This is a simple and great-tasting cheeseburger. The meat has a deep, rich flavor and is becoming more popular as people come to understand that buffalo is healthful as well as delicious. The red wine-cooked onions add complexity and moistness to the buffalo.
Build your own: You could omit the onion (in that case, be extra careful not to overcook the burger), use them for a topping, or knead them into a beef or lamb burger. If pressed for time, use raw apple for its sweet-tart crunch or leave it out. Tapenade (page 128 of the book) would make a great addition to this burger, adding rich, pungent flavor and moisture.
In a medium sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and stir and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and thyme, bring to a boil, and cook until the pan is nearly dry, about 10 minutes. Let the onion cool to at least room temperature. The onion can be cooked a day ahead, covered, and refrigerated.
Using your hands, gently knead the meat in a large bowl together with the onion and 1-1/2 teaspoons pepper. Handling lightly to keep the texture light and juicy, divide the meat into 4 evenly sized patties about 1 inch thick. The burgers can be shaped and refrigerated, covered, for several hours or overnight.
When ready to cook, heat the olive oil in a large skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat until very hot or build a medium-hot fire in a barbecue. Generously season the meat on both sides with salt and pepper.
Cook the burgers in the skillet, turning once or twice, for 7 to 10 minutes for medium-rare. Do not press down on the patties. With a large spoon, baste the burgers several times with the fat in the pan. (You can also preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and cook the burgers on top of the stove until they are brown on both sides, and then finish them in the oven.) To grill the burgers, oil the grate, arrange the patties on it, and cover. Cook as above.
While the burgers cook, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and brush the apple slices on both sides. Place them in a saute pan over medium heat or on the perimeter of the grill to cook slowly. You want them to get tender but not fall apart. After about 1 minute, turn the slices and sprinkle them lightly with brown sugar. Cook for another minute, turn, and sprinkle with sugar again. Turn, cook for another minute, and then immediately remove the slices to a plate. Cut the slices in half.
When the burgers are about half cooked, toast the buns in a toaster oven or under the broiler, about 5 inches from the heat, until lightly toasted. Or toast them on the outer perimeter of the grill rack.
For the last minute or two of cooking, drape a slice of cheese over each burger to melt. Then remove them to a warm platter, sprinkle with pepper, keep warm, and let rest for several minutes before serving.
To build the burgers, fan apple slices on the bun bottoms, and top with watercress, tomato slices, if using, burgers, and then the bun tops. Serve immediately.
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This page created June 2009
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