The Arcturus Sicilian Burger Spectacular! (with chips!)

I think I’ve discovered that naming a recipe is far harder than writing one. I don’t know why, but I’m pretty sure I can blame myself [aggressively points at self in mirror]. I’ll generate these wild ideas in my brain and they’ll become food and I’ll get all the way to the end and I have no idea what to name the dish.

So I make this awesome burger and chips with a rough Italian take and the best I can come up with is to call the thing an Italian burger. But everybody’s already done that, right? There’s got to be like 67 online recipes called Italian burger. Boring. And in any case, most of the Mediterranean blood flowing through my veins is Sicilian.

But wouldn’t you know that there’s also about 37 recipes online called Sicilian burger. So what I need to do is meditate another name for my tasty burger and, no, wait, you know what, whatever, who cares, let’s go!

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The Arcturus Sicilian Burger Spectacular! (with chips!)

 

the burger

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork

salt & pepper

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

8 burger buns

 

the spread

1/2 cup mayo

1 Tbsp sherry vinegar

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dried basil

 

the relish

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 shallots, chopped

2 jalapenos, diced

1/4 cup sun dried tomato, minced

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3 portabella mushroom caps, diced

3 roma tomatoes, diced

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 tsp cayenne

1 cup white wine

1 bag fresh spinach

1 pack fresh basil

 

the chips

3 large russet potatoes

1 to 2 quarts frying oil

salt & pepper

1 Tbsp smoked paprika

1 Tbsp crushed red pepper

1 Tbsp dried basil

 

making the burgers:

In a large bowl combine the beef and pork, dust with salt & pepper, shape into 8 patties, then refrigerate. Remove from the fridge about a half-hour before cooking to allow them to come to room temperature.

In a small food processor or blender combine the mayo, vinegar, and spices and blend, then refrigerate.

Heat the olive oil in a large steel skillet over medium heat, add the shallots and cook until browned. Add the jalapeno and cook until browned. Add the sun dried tomato and cook until everything just begins to stick to the pan. Add the balsamic vinegar and deglaze.

Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, and tomato paste and cook for a few minutes. Then add the thyme, rosemary, and cayenne. Cook, stirring every once and a while until everything begins to stick to the pan. Add the wine and deglaze.

Stir in the spinach and basil, lower the heat a bit, and cook until the relish slowly approaches a final slurry-like consistency. You don’t want it too dry, but not too wet, it should stick together. Remove the relish from the skillet and set aside, keep it warm.

In a nonstick skillet, heat the butter over high heat, add the burger patties, cooking 4 of them at a time. Brown the patties on one side, about 3 minutes. Flip them, top with mozzarella cheese, cover the skillet with aluminum foil, and cook for about 3 more minutes for medium rare, longer if you desire.

Toast your burger buns, add the cooked burger patty with the mozzarella, top with the relish and the spread. Serve immediately.

 

making the chips:

Slice the potatoes into thin discs using a fine knife or optimally a mandolin on the thinnest setting. Wash the potato wafers in a large colander with water, shake loose as much water as you can when finished.

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat your fry oil of choice to 350 degrees. Monitor the temperature using a kitchen thermometer and maintain 350 degrees throughout frying.

In batches, fry the potatoes until they are at least light brown, or darker brown if you desire. Using a slotted spoon or similar tool remove the potatoes from the fry oil and set to dry on plates with paper towels.

When finished frying them all, add the chips to a large bowl. Toss them with salt & pepper and the spices until the chips are coated throughout. Serve them immediately with the burgers.

 

Let’s begin!

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To me, all beef burgers are boring.  Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but they’re so inferior to the mixed bag.  I go 50 / 50 with ground beef and ground pork.  The pork gives the burgers a better taste and keeps them moist and juicy.  Get ground beef that’s 80 / 20 fat ratio.  Don’t go buying that 90 / 10 or 95 / 5 crap.

80 / 20!  You only live once, so go all the way!  And I hear tell from Jesus himself from his castle in Hawaii that those who buy 90 / 10 or 95 / 5 ground beef worship the dark lord.  And you don’t worship the dark lord, do you?

When mixing the beef and pork with the salt & pepper do not overly squeeze the meat while combining.  You want air in there.  I typically shape the meat into 8 patties but if you want massive burgers go with 4 patties.  Or you can go to 12 or even 16 patties for small sliders.  Make the burger size you love.

This burger’s theme is indeed Sicilian or Italian or Mediterranean or whatever.  I channeled the ghost of Caesar himself but he got mad because he didn’t know why I was asking him about burgers.  So I use with fresh mozzarella cheese sliced from the ball.  But, you can use any cheese you want.  It’ll all taste great, but white cheeses will taste best.

Pick your burger bun of choice.  Buy good bread or cheap bread, just make sure to toast it, and it’ll all work great.  I think I got cheap potato roll buns, fine.  It’s all good!

The spread mayo is easy, just blend it all up.  If you don’t want to dance with sherry vinegar then use red wine vinegar.  But if you can, find and use sherry vinegar.  I’ve kind of become obsessed with sherry vinegar as an ingredient.  I’ve even found a way to incorporate it into Mexican dishes.  It’s so freaking awesome.  It gives forth a haughty laugh at the boringness of red wine vinegar.

