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Old-Fashioned Cheeseburger

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 50 min
  • Active: 20 min
  • Yield: 5 burgers
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1 pound brisket and 1 pound sirloin, coarsely ground together (see Cook's Note)

Kosher salt

Five 1/8-inch-thick slices sharp Cheddar

Freshly ground black pepper

5 burger buns, split

3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

Ketchup Chutney, recipe follows

Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip (Muhummara), recipe follows

Tomato slices, lettuce leaves, sliced red onion, for fixing up the burgers

Ketchup Chutney:

3 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 medium red onion, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

One 1-inch thumb fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon store-bought or Homemade Garam Masala, recipe follows

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

One 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons molasses

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Aarti's Hot (not heavy!) Homemade Garam Masala:

3 large cinnamon sticks (if you have the kind you get at Indian stores, it's about 3 tablespoons of cinnamon bark bits)

3 tablespoons whole cloves

1/4 cup green cardamom pods, shelled, husks discarded (about 2 tablespoons of seeds)

4 large black cardamom pods, shelled, husks discarded (about 1 tablespoon of seeds), optional

Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip (Muhummara):

2 red bell peppers

1 1/2 cups raw walnuts, halves and pieces

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (see Cook's Note)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 cloves garlic, chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Put the ground beef on a baking sheet and divide into 5 equal portions. Push the meat (not patting it) together gently and shape into patties no bigger than the size of your burger buns. They should be loosely compacted; they should look rustically rough, not smooth and that way a good crust will develop and there will be lots of nooks and crannies for the cheese to melt into. They should be about 1/2-inch thick and about 4 inches wide. Make sure they fit your buns! Once shaped, chill the uncooked burgers in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat, or warm your largest cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Sprinkle both sides of the burgers generously with salt. This is not only for flavor, but also to build a good crust.
  3. Using a spatula, place the burgers on the grill or in the skillet; they should sizzle upon contact. If you are cooking inside, open your window, because it might get a little smoky!
  4. If using a grill: Cook 2 minutes on the first side for medium-rare or 3 minutes if you like them medium-well. Flip the burgers, and top each one with a slice of cheese. Cover, if possible, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer, depending how well done you like your burgers and the heat of your grill.
  5. If using a skillet: Cook 4 minutes for medium-rare, or 5 minutes for medium-well on the first side. Flip the burgers, and top each one with a slice of cheese. Cover, if possible, and cook for 4 minutes longer. A meat thermometer inserted in the middle of the burger should register 135 to 140 degrees F for medium-rare.
  6. Remove the burgers from the heat and grind freshly ground black pepper on top of each burger.
  7. While the meat rests, toast the buns. Spread both cut sides of the buns with a little softened butter. Lower the heat to medium, add the buns cut-side down, and let them toast until golden brown.
  8. Place each burger on a bun, top with Ketchup Chutney or Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip and pile you're your favorite toppings. Dig into a little slice of summer heaven right from your kitchen!

Ketchup Chutney:

Yield: about 3 cups
  1. Warm the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until nearly smoking.
  2. Keep your lid handy. Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds; they should start enthusiastically popping upon contact with the oil, so cover the pot until the spluttering subsides, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the onions and saute until soft and just starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute until the garlic is soft, about 2 minutes longer.
  4. Add the Garam Masala, paprika and turmeric. Stir and cook about 30 seconds. Then add the vinegar (standing back so you don't inhale the fumes!) and cook 1 minute more.
  5. Add the tomatoes, molasses, 1/2 teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Stir, bring to a boil, and then cook at a generous simmer about 10 minutes until thickened. You can puree it if you like. Set it aside to cool and then jar. Store in the refrigerator. 

Aarti's Hot (not heavy!) Homemade Garam Masala:

Yield: about 1/2 cup
  1. Combine the cinnamon sticks, cloves, green cardamom seeds, black cardamom seeds, if using in a spice grinder or coffee grinder and grind until fine. Store the spice mix in an airtight container away from direct sunlight. 

Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip (Muhummara):

Yield: about 2 cups
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Roast the red peppers. Place each bell pepper over the open flame of a gas burner or grill, cooking until the skin blackens and blisters. Rotate the peppers and blacken all the way around, about 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can roast the peppers in the oven by placing the bell peppers on a baking sheet and placing under the broiler, turning frequently, until the peppers are blackened and blistered all over. Put the blackened peppers in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to steam.
  3. Toast the walnuts. Spread the walnuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pop into the oven until light golden brown and aromatic, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  4. Peel the red peppers using a paring knife. Discard the peels, stem and seeds. Throw the roasted red peppers, walnuts, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, paprika, cumin, red pepper flakes and garlic into a food processor with a teaspoon of salt, and run until the dip is smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Cool and serve. 

Cook’s Note

The key to a juicy, flavorful burger? Making friends with your butcher or meat department folks at the supermarket! You're going to be asking them for a couple of favors when you're craving a juicy burger. What you're looking for is freshly ground beef, not the stuff that's been sitting on the shelves for weeks; you need beef that has a 70 to 30 ratio of meat to fat, is coarsely ground and is made from pieces of beef you can inspect for freshness. Ask your butcher to grind equal parts brisket and sirloin or do it yourself with a food processor. Cut the meat into 1-inch chunks and freeze for about 20 minutes, then throw it in the food processor, processing for 12 to 15 seconds until you get a consistency that is reminiscent of chopped meat. Don't grind it as fine as they sell it at the store or else your burger will be mealy. Pomegranate molasses can be found in the international aisle of specialty supermarkets and at Middle Eastern markets.

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