Anatomy of the Proper Burger
Chef Kevin NaPier has been cooking up farm-to-table versions of god ole American Comfort food since his days at District/Mercantile and Joe’s in Venice, so when he donned the executive chef’s coat at the Flintridge Proper – the “reinvented” neighborhood restaurant and craft cocktail lounge concept (with a room designed by Sam Marshall – Gjelina/Laurel Tavern) just up the 2 Freeway in La Canada Flintridge, one of his top priorities was to come up with a truly special burger.
He, and his team of sous chefs, spent several weeks iterating countless versions – tasting different cuts of meats, testing grinds, trying different combinations of ingredients – processing our own American Cheese! – to come up with what they felt was truly the Proper Burger. Here is where they ended up…
1. House-Ground, Grass-Fed California Beef
We start by hand-grinding grass-fed beef from Paso Robles. After testing dozens of cuts and blends from different butchers we settled on 100% chuck (the shoulder) because of its intense beefy flavor. The meat is never frozen and these cows get lots of time and space to roam which makes the meat more flavorful and, we like to think, the cows a lot happier. We use a very coarse grind and handle it as little as possible to keep the texture pure then we cook it in a pan, diner-style rather than on a grill, so we can maximize caramelization and keep the tasty fat from dripping away. It’s also worth noting that it’s a full 8 oz. of meat – the size of a small steak. “The idea is this burger should be a meal.”
2. Housemade American Cheese
Something Chef has been wanting to do for years… “When you process your own cheese you get to control what cheeses get used and you can get just the flavor profile you want. Our goal was to make a really awesome version of the classic Kraft Singles using really great cheeses.” We use three: Raclette which melts beautifully (it’s the “real” fondue cheese), really good American Cheddar from Tony Hook for a bit of a sharp bite and because it’s really the flavor Americans think of when they think of cheese (plus it helps provides the nice bright yellow color we associate with American cheese), and finally an aged-provolone which adds a touch of saltiness and much of that traditional “Kraft” Singles cheese flavor.
3 Housemade Thousand Island Dressing
There was a lot of debate about what constitutes the proper burger condiment and we ended up deciding that, particularly in California, the birthplace of both McDonald’s and In-and-Out, Thousand Island dressing was, and is, really the quintessential American burger dressing – and a lot more interesting than ketchup and mayo. We make ours on the tangy side with two types of pickles and a healthy dose of vinegar to balance the richness of the beef and cheese.
4 Shredded Iceberg Lettuce
We use iceberg lettuce because we’re paying homage to the great American burger – which means keeping it simple and avoiding the self-consciously “chefy” greens. We believe the lettuce is there primarily for texture and a touch of “freshness”, not pretense, and we shred it because leaf lettuce is unwieldy and tends to cause the burger to slide out of the bun. You shouldn’t need a knife and fork to eat a burger.
5 Brioche Bun
We found that Brioche’s rich flavor, with just a hint of sweetness, was the ideal balance for the savoriness of the burger and the tanginess of the sauce. We match the size to our big burger patty and, of course, it’s topped with sesame seeds.
6. Handcut Kennebec Fries
It’s the potato McDonald’s uses because it makes a terrific french fry. Unlike waxy potatoes which get too brown or russets which never brown or get crispy, Kennebec give you a nice golden color, a great texture and they really taste like potato.
We’re pretty proud of our burger and would love to know what you think.
Stop in and give it a try. It goes great with a local craft beer or classic cocktail from the World’s Largest Selection of gin.