We’ve all heard the stats, but here’s a little reminder. 576 calories, 32.5 g of total fat, and 742 mg sodium. That fat content is the same as eating 3 tablespoons of butter, and it’s all in one Big Mac. Burgers have had a bad rap lately as the saturated fat police have come out to play. The thing about this burger-off-the-menu theme is the problem with the fact that burgers are delicious. Moist and melted with cheese, bun toasted and dressed, there is something classic about the ever-tantalizing burger. So why not make your own patties? It’s a nice alternative to having to hunt out the “good ones” from the chorus of hockey puck beef, and this way you can play with the seasonings, pulling out your favourite flavours and knocking out the ones you aren’t too crazy for. The problem that comes out when you mention homemade burgers is that they are often too dry, round little balls that taste more like you should be covering it in pasta sauce, and less like you should be swaddling it in bread. So, the goal is something moist, succulent, and a cut above frozen varieties. Why not try a veal burger? Veal meat is tender without being high in fat (no greasy burger!), because it has less connective tissue due to not having full muscle development (Note: veal is meat from a calf). The taste is often described as ‘fine’, but I can’t really narrow it down from there- it has a je ne sais quoi quality, while still passing as perfectly acceptable protein to finicky eaters (including my brother, even). This makes it a nice burger substance to work with. Be careful though- you don’t need a lot of cooking time. Grill the burger carefully, until just done, and let it sit for a few minutes before serving to finish cooking in its juices. While we’re making low fat burgers, you might as well stay on the healthy train, because here is a recipe for sweet potato fries that ACTUALLY works and just so happens to be fat free! I adapted it from a recipe for plain old fries, and love it for it’s crispiness, and full flavour. I serve these with a bit of cilantro mayo (one of two ways I will actually eat mayo-the other way is on a toasted tomato sandwich) and a bit of roasted corn to round the whole meal out. Truly a barbeque feast for champions. Don’t forget to throw the beer in the fridge before you start cooking, because then this meal will truly soar.
This makes a bistro-style burger that is plenty generous-feel free to substitute any fresh or dried herbs to your fancy!
1 slice of bread, blitzed in the blender, food processor, or simply torn into small pieces
2 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp sour cream
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Small handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tsp oregano
½ tsp mustard powder
1 lb ground veal
all the fixin’s (4 buns, 4 slices cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onion (raw or cooked), pickle, etc)
1) Combine the bread, milk, and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl, letting the bread soak up some liquid. Add the egg and spices, stirring well to combine.
2) Add the veal, using the best mixing tools: your hands. Squish the mixture between your fingers until all the liquid and spices are fully incorporated, and you have a uniform look burger.
3) Divide into 4 patties (they will be quite a nice size). To prevent a rounded patty, always go for an even thickness, and then press down in the middle with your thumb to make a little indent. If you have a good-sized round cookie cutter, filling it with the burger mix to an even level is a great way to get a perfect patty.
4) Oil your grill, or ready your barbeque. For a medium-cooked burger, you are going to want to cook for about 5 minutes per side. I wouldn’t recommend any longer then this, unless you’re one of those crazy people that likes things ‘well done’.
Sweet Potato Fries
I got this trick from Oprah. Go figure! If you want regular fries, substitute 2 medium sized potatoes and 1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning for the curry powder.
2 large egg whites
1 Tbsp curry powder (or to taste-I like mine to have a lot of curry on there) or Cajun spice
4 sweet potatoes (small in size)
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub your sweet potatoes squeaky clean (I keep mine skin-on, but you can peel them here). Cut them into pieces roughly the size of your pinky- they will shrink up a but, so if you like meatier fries, increase the size and cooking time a touch.
2) Beat the egg whites until very frothy. Toss sweet potatoes to coat. Add flour and spices, tablespoon at a time, until everything is well coated. Grease a pan well (WELL), and spread them out into a single layer. Bake 30-35 minutes, until crisp but not smoldering.
3) Serve with a little cilantro mayo, recipe below!
This makes just a little container of mayo, which I found perfect for the ammount of fries, but then again, I’m a stingy dipper! Double or triple if your dip generously!
3 Tbsp mayo
1 crushed clove garlic
½ tsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp chopped, fresh cilantro
1 tsp fragrant dried coriander
1 tsp garam masal
1) Mix all in a dish, adjust to taste, and serve!
This is more a method then a recipe. Select your corn- at the store/market/wherever you buy your corn, make sure you pull back the husk a bit and check to see that the kernels are plump and juicy. Reject any dry-shrivelies. I like peaches and cream corn, not just because of the name- it is simply a creamy, delicious variety. At home, pull back the husk, but leave attached to the bottom. Remove as much of the stringy silk as possible, and pull the husk back around. Wrap each ear of corn in some tin foil, and throw on the barbeque for about 20-30 minutes, just off of the direct heat on medium. Check for doneness by piercing a kernel, making sure its soft enough for eating. Cooking the corn this way gives it a bit of smoke flavour, and really bring out all the natural corn goodness. Roll the ears on your brick of butter, sprinkle with some seasoned salt, and serve. Leaving the crisp husks on makes for a nice presentation, but make sure you have a bowl for people to put them in.