The Best Burger, Ever


Once I had an ample supply of homemade ketchup and bread and butter pickles, I set out on a quest to make the best burger ever. For me, that means that the ground beef has to be pasture raised and grass fed by a farmer I’ve actually met.

This is not an easy proposition on Cape Cod. There are a few small scale farmers who raise beef cows, but none of them are large enough to sell just a pound of ground beef. Our budget doesn’t allow us to buy a share of half a cow all at once. Plus, I know from experience that the butcher matters when it comes to good quality meat. I’d rather sample one pound and then go back for more than buy 500 pounds of meat I might not like.

One local source for farm raised meat is John Crow Farm in Groton. They sell a nice variety of meat at the Chatham Farmer’s Market, which is open every Tuesday from 3 to 6:30 p.m. through October 30. I’ve tried their sausage and their hamburger and it is very good. I also head off Cape to a farm in Dartmouth every few months.

Locally grown meat and poultry is fairly expensive, so I was excited to find meat reasonably priced at the Londonderry Farmers’ Market the last time I was in Vermont. I bought a few pounds of ground beef for $5 a pound and a whole chicken for $3.50 a pound. Farm raised meat is always frozen for safety reasons, so I packed it all in a cooler with ice and it was still frozen when I reached the Cape.

Last week I finally got around to cooking the chicken side by side with a chicken bought at the grocery store to do a taste test. Surprisingly, we really couldn’t taste any difference between the two. That led me to conclude that the only reason to buy locally raised chicken is for the assurance that the animal was raised in a humane way with no antibiotics or other hocus pocus. But the difference in flavor with ground beef really is dramatic, so we feel it’s worth paying more for it. We just eat less to make up for the cost.

At this point, I had my ketchup, I had my pickles, and I had my beef.  I still had some sheep’s cheese from Woodcock Farm in Weston, Vermont. I picked one of the last tomatoes from our garden and bought some greens and a red onion from the farm stand at Longnook Meadows Farm in Truro.

The last remaining ingredient was the hamburger bun. I have searched far and wide for a hamburger bun that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup or soybean oil and they are not easy to find.

I decided to bite the bullet and make my own buns. I searched online for a recipe and found a few that looked good. I printed them and analyzed the ingredients.  The recipes looked awfully familiar to me. In fact, they were almost identical to my grandmother’s recipe for the dough that I use to make our favorite thick crust farm pizza.

Now that we’re down to just three people at our dining room table, I only need to make one pan of pizza, which I had just done a few nights before. The other half of the dough was in the freezer, so I pulled it out and gave it a try. The results were amazing. My son and the Kitchen Genius agreed. I’ve already made them twice and I can honestly say that I will never buy another hamburger or hotdog bun again.

Hamburger Buns
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Hamburger Buns
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  • 1 cup milk , scalded
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3-1/2 to 4 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  1. Scald milk in small saucepan and set aside to cool. Dissolve yeast in warm water and let proof until thick and creamy. Place butter, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. When milk is lukewarm, add it to the bowl along with yeast mixture and egg. Mix until blended and then add three cups of flour. Stir until blended and slowly add remaining cup of flour until dough is of kneading consistency. You probably won’t need the entire cup.
  3. Knead dough for ten minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Place dough in buttered bowl and cover with a clean dish towel. Set dough in dark warm place for one hour, until it has doubled in size.
  4. At this point you can cut dough in half and freeze half of it if you only need four buns. If making the full recipe, break dough into eight equal size pieces. Form each piece into a bun shaped disc. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and place each disc on the paper, leaving space for buns to rise. Lightly cover buns with plastic wrap.
  5. Let rise for a half an hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. While oven is heating up, remove plastic wrap from buns. Lightly brush each bun with either an egg wash or milk. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes, or until golden brown.
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Retro Cooking - the Monte Cristo

Retro Cooking: the Monte Cristo

The first time I ever tried a Monte Cristo was at the Homeport Restaurant in Orleans when I first moved to Cape Cod back in 1981.

The idea of a ham and cheese sandwich cooked French toast style really appealed to me and I remember liking the sandwich. Despite that, it never occurred to me to make them at home until a few years ago when I was casting about for an easy dinner idea for a house full of hungry teenagers.

Continue reading “Retro Cooking: the Monte Cristo”