stout; for those not into a stout’s intensity, go with an American Pale Ale (APA) such as Fort Point Pale Ale.
Sweet and Savory roasted tomatoes served on “little toasts” for big flavor.
Avocado Bacon Stuffed Cuke Cubes – mashed avocados mixed with crispy bacon, chives, and lime juice served inside hollowed cucumber chunks
Lily’s Strawberry Tart with Basil Crust – an unstructured tart of fresh strawberries encased in a basil crust; served with vanilla bean ice cream
Combining sweet potatoes with a “spicy” dressing and roasted red peppers in a non-traditional potato salad.