Savory "Upscale" Sliders
Once a bit of military jargon connoting greasy burgers, "sliders" have
evolved into small, two-bite hamburgers that are now quite in vogue
as "comfort food." Restaurant industry magazines are chock-full of fussy recipes
for sliders which use the ground beef patty and the bun as a background for the
various condiments, vegetables, cheese(s) and other additions. "Meat-serious"
sliders come in the form of sirloin sliders, ground lamb, pork or
venison sliders and even kobe beef sliders. What most authentic "sliders"
have in common is that they're full of delicious meat fat, and there are often
onions insinuated into the meat.
The White Castle hamburger chain originated the idea of very small fried
hamburgers with onion in 1921. In my home town of Flushing, New
York we called White Castle hamburgers "little soggies" because they were
just that. This recipe intends to evoke the beefy/oniony/moist goodness of
We serve these sliders in the cocktail lounge at our restaurant on Friday
nights. They're simple enough for hard-boiled hamburger lovers but can be dolled
up with some Roasted Red Pepper aioli, good Vermont cheddar cheese,
Vidalia onions, capers, even crabmeat. Of course, crispy-cool
iceberg lettuce and garden fresh tomatoes are de rigeur.
One big fat "chef's" onion (don't use the little yellow ones that come in a
mesh bag, they taste awful and don't cook well)
1 Tsp. dried marjoram or a few fresh leaves, minced.
1 Tbs. sea salt
2 Tbs. coarsely ground black pepper
2 lbs. Ground sirloin, preferably "Angus" beef, with at least 30% fat
1 lb. sirloin and 1 lb. ground chuck — again with about 30% fat content
Oil for frying
About buns: I like to use small, knotted Challah rolls or
mini-croissants (in which case I form the patties accordingly). In a city you
can find bakeries that sell "slider" rolls which are slightly crispy outside and
hold in all the burger-and-condiment goodness really well. Small dinner rolls
also work very well. Be sure to butter and toast your slider rolls.
About accompaniments: We serve roasted red pepper aioli
(garlic mayonnaise, fresh ripe tomato slices, kosher dill pickle slices,
and, if requested, iceberg lettuce. If you want to go really upscale, offer:
Make the burgers: Slice the onion in half, then you'll be able to pull
off the skin. Make a notch in the bottom of each half to get rid of the white
rooty bit at the bottom of each half. Slice each half into thin, thin slices.
Then mince into 1/8" mince with your knife or using a food processor.
Add the onion to a very large bowl. Add marjoram, salt and pepper and mix
well. Add the hamburger meat, and, using your hands, insinuate the onion mixture
evenly into the beef. Now portion out 2 ounce portions of the meat, rolling in
your hands (it coats the outside of each ball of meat with fat) and forming into
If you have time at this point, allow the burgers to sit on plates in the
refrigerator. This will ensure that the savory marjoram-onion goodness will
blossom into the meat.
Heat a very large skillet with a little oil (peanut oil is teh right stuff
for this). Add a batch of burgers and fry over very high heat, about 3 minutes,
until the first side is crispy (don't flip 'em over and over; handling means
loss of meaty juices); then turn over and finish. I cover the skillet with a
cookie sheet so the burgers steam a bit during cooking. Keep a pot holder or dry
rag in your hand to maneuver the cookie sheet for flip time. I only say this
because I have burnt myself more than once grabbing at the cookie sheet. (I just
forgot... it couldn't have been the Cabernet Sauvignon I was swilling during
the preparation process.)
Once the burgers are out of the pan, let them rest (let 'em sit) for a minute
or two or the juice will gush out of them when you bite into them. Check the seasoning (salt and pepper). Serve with
the accompaniment(s) of your choice.
About the Wine: There are quite a few good, old-vine Zinfandels out
there. That's a superb beverage with these burgers. If you want to be
adventurous, try a dry blush wine from Provence.