Food for Thought
The All-American burger: A food so perfect it must have come from Texas
What’s better than a hot burger fresh off the grill and a cold longneck this time of year?
Not too much.
Hamburgers, thanks to the rise of the fast food chains, have become the quintessential American sandwich. And while I’m not knocking the orange and white wrapped burgers at Texas' homegrown Whataburger (what a burger!) empire, sometimes you just need to make your own.
The beauty of the burger is that you can make it anyway you want. I like to mix ground sirloin with ground hamburger, toss in some finely chopped garlic, sea salt and black pepper. Just a basic burger patty that, hopefully, someone else will stand out in the hot sun and grill over a mesquite barbecue fire. Heh. I’ll be in the kitchen sipping beer and making guacamole.
And when they’re done, I’ll top them with crispy bacon and blue cheese crumbles on a toasted egg bun. Add mayonnaise and yellow mustard and you’re good to go.
Of course sometimes I just buy a cowboy patty from Whole Foods Market; ground beef mixed with jalapeños, bacon bits and cheddar cheese. If you make two patties out of the one big one they sell, you can put them on the big jalapeño/cheese biscuits they sell as well.
Yes, I once ate a burger served on a glazed Krispy Kreme donut. And I will not do that again. Ever.
You can make sliders, quarter-pounders, put cheese inside or out. You can make a hamburger out of American-style kobe or basic chuck. (And yes, I just spelled kobe with a small “k.” Because of the recent hoopla over Kobe beef not being available in America, something I’ve known for years, I’ve decided the best thing to do is lowercase kobe. You know, like champagne that doesn’t come from Champagne.)
Texans have some pretty creative ways to make this meal. I’ve eaten burgers made from longhorn beef and wild game, ones topped with caviar or fried onion rings, plain mustard (don’t get me started on the no ketchup thing) and exotic aioli. And yes, I once ate one served on a glazed Krispy Kreme donut. And I will not do that again. Ever.
But one of the best, simple burger recipes I’ve ever come across comes from the Cornelius family.
Several years ago I ran into Sandy Cornelius at a local restaurant. I was writing a piece on the history of hamburgers and talking to the chef when she overheard me and asked to chat. Turned out her husband Glenn was the great nephew of Fletcher Davis.
And as any Texas food historian can tell you, Fletcher “Old Dave” Davis of Athens, Texas, is the man who invented the hamburger in the 1880s and brought it to the attention of the nation at the World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904. Texas lays claim to a lot of food lore and the story of “Old Dave” and the hamburger is true, although, let’s face it, people around the globe have been eating ground meat on bread for centuries. (Though other states claim to be the home of the American hamburger as well.)
Texas certainly has a long history with the burger and we certainly love it. B4-u-eat.com lists 502 burger joints in Houston alone. Texas Monthly devoted an entire issue to burgers and writer/photographer Rick Vanderpool wrote a whole book about it: The Texas Hamburger: History of a Lone Star Icon. So, what the hay, let’s lay claim to this American classic and celebrate the burger this summer.
Oh, and here’s the Cornelius family recipe for the best burger. Maybe not quite the same as the one “Old Dave” served in Athens in the 1880’s, but probably pretty darn close.
Sandy and Glenn Cornelius’ Basic Burger Recipe
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground sirloin
Salt and pepper
A couple dashes of Worcester sauce
Mix into 6 patties, grill
Use great buns
Top with cheddar cheese or bleu cheese crumbles, red onion slices, large slices of the best tomatoes money can buy or homegrown tomatoes, romaine lettuce or spinach
Top off with dill pickle slices
What’s your favorite burger recipe?