Jaden Hair's The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook, from her blog steamykitchen.com, offers Asian flavors that can be created in American kitchens. Not such an unusual idea, but sometimes a set of recipes seem to particularly cause the mouth to water, and that's what happened here.
Last night I threw together some Korea BBQ-style Burgers from her book, a recipe she semi-credits to Sarah Gim of tastespotters.com. The flavor is the slightly sweet, salty-savory delight often found on the Korean-style ribs at Korean restaurants. It translates well to the hamburgers, which were good enough we didn't even use buns. The fast pickle that she suggests alongside or on top is easy and a nice contrast. Joe said it was tasty, but its light flavor made him think more of a relish or a salad than a pickle.
I say “threw together” because pretty much everything I needed was in the freezer or pantry. I used ground chuck for the beef. As to the minced garlic and grated ginger, purists will sneer, but I succumbed to the temptation and ease of keeping a commercial jar in my refrigerator. No, I agree, it isn't as flavorful as the fresh stuff, but sometimes we all succumb to the lure of quick. As to what Hair calls “high-heat cooking oil,” I keep peanut oil on hand for just such times, and it worked fine. Don't be afraid to use it; when the burgers were done, they hadn't sucked up any of the oil. In fact, there was more fat in the pan after cooking. And the burgers didn't stick. They also can be grilled on a barbecue, of course.
For the best texture, hamburgers should be handled lightly, so what I did was mix all the seasoning ingredients together in a bowl and then crumbled the ground beef into it. I tossed it gently until the seasonings were well dispersed, and then gently formed the mixture into fat patties.
Hair suggests offering the usual burger condiments, making sure the mustard is a hot one (think about the fiery English mustard that comes with egg rolls), as well as kimchi and sriracha, that Asian hot sauce sometimes called rooster sauce, along with the aforementioned pickles. We found the hamburgers so tasty that, they didn't need anything except the pickles, whose cool, slightly crunchy tartness made for an exceptional side.
3 Tbs. finely minced garlic
3 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
2 ½ Tbs. soy sauce
2 ½ Tbs. brown sugar
3 Tbs. finely minced green onion
2 tsp. sesame seeds
fresh-ground black pepper
2 tsp. high-heat cooking oil
1 ½ lbs. ground beef
Mix the ingredients together and form into 4 patties a little less than an inch thick. Set aside and let rest for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a skillet on high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates. Add the oil and shake the pan to allow it to cover the surface.
Place the patties in the pan so that they are not touching. Cook the patties 5 to 7 minutes on each side for medium. (I did 5, and they were excellent, juicy and slightly pink.)
Makes 4 burgers
Quick Cucumber Carrot Pickle
1 c. matchstick-cut carrots
1 c. matchstick-cut cucumber
½ tsp. sesame seeds
4 tsp. rice vinegar
½ tsp. Sugar
Toss the ingredients together.
I cooked two of the patties when I made the mixture and refrigerated the other two for the following evening. The burgers seemed even more flavorful after standing, so don't hesitate to do them ahead of time. On the other hand, the pickle loses crispness, so it's better done fresh.