Thursday, October 30, 2014

Beef, Vermont White Cheddar and Pancetta Sliders with Fire Roasted Fries

"What are you doing?" Clint asked as I stood at the hotel window with my zoom lens camera in one hand and my kitchen timer in the other.  

I was shamelessly shigging, I guess.  I was watching the Burger Fi cooking crew five stories below and watching how they did their sliders on a flat top griddle and, yes, I was even timing their burger flips using a kitchen timer.

Burger Fi crew as seen from my hotel room. Wonder if they had "that feeling" they were being watched.

My friend, Clint Cantwell, and I were in Atlanta to do cooking demonstrations for Big Green Egg at the Taste of Atlanta.  The event had 90+ restaurants serving and 4 live cooking demo stages.  I got to cook with some great people at the festival and at the Big Green Egg corporate location - my next post will be about all of that.  But this post is about these sliders.
Burger Fi is a relatively new burger chain that focuses on building a better burger by using simple, quality ingredients like all natural beef.  They recently opened a store in Knoxville on the Strip by campus and it is quite popular.  But my first time getting to try Burger Fi was at this food festival, where I got the double slider and fries.
Isn't it cool how they brand their buns?
After an event like this, I like to come up with a recipe inspired by the event so I decided to put my spin on the sliders they were serving.  I used their principles to guide what I was doing with my sliders.
  1. Use quality, all natural beef - Burger Fi is one of many restaurants serving Meyer Natural Angus.  I went to the Meyer Ranch last year and saw first hand how they manage their cattle with no hormones or antibiotics.  They are an incredible organization that puts out top notch beef.
  2. Keep it simple - they let their quality ingredients shine.  So I keep the seasonings simple, just some salt, pepper, and garlic.  
  3. Hand cut fries - the fries were crispy, golden, and melt in your mouth delicious.  They fry theirs of course but I decided to do a fire roasted version.
  4. Branded buns - When I won a burger contest hosted by McCormick GrillMates a few years ago, one of the prizes was one of those customized steak brands so you can sear your initials into a steak or burger.  I hadn't used it yet but thought I would try it on the buns like they do.
I upgraded the cheese to white cheddar which works great on burgers. I also skipped the lettuce and tomato and added pancetta. They used a flat top griddle and I have one but I wanted to use my Big Green Eggs so I opted for a griddle plate on the grill instead.  You could use a skillet, salt block, or grilling stone instead.  Use what ya got.  You might have to do the burgers in small batches depending on the size.

These would be ideal for a tailgate situation because you can make the ground beef balls hours in  advance.  That is why I don't add the salt to the beef mixture - it can draw out moisture from the meat.  Instead I only season with the salt as the burgers are cooking.  

tailgate, grilling, burgers

Beef, Vermont White Cheddar, and Pancetta Sliders

  • 1.25 pounds all natural ground chuck
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 5 slices Vermont white cheddar cheese 
  • 5 slices pancetta
  • 5 slider buns
  1. Set up your grill for direct heat, add your griddle (or salt block, skillet, grilling stone, etc), and preheat to 500°F.
  2. Lightly mix together the beef, black pepper, and garlic powder.  Form into ten 2 ounce balls.  Use two plates, a burger press, or a tortilla press to flatten each ball into a 4" circle.
  3. Lightly fry the pancetta on the griddle until crisp, about 45 seconds per side.  Remove.
  4. Place the burger patties on the griddle, close the grill lid, and cook for 90 seconds.  
  5. Flip the patties, season with a little salt, top each with 1/2 slice of cheese, and cook until done, another 60-90 seconds.
  6. Serve by stacking two patties and a slice of pancetta on each slider bun.  
Burger Fi uses Meyer Natural Angus for their burgers and I knew that I could get the exact same beef at Publix from their GreenWise brand.  Their meat associate confirmed that still get their GreenWise beef from Meyer.  Last time I checked, Whole Foods store label is also from Meyer Natural Beef.

Simple. Quality.

Just about 30-45 seconds per side - it's thin and cooks fast.

You can just eyeball it into 10 even meat balls but I like precision.

Lined up for duty sir!

They just flattened theirs directly on the griddle but I didn't have that kind of room.  So I grabbed my tortilla press and used that to flatten them out.  The deli wax paper keeps it from sticking to surfaces.  You could do the same with a burger press or two plates.

This is where things got funny.  How hard could branding a hamburger bun be?

It was too hot, not hot enough, didn't hold it long enough, solar flares, too big, whatever.  I ruined 6 buns trying it out.  I will have to ask Burger Fi about their little secret process for this.  I'm picturing a room of gnomes locked away and working in a sweatshop somewhere branding all of the Burger Fi buns.  (Note:  I would have gone with "elves" but don't want to get them in a labor war with Keebler.)

Cooking burgers in the rendered pancetta grease - nice!

grill, cheeseburger, burger, Big Green Egg
It gets a little smoky, of course.

grilled sliders, cheeseburger
Did I say a little smoky?

The aforementioned cooking timer - a Thermoworks TimeStick.

pancetta sliders, grilled sliders, big green egg
I think my sliders were a nice upgrade from theirs, but I wasn't trying to cook for tens of thousands of people at once, either.

How To Fire Roast French Fries on a Kamado Style Grill
For the fries it really wasn't as much of a recipe as it is a technique.  Wash a few Russet potatoes (skin them if you like but I like the skin on) and cut into fries.  Soak them for an hour or two in cold water to help draw out the starch.  Drain and discard the water.  Air dry them in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Set up the grill for convective heat - which for a kamado grill would be plate setter in with the legs down like this.

Notice the 3 stainless pieces?  Those are spacers to keep your pizza stone or roasting pan from sitting directly on the plate setter.  Why?  If the pizza stone or pan is sitting directly on the plate setter, the bottom of the food will get cooked too fast because of the conductive heat transferring from the plate setter to the pan.  The spacers raise it up just a smidge to control that heat.  Preheat the grill and stone to 450°F.

Notice the slight gap between the plate setter and pizza stone here.

Toss the fries in just enough oil to lightly coat them, maybe 1-2 teaspoons, and some dried herbs.

You can put the fries directly on a pizza stone in the Egg but I find it works better with a piece of parchment paper on the pizza stone.  It makes clean up easier and helps prevent seasