Burgers & Beaujolais

According to people who keep such records, we consume better than 62 pounds of hamburgers per person a year. As a topper, an overwhelming 60% of us put American and Cheddar cheese on those burgers at the rate of 33 pounds per person.

We all have our favorite quick serve burger places besides the well-known chains. I’m referring to places like Meat Heads, Smash Burger, Burger Boss, Five Guys (not so much) and yes I quite like the cheese burger at Parky’s (I see another “Whine” in the making).

But what about that creation that comes off your own grill with special toppings and hand selected bun – well fans I’m about to guide you through a bit of a burger grind with a couple special blends and some fixings’ that might be just a bit more intriguing, no ketchup, mustard or pickles.

All of your successful burger places as mentioned above and others custom grind their meat from special blends so I set out to find what I thought would be several interesting versions and I decided on four with various blends of sirloin, beef brisket (expensive) short rib meat and chuck roast. Now I realize you can get ground sirloin and chuck in the store but there is something say for fresh ground meat.

Grinding out the story

Grinding out the story

I thought I had the winner with a combination of beef chuck, brisket and boneless short rib meat, how could that not be the best combination…it came in fourth of four, I think it needed more fat, yes fat control is a really big part of custom grinding and impacts the overall flavor(and juiciness) of any burger.

So I grind away on four recipes, grill them all then blind taste first the burger plain no bun nothing, to check for the flavor of the blend and then planned to taste them all as fully dressed out sandwiches.

OK what’s number 3?

OK what’s number 3?

Well our initial round of tastings were a bit disappointing as two of the custom burgers were just not that good and the other two were terrific, so I took them on the road to my constantly revolving tasting staff and came up with a decided winner, with a twist.

The blend of beef brisket, skirt steak and sirloin steak was a clear winner with “really nice beef flavor” and “classic burger taste” as top-rated comments, yet it was chosen as second best in full recipe dress. Following so far?? Second in burger flavor was the combination of ground chuck and sirloin receiving comments such as “tastes like a burger I’ve had” “Good burger in basket place kind of flavor”, but add some gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and garlic aioli on a terrific Turano brioche bun and you have…..

Our winner

Our winner

The Five Napkin Burger with Caramelized Onions and Garlic Aioli

Makes 4 servings


  • 1 ½ lbs. each fresh ground beef chuck and sirloin steak including fat
  • 4 Brioche hamburger rolls (Turano Baking makes terrific ones)
  • 1/4 lb. gruyere cheese, sliced thin
  • 1 1/2 cups caramelized onions
  • 1 cup aioli
  • For caramelized onions
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • For aioli
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed into a paste with a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice


For onions: Heat oil in a large skillet, add onions and salt, cook over low heat for 45 minutes. Stir onions every 10 minutes, being careful not to let the onions brown. After the onions have softened and have turned golden add the thyme & salt, cook 5 minutes longer and remove from heat.

For aioli: Whisk egg yolks in a medium sized stainless bowl until light in color. Add garlic and begin to add the oil very slowly, in a thin stream, while beating. As the emulsion forms, oil may be added faster. Add the lemon juice and re-season with salt and pepper.

For burger: Divide the meat into 4 equal portions and form each into a burger about 1 inch thick. Cook to desired doneness over a hot grill, preheated iron skillet or under the broiler. Top each burger with two slices of cheese and melt, place the burger on the bottom half of a toasted bun. Top each burger with a generous portion of onions and a heaping spoon (or more) of aioli. I actually mixed the onions and aioli together to make it easier to serve.


OK and here’s the best burger flavor winner, also quite tasty

Umami with Port and Stilton Burger

  • SERVINGS: Makes 4 burgers
  1. 1 cup ruby port
  2. 2 pounds mixed ground beef brisket, skirt steak and sirloin steak (20 percent fat)
  3. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  4. 1/2 cup Stilton cheese (3 ounces), softened
  5. Umami dust, really! (see Note Woody’s Way)
  6. 4 brioche hamburger buns, buttered and toasted

Here’s what to do:

  1. In a small saucepan, cook the port over moderate heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 15 minutes.
  2. Heat a cast-iron griddle until very hot. Form the meat into four 4-by-1-inch patties without packing too tightly. Season generously with salt and pepper. Arrange the patties on the griddle, cover with a roasting pan and cook over moderately high heat for 4 minutes, until very crusty. Flip the patties and cook, covered, for 2 minutes longer; top with the Stilton and cook uncovered for 1 minute. Transfer the patties to a plate and sprinkle with the umami dust, let rest for 2 minutes and set on the buns. Drizzle with the reduced port, top with the buns and serve.

Woody’s Way – I took four ounces of fresh shitake mushrooms, finely chopped and sautéed them in a little sesame oil and a few drops of soy sauce to get the umami flavor, worked quite well.


Beaujolais is an easy drinking light fruity wine made with the Gamay Noir grape. It is low in tannin and usually alcohol so it’s a great quaffer and really should be slightly chilled especially in this weather. It has flavors of raspberry, tart cherry, mushroom, forest floor and yes in the nouveau style you’ll get banana, bubblegum, but not with these wines.

We tried three wines, two from George Duboeuf, a long time major player in Beaujolais and one from another winery, but it was not very good and I won’t even mention it.

The winner was clearly the Beaujolais-Villages that comes from the middle of the pack being better than simply Beaujolais but not as good as one of the Crus or more select sub regions, more about that some other day. The other wine was in fact from a Cru, a Morgon that was deeper and fuller which it should be,  but wasn’t the best match for the burgers, clear winner 2010 Beaujolais-Villages $10.

That’s my whine and I could be wrong.

Woody Mosgers, cooks, caters, drinks and matches wine and food at www.woodythewineguy.com