Let the creative juices flow when building a burger
Local Tip: Use markets/restaurants in your area instead of Chicago-area references.
From decks, picnic areas and patios across the country, Americans indulge an appetite for red meat.
Topped with lettuce, tomato and onion, the burger is an undeniable classic. But there are those who yearn to break free from the standard, the Picassos and van Goghs of the grill for whom the burger is but a blank canvas.
Joe Lane, head of the meat department at Casey’s Market in Western Springs, has heard of a few unique ways to perk up a patty.
Some far from conventional.
“The craziest thing I ever had on a burger was peanut butter,” he said.
As if the combination of ground meat and peanut butter didn’t pack enough protein, Lane noted the spread was, in fact, chunky.
“It was interesting, but I wouldn’t try it again,” he said.
Here we offer new burger ideas you don’t have to be "nuts" to try.
Think of it as your burger’s base. The burger bun does more than keep your meal from falling apart, it also lends some taste.
For an older, more-discerning crowd, chef Dwayne Jordan of Eaglewood Resort and Spa in Itasca offers a pesto, Monterey jack cheese burger atop a baguette. For the youngsters, it’s a Mickey Mouse bun.
“I just take a roll and cut it until it’s the right shape,” Jordan said of the cartoon outline.
Palmer Place in La Grange serves its Caesar burger, a concoction of red bell peppers, tomatoes, romaine lettuce and parmesan cheese on a rosemary ciabatta roll.
It’s head chef and owner Phil Palmer’s favorite.
Other options: Texas toast for anything slathered in barbecue sauce; Hawaiian bread bun for a touch of sweetness; wheat bun if something on your burger has to be nutritious; a steak bun, which some liken to a Kaiser roll; or a low-carb option -- a hollowed-out portobello mushroom.
Here’s the part of the burger where you get to play the mad scientist. Instead of test tubes that result in Frankenstein’s monster, you’ll wield bottles of condiments and end up with something, well, hopefully a little fresher.
Jordan’s creations take the burger to new levels of sophistication.
There’s the haute Parisian burger with marinated red onions, heirloom tomatoes and crumbled bleu cheese, or a burger topped with the Mediterranean medley of feta cheese, sliced Calamata olives and cucumbers.
Burgers are a large draw at Palmer’s Place. Coated in a teriyaki glaze and topped with pieces of pineapple, the Asian Sensation burger appeals to anyone looking for something out of the ordinary.
“I get my ideas from food salesmen, other restaurants or things I hear about on TV,” said Palmer, the man behind the restaurant’s bun and patty varieties.
Other options: Jalepeños and pepperjack cheese turn up the heat; jerk seasonings, julienne carrots and lamb go together swimmingly on the Caribbean burger; guacamole, salsa and tortilla chips work well on more than just tacos; and raspberry vinaigrette, chopped walnuts and bleu cheese make dinner seem like an evening at the Waldorf.
Figuring it wouldn’t hurt anyone, Palmer once played a little trick on his wait staff.
“I made two burger patties, told everyone I was trying out a different vendor and to tell me which one they liked better,” he said.
What he didn’t mention is that one sample was beef, the other wild boar. Tasting both, none of the unsuspecting testers recoiled at the boar burger.
“It sounds really exotic, but it’s certainly not something completely different,” Palmer said.
The burger was offered as a short-term special, but Palmer thinks he’ll bring it back for another run sometime.
Of course, any chef or butcher worth his apron will tell you a burger, boar or otherwise, is nothing if you don’t start with quality meat on a quality grill.
“Cooking over charcoal gives a burger a more outdoor taste,” Jordan said. “You can’t match charcoal mixed in with wood chips, which really enhances the taste.”
Jordan recommends hickory chips for beef and pork.
Other options: turkey and ostrich meat act as healthier alternatives, or bison, the next big thing for burgers, is very lean but for that reason is best if cooked to medium-rare or medium.