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It’s only the second day of Summer and I already have grilled hamburgers under my belt. And not just any burgers. Burgers that I ground myself using Thomas Keller’s recipe. I am not a big meat-eater though; I am just as happy with a big plate of fresh grilled veggies as I am with a NY steak. I never usually even eat a whole burger (my husband and I will split one). But since my new house has a natural gas hook up for my BBQ, and the thing reaches 400F in 5 minutes flat, I thought what better way to break it in with a tender, delicious, juicy burger. That being said, ground beef freaks me out a little. I have worked in enough restaurants for the past 10 years to know where scrap meat goes. Also, the whole pink meat thing that has been surfacing around the internet the last couple months I find to be a real big turn off. So how can you enjoy a burger and know that is fresh and 100% pure beef from primal cuts of meat? Grind your own…that’s how.

For Christmas I bought my dad the meat grinder attachment for the Kitchen Aid (only $36 on Amazon). He loves bratwurst and german sausage, so I thought it was a cool gift because he could now make his own. I guess I did have an ulterior motive. I knew full well that I live a block and half from my parents and it would be super easy to “borrow” the attachment whenever I wanted. Well, I finally got my hands on it.

I used the meat grinder to grind Sirloin, Brisket, and Chuck. These are the three cuts of beef Keller recommends for hamburgers. I bought the beef from Whole Foods so it was all grass-fed and free range. When I added up the cost, it was about the same as their ground beef. So really, the only additional cost is the grinder. It is so worth it though. The burger was so tender and juicy, and the meat had enough flavor that the only seasoning needed was salt and pepper. An important characteristic of ground beef is that is never overworked, that is what will make the meat tough. Grinding your own ensures that you are the only one handling it. The thing I liked most about Keller’s recipe is that there is just the right amount of fat. The burger is juicy without fat dripping all over the plate, and I could still taste the other ingredients on the burger.

I kept the burger pretty simple: Brioche bun, avocado, aged gouda, watermelon radish, and roasted garlic aioli. You might think that radish on a burger is a little weird, but I liked it because of the added crunch and the peppery flavor it imparted. The reason behind the roasted garlic aioli was because I had 2 heads of late spring garlic sitting in the fridge from my CSA box last week, and they needed to be used! I am not a fan of store-bought mayo though, and I wanted to make my own aioli. Compared to homemade mayo, I find the flavor of the jarred stuff to be overpowering and the texture to be just too stiff. Making mayo (in small quantities anyway) is easy and is just so much lighter and the flavor is more delicate. Roasting the garlic helped to add just a little bit of sweetness which balanced with the radishes perfectly. The burgers were huge, and the only thing I served on the side of them was local Tuscan melon (and a delicious glass of Zinfandel). The whole meal was a perfect ode to Summer, and a great way to kick off the Season.

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Home Ground Burger with Roasted Garlic Aioli
Adapted from Thomas Keller – Ad Hoc
Yield 4 Burgers

1 lb Sirloin
.5 lb Brisket
.5 lb Chuck
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Fresh ground pepper
Additional salt (I used grey salt) and pepper to taste

For Aioli:
1 head Garlic
1 tsp salt
1 Egg
1 TBSP White Wine Vinegar
1/2 cup + 1 TBSP Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

  1. Remove any excess fat and sinew from the meat, leaving just about 1/4″ of fat. Cut each meat into 1″ cubes. Toss them in a bowl with the 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper.                                            
  2. Using the largest die for your meat grinder (I used the meat grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid), feed the meat into the machine alternating your different cuts of beef. If there was still sinew on the meat, some of it may get caught in the blade, and you will need to use a small knife to free it. Once all the meat is ground, switch to the die on the grinder, and grind the meat one more time. Be careful not to handle the meat too much, you don’t want the burgers to become tough due to overworked meat.            
  3. Divide the meat into 4 portions and gently form the hamburger patties. The patties will be 8oz each (yep, 1/2 pounders!) and should be about 3/4″ thick. Season each patty with salt and pepper.  
  4. Heat your grill. If you can have half the grill set at high and the other side set to medium heat. When the grill is hot, place the patties down on the high heat side. Let them cook for about 2 minutes. Using a spatula turn the patties 90 degrees. This will give you a nice cross hatch pattern. Let the patties cook another 2 minutes, and then transfer them to the medium-heat side of the grill while flipping them at the same time. Let the patties cook for 4 minutes, and then turn them 90 degrees and let them cook another 5 minutes. At this point you can put a slice of cheese on top if you like and make a cheeseburger (I used an aged gouda). These cooking times will ensure a nice medium cooked burger. If you want medium rare burger cook the patties for less time, or more time for well done. Once you remove the patties from the grill, allow them to rest at least 5 minutes before eating them. This will help keep the juices from running and create a more juicy burger.

For Roasted Garlic Aioli:

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Take the head of garlic and place it in a piece of foil. Sprinkle on the 1 tsp salt, and drizzle with the 1 TBSP of olive oil. Wrap up the foil so the garlic is tightly sealed inside. Place the foil wrapped garlic into the oven, and let it roast for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil pouch from the oven and allow it to cool. Once it is cool, remove the head of garlic from the foil. The garlic will be soft. Using your fingers, pop the individual cloves of garlic out from the head. Save these cloves and discard the rest.                                   
  2. To make the aioli you can use a small cuisinart or make it by hand. If you are making it by hand, chop the roasted garlic and place it in a bowl. If you are using a cusinart, throw the whole cloves into the mixer and let it do the work. Add the egg yolk, vinegar, and salt and pepper (to taste) into the bowl. If you are doing it by hand, whisk the mixture until nice and foamy. If you are doing it by cuisinart, turn the setting to chop and allow the mixture to mix until foamy. If you are doing it by hand slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking and make an emulsification. The mixture will start to turn white and get thick and creamy like mayo. If you are making the ailoli with the cuisinart, turn it on to chop and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The mixture will thicken as it mixes. If the aioli doesn’t seem thick enough, drizzle in a little more olive oil while mixing. If it seems too thick, incorporate a little water to thin it down.