You must, must refrigerate the mayo after blending so it can firm up into a spread.  Please kindly don’t skip this step or do it at the last moment or it’ll deconstruct when you put it on your hot burger and turn nasty.  Leave it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

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The star of this lunatic dish is the relish.  It will take some time to make, but trust me, oh dear it is great when you’re finished.  You’re essentially making this in phases.

Phase 1 is shallots, jalapenos, and sun dried tomatoes browned, sticking to the pan with a balsamic vinegar deglaze.

Phase 2 is mushrooms, tomatoes & paste, and spices, sticking to the pan with a white wine deglaze.

Phase 3 is a slow reduction into the relish / slurry with spinach and basil added for greenness, nutrition, and the necessary added final moisture.

I generally cook each stage to a very brown state.

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This adds flavor.  But, a lot of people don’t want to go with a lot of brown, they don’t like the bitter taste.  I totally get it, go with what level of brown you like.  Just keep in mind that whatever your final state is, the relish has to fit / sit on your burger.  If you make too much relish or you have a lot left over after topping your burgers it can become like a side salad or something.

While you’re slowly making the relish you can make your chips.

I’m just gonna go ahead and say this [sighs], I’m over fries [hates self].  I mean I love fries.  Who doesn’t love fries?  Nazis, and mythical Orc warriors.  But I’m kind of over fries.  I’ve eaten 73 different kinds of fries and they all blend together now.  Thin, large, light brown to dark brown, different toppings or no toppings, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.  It’s all the same to me in many ways.

I will always eat fries, but in the interest of variety it’s necessary to shake things up in life.  More and more places are thankfully offering homemade chips now.  So I decided to do the same.  Variety is awesome, it keeps you honest and open.

Go get a mandolin.  This tool is awesome.  You can slice up your potatoes in mere minutes.  And you can use the mandolin for so many vegetable needs later on.  Also make sure you have a deep fry kitchen thermometer.  Do not fry without this tool or you will fail.  The chips are very thin and consistent oil temperature is a must to get the right even brownness you need.

I fried using vegetable oil.  Lots of folks use peanut oil.  You can probably also use canola oil or corn oil too.  It’s up to you.  Just please, please be careful.  Frying at home is a mess and is inherently dangerous.  Never execute home frying operations without a plan to keep you from burning yourself, a means to cover the pot with a lid in an emergency, and a fire extinguisher.

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Fry in batches, do not crowd the pot.  You want the potatoes at least a little brown.  I find light brown to be the tastiest.  But you should shake it up.  Do some batches light brown, others medium brown, maybe one batch dark brown.  Again, variety.

Use the slotted spoon or equivalent to remove the chips from the hot oil.  Let as much oil drain off as practical via the spoon back into the pot.  The paper towels will help with this draining too.  You don’t want a final chip product swimming with any oil.

Let them dry out on the paper towels for a bit.  Then toss them with the spices in a large bowl.  If you don’t want to dance with smoked paprika use regular paprika.  But seriously, go get smoked paprika.

If you have leftover chips but them in an airtight container.  No need to refrigerate, but eat them within one week.  They’ll not have a long shelf life, they’re homemade.  If you eat them as leftovers and you might find they’ve turned soggy in the container?

If so, take a baking sheet, cover with aluminum foil, add the leftover chips, set your oven to 350 degrees, and bake the chips for about 3 minutes until they’re crispy again.  Do not preheat the oven first, I mean really turn the oven to 350, start, and immediately put the chips in.  They’re already cooked, this is just to get the crisp back.  Anything longer and they’ll burn.

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Oh my, I’m so fucking awesome.

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Keep the relish warm as you get towards completion, do not, do not let the relish get cold.

Get out a nonstick skillet for the burgers.  Some folks will say you need a stainless steel skillet to effectively brown the burgers.  They might be right, but to me homemade burgers with ground meats can get stuck and fall apart in a steel skillet far too easily.  Maybe that’s just my lack of skill?  Not sure, but this is how I do it.  Do it the way you prefer.

Medium rare timing will depend on your own experience with your skillet, range top, and other atmospheric conditions.  If you have a full moon out, add 13 seconds to each side.  For me, it’s 3 minutes a side over high heat gets me to medium rare.  Experiment to get to yours.  Cook longer if you like your burgers more well done.  Whatever you do, tend to trend towards the highest heat possible in your pan.  This will help with the delicious browning.

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Flip them, add the mozzarella slices, and tent the pan with foil so the cheese can melt as you cook the second side.  Sliced fresh mozzarella balls are not going to overly melt in only 3 minutes.  This is fine to me, see above, as I think it’s nice and creamy.  If you want it melted further just cook the burger a little longer with the foil on.  Or, like I said earlier you can pick another white cheese you like.  Or, you can always slice the mozzarella way thinner than I do.

Toast the buns, please.  This is an important step.  Non-toasted buns aren’t as delicious.  As soon as you’re ready, top the buns with the burgers, add the relish, and spread the mayo.  Chips on the side.  And you’re off to a delicious wonderland where meat and potatoes warm your stomach, brain, and soul.

Enjoy life!

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