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How To Build a Better Burger
We asked ten chefs to create recipes that go beyond ground chuck. And did they ever. By Ann Limpert
Comments () | Published August 1, 2006
Guide to Summer Grilling
How to Build a Better Burger
Best Brats
Brews for Summer Food
The Perfect Cheeses for Grilled Burgers

When it comes to burgers these days, anything goes. In restaurants, you’ll find patties both minuscule and supersize, fashioned from ingredients as unlikely as mushrooms and salmon and topped with everything from house-made ketchup to foie gras.

This winter, Citronelle chef Michel Richard will launch his new, more casual restaurant, Central, in DC’s Penn Quarter. It’ll offer not one but five kinds of burgers, including his crab, veggie, and tuna varieties and a classic Wagyu-beef rendition. Our favorite is one crafted from lobster and held together with a smooth scallop puree. It’s one of the most addictive burgers we’ve ever tasted.

We challenged nine other local chefs to come up with unconventional burger recipes—creations that reflect their cultures and sensibilities.

Some, such as the Vietnamese-style beef version from Minh’s in Clarendon, a Greek spin with lamb and tzatziki, and a summer savory-flecked chicken patty, are easy to pull off. A few others—like a marvelous Middle East–inspired veggieburger and an aromatic Indian-accented rendition—take a bit more time and energy.

And one, from Maestro chef Fabio Trabocchi, is pure luxury on a bun. It takes a full day—plus a few hundred dollars’ worth of Osetra caviar—to prepare.

Of course, we still love a good old cheeseburger, which is why we asked Charlie Palmer Steak chef Bryan Voltaggio to come up with one. He couldn’t resist toying with the standard, stuffing a manly portion of ground Angus with a sharp bleu cheese.

Fire up the grill, the sautee pan, or the oven and start flipping. All recipes serve four.

The Lobster Burger

By Michel Richard of Citronelle

4 lobsters (1 pound each)

1 large tomato, cut into 4 slices

1 clove garlic, sliced

1/2 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 pound scallops

2 tablespoons milk

4 teaspoons mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon peeled and grated ginger

Salt and pepper to taste

4 brioche buns

Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Set the tomato slices on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with garlic and sugar, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes and cool.

When the water is boiling, cook the lobsters for 5 minutes. Transfer to cold water. When the lobsters are cool, remove meat from the claws, legs, knuckles, and tail. Cut the meat into large pieces. Set aside in a bowl.

In a food processor, puree the scallops for a few seconds until smooth. Stir in 2 tablespoons of milk. Fold the scallop mixture into the lobster meat. Season with salt and pepper. Mold into 4 lightly packed patties and keep cold.

In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, soy sauce, and ginger.

In a pan over medium heat, sautee the patties in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until golden, about 5 minutes on each side.

Split the buns and sprinkle with the remaining olive oil. Lightly toast. Serve the burgers with a slice of tomato and the ginger mayonnaise.


Like his restaurant, Fabio Trabocchi's extravagant headcheese burger with Osetra caviar is worthy of a celebration. Photograph by Allison Dinner

The Decadent Burger

By Fabio Trabocchi of Maestro

Headcheese terrine:

1 pig head (about 6 pounds)

3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

1 small onion, skin removed

1 celery heart

1 rosemary sprig

3 garlic cloves

3 bay leaves

3 tablespoons rock salt

2 tablespoons crushed white peppercorns

5 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons Osetra caviar (for topping)

Set the pig’s head under cold, running water for 6 hours. Cover the head in a stockpot with salted water, ice, and the white-wine vinegar. Refrigerate overnight.

Drain the water from the stockpot and set it aside. Set the head under cold running water as you prepare the rest of the ingredients or about 1 hour.

Place the head and reserved water in a pot just big enough to hold it. Set the pot over medium-low heat. Skimming the surface frequently, simmer for 20 minutes, until water is slightly cloudy. Add the onion, celery, rosemary, garlic, bay leaves, rock salt, and white pepper.

Simmer very slowly for 8 hours, skimming occasionally and making sure the water stays above the head.

When the head is cooked (its flesh falls off the bone), remove the pot from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Drain the liquid and place the head on a sheet pan. Pull all the meat from the bone and set aside.

Pull flat a piece of plastic wrap 1 foot by 2 feet across a countertop. Arrange the pieces of meat along the side of the plastic closest to you. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Pull the edge of the plastic over the meat and roll into a tightly packed cylinder until all the plastic is used. Tie each end of the cylinder with kitchen string. Refrigerate overnight.

Cut the terrine into 1/2-inch slices and drizzle with olive oil. Let the slices rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Split a bun and toast lightly. Place 2 tablespoons of potato salad (recipe follows) on the bottom of the bun, then top with a slice of headcheese terrine. Finish with a quenelle of Osetra caviar. Serve immediately.

Potato salad:

3 cups canola oil

11/2 pounds small red-skin potatoes, diced

1/2 pound bacon, diced

1 small onion, diced

1 bunch of dill, leaves only

4 egg yolks

1/2 small shallot

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

2 eggs, hard-boiled and diced

Salt and pepper to taste

Place 2 cups of canola oil in a sautee pan over high heat. Heat the oil to 350 degrees temperature. Working in small batches, shallow fry the potatoes until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes each batch. Drain the potatoes on a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.

Set a sautee pan over low heat and render the fat from the bacon. Once the bacon is crispy, discard it and add the diced onion to the fat. Sauteethe onion until soft and translucent. Strain, cool, and set aside.

In a food processor, puree the dill, egg yolks, shallot, half of the lemon juice, and the white-wine vinegar until smooth. While the processor is running, slowly add the remaining cup of canola oil. Once the mixture is blended into a smooth green mayonnaise, season to taste.

In a bowl, fold together the potatoes, sauteed onions, diced egg, and vinaigrette. Season to taste.


The Vietnamese burger comes topped with carrot ribbons, cucumber, tomato, and caramelized onion. Photograph by Allison Dinner

The Vietnamese Burger

By Chi Ha of Minh’s Restaurant

For the patties:

1 pound ground beef

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon oyster sauce (Ha recommends Lee Kum Kee brand)

1 teaspoon white wine

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon finely crushed garlic

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon tapioca flour

1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For toppings:

1 onion, sliced

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 carrot, shredded into thin ribbons

1/2 cucumber, sliced

1 tomato, sliced

4 buns

Fold into the ground beef all other patty ingredients and mix until well incorporated. Shape the beef mixture into 4 patties.

Grill the patties over a low flame or sautee in a nonstick pan set over medium heat. Remove the patties and raise the heat to high. Caramelize the onion slices in the vegetable oil.

Serve on a bun with carrot ribbons, cucumber, tomato, and caramelized onion.


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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 08/01/2006 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Articles