Cheeseburgers with Special Sauce

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i got you right there, didn’t i? you know what that’s called? a hook, folks. i hooked you in with the special sauce, and you’re not going to regret that i did, because let me tell you, special sauce is like crack. crack that you smother on hamburger buns and dip french fries in. i mean, who doesn’t like crack, right? at least it’s not LSD (which is rumored to be the drug that hannibal lector wannabe was on when he got caught eating a man’s face off in miami on memorial day). anyWHO, case in point: special sauce is delicious. after you eat, you’ll never eat a burger with plain ol’ ketchup again. no offense to heinz, but there are other fish in the sea.  

memorial day weekend marks the official start of summer. the days of bare legs and tan lines and sunburnt shoulders and spiked lemonade and all that other goodness that comes with the season of sunshine. here in the northeast, there’s a moment where the seasons simply switch. one day, you wake up, and there’s a weight in the air, a heft that wasn’t there before. the phrase, “air so thick you could cut it with a knife” comes to mind. the sun will be shining and the birds will be chirping, and you’ll look out your window and see streets riddled with pretty young things in cut off shorts and tank tops, sunglasses perched noses and stuck behind ears like headbands. if you’re in new york like i am, you’ll also smell the faint scent of garbage, awaiting pickup and baking in the sun. glorious, isn’t it?

i’ll be the first to admit i’m not a summer person, i much prefer autumn leaves crunching beneath my feet. i can’t stand the heat, i hate feeling sticky, and i’m not particularly partial to summer’s sartorial options. but that being said, even i can appreciate a good picnic, a great day at the beach. i love a good dunk in the ocean, salt water stinging your eyes and rendering your hair a mess of tangled waves. i love that feeling you get when your skin starts to crisp, love the slightly coconut-y scent of sunscreen. and of course, there’s the food. the bbq-ed chicken and the corn on the cob, the potato salads and the watermelon mojitos. there’s little i like more than packing a cooler full of goodies for a day at the beach. standing there in my galley kitchen as the morning sun beats on in, molding ice packs around my sandwich meats and fruit salad, i feel like a mini martha stewart, except without the jail time or the naturally blonde hair. 

one of my favorite summer eats is beautiful in its simplicity: the burger. dressed up, dressed down, cheese or no cheese, fillings or no fillings, burgers are hard to screw up. don’t have a grill? there’s a grill pan for that. don’t have a garden? take it to the streets, to the park. there’s something about the juxtaposition of crisp lettuce and juicy tomato alongside the substance of a great, meaty burger. it melts in your mouth. and then when you add special sauce…WHAM KABAM. explosion of goodness in your mouth, i tell you.

let’s get cooking, shall we?


The Recipe (adapted from Brian Boitano’s West Coast Burgers)

1/2 lb of lean red meat  (enough to form 2 patties)

1/4 cup of chopped sweet onion

1/4 cup of chopped mushrooms

1 tsp dijon mustard

2 slices swiss cheese

2 slices of tomato

2 green lettuce leaves (i used spring mix instead of iceberg)

2 burger rolls (i like mine with sesame seeds)

For the Special Sauce (adapted from 

1/3 cup mayo

3 tbsp ketchup

1 tbsp yellow mustard

1 tbsp hot sauce (optional – i use sriracha) 

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp smoked paprika 

to make, saute the onions and mushrooms in a little bit of olive oil over low heat until soft and slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. meanwhile, whisk the ingredients for the special sauce in a small bowl and set aside. Image

when onions and mushrooms are softened, add mustard, season with salt and pepper and stir another minute, until evenly incorporated. remove from heat and let cool a few minutes. while the mixture is cooling, heat up your grill pan with nonstick spray. 

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to make the burgers, separate your meat into two equal sized patties. make a hole inside each pattie and fill it with about a teaspoon of the mushroom and onion mixture. squish your patties around until the mushroom and onion mixture is evenly incorporated into the meat. reserve the rest of the mixture for toppings. 

place your burgers on the heated grill pan and cook, about four minutes. while they’re cooking, toast your buns slightly, either in your oven or on the other side of your grill pan.  flip, and cook another few minutes, until you can press on them with a spatula and no red juices leak out. top each burger with a slice of swiss and cook another minute or so, until the cheese has melted. Image

to assemble, split your toasted buns and top with special sauce. place lettuce and tomato on one side and burger on the other, then top the burger with your extra mushroom/onion mixture. Serve with thin cut french fries and a bit more special sauce on the side. 

[original recipe]

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