Chef Nate Appleman came by and kicked it at Complex HQ the other day, so we hit up the kitchen to run through Nate's recipes for Memorial Day backyard partying, including one of the greatest burgers we've ever tasted.
Appleman knows his stuff, and if you're ever in San Francisco, make sure to check out his two spots—A16 for pizza, and his osteria, SPQR, for more serious getting-down, Italian-style. Hit the jump for two must-have recipes for Memorial Day this weekend: a bacon-infused burger and grilled fruit kebabs. If you get these two things dialed, you're set, but when you mix an extra day off and a pitcher of margaritas, you might be looking at one of the greatest Sundays of the year. Hit the jump and get on it...
Photography by Stephanie Leibowitz
SMOKED BACON BURGERS
Appleman says: "I was making a burger one winter and wanted to get that smoked grill taste in the pan, so I came up with the idea to put smoked bacon in the burger. As you can imagine, this is an awesome dish, no matter what the season is."
• 2 pounds ground chuck (80/20 meat/fat mix)
• Â½ pound smoked bacon or bacon
• kosher salt or sea salt to taste
• kaiser rolls
• For cheese spread:
• 1 tub spreadable cheddar cheese
• Pickled red peppers, julienned ("I like Rick's Picks, Pepi Pep Pep, a bold-flavored pickled roasted pepper.")
• Mix these together, using as much red pepper as you like.
STEP BY STEP:
1. MIX THE MEAT.
"Burgers taste good when there is a high fat content, and I say go 80/20 on the ratio most of the time. If you can find 75/25 (meat to fat), that's gonna be an amazing-tasting burger, but since we're going to be adding in a half pound of bacon, 80/20 is just fine. Take the bacon and put it in a food processor and chop it up, adding in some salt (1 tablespoon or so). After you get that nice and ground up, mix it in with the beef."
2. SHAPE THE BURGERS.
"Once you have this mixture of awesomeness, shape your burgers in your hands. Think of this amount as making six burgers and divide the meat evenly. A big mistake that a lot of people commit when making burgers is they allow the burger to take the shape of their palm (domed on either side). Try making the burger into a flat disc shape with uniform thickness so that the meat cooks evenly.
3. ADD A DIMPLE.
"One other trick with burgers is to create a dimple in the top of this — some people think that this helps keep the juices in and on the meat (because they don't spill off and into the grill as the burger cooks). I'm not 100% sure of that, but might as well, just in case."
4. WORK THE GRILL.
"You want to have a nice and hot charcoal grill with an even heat throughout. Once you get the grill up and running you give the fire some time to burn out a little. You'll know the grill is ready when the coals have all caught fire and burned down to an ashy-gray color. If you're cooking burgers, have a medium- to medium-hot grill. You get this by having the grill near the coals and cooking while the coals are hot, directly following the burn out phase. As far as grilling the burgers, get the grill up to a medium- to high-heat and get them on there. You're gonna figure four minutes or so on each side for medium/medium rare, but always use the finger test/rule of thumb guidelines.
6. FINISH THEM OFF.
"The rolls that I used for this session were really fresh, so I chose not to toast them. Having a soft fresh roll will soak up some of the juices from the burger which I like, but toasted rolls are always good, so that's your call. To finish off these bacon-burgers, I whipped up some cheddar-cheese spread with some roasted peppers—basically take a tub of cheddar spread and mix it in with chopped peppers. This time around I used a brand called Rick's Picks. I dressed them with pickled tomatoes from Rick's Picks to give them a little bit of extra zing, and they're awesome. For a backyard BBQ, it's fun to let your guests customize their own burgers, so you could create a build-your-own-burger bar with different cheeses, condiments, types of pickles and greens, etc. "
7. PRESENT YOUR MASTERPIECES.
"These bacon burgers are pretty awesome on their own, and don't really need a ton of toppings. To assemble, spread a generous amount of cheese on the bottom of the bun and place the patty on top. Add pickled tomatoes and/or greens on top and seal with the bun, spiking the burger with a skewer or toothpick if it's too unwieldy."
Hit "NEXT" to see the finisher recipe: Nate Appleman's Grilled Fruit Spiedino
GRILLED FRUIT SPIEDINO WITH MINT YOGURT SAUCE
Appleman says: "Grilling on sticks is a summer staple, and the idea goes all the way back to the beginning of time. Think about it: The caveman had to cook some meat, didn't want to burn his hand...the first shish kebab! Haha. In all seriousness, though, this recipe is something simple that will really score you some points and works as a great dessert/follow-up to a solid outdoor BBQ session."
• FRESH FRUIT (pineapple, peaches, watermelon, mango, cantaloupe, honeydew all work well; firmer-fleshed fruit works well and use whatever is in season. Cut whole fruit into good-sized, "skewerable" pieces, or just get pre-cut mixes from Whole Foods)
• 1 tub Greek yogurt (Fage is probably the easiest to find)
• 1 bunch fresh mint
• red chili flakes to taste
• extra virgin olive oil
• lime zest to taste
• kosher or sea salt
• skewers (metal or wooden; if it's the latter, soak them before using to avoid burning the wood)
FOR THE FRUIT:
"Cut and skewer the fruit in a way that creates flat surfaces. This way, you get the most even heat across your food. Use this technique with any type of skewered food: the flatter the surface that touches the grill, the more even the heat you will get and the more evenly the dish will grill."
FOR THE YOGURT DRESSING:
"This is pretty simple. Take a solid handful of mint, chop it up roughly, and mix it up with the yogurt. How much of each? I don't know, a good handful into a large container of yogurt. You can't really mess it up, it's gonna taste awesome however you do it."
STEP BY STEP:
1. DRIZZLE WITH OLIVE OIL.
"Shake some red pepper and salt onto the fruit, and then drizzle the fruit skewers with olive oil right before you take them to the grill. This technique will keep the fruit from sticking too much to the grill surface. As far as types of olive oil, I say always use extra-virgin. This is the first-press olive oil, and the best. In Italy they don't have different kinds of olive oil. It's just this, so that kind of shows you how it works. They export the shitty stuff to the U.S. and call it things like, 'cooking olive oil' or other weird stuff. Keep extra-virgin around, and you're good."
2. GRILL THE FRUIT.
"Place the skewers on the grill, and let the fruit grill for a couple minutes. You want for some of the sugar in the outside of the fruit to caramelize and create a char. There are a few reasons for this: it will look good, and the char creates a barrier between the fruit and the grill: this will help you peel the fruit from the grill rather than rip it, leaving half of the fruit behind. You can usually tell when it's ready just by looking at the side—look for the char to form, and go from there."
3. PEEL AND FLIP.
"If you do it right, the fruit will peel right off the grill. Give the fruit a flip and let it sit for a similar period of time—once you get a nice char on both sides, take the fruit to the plate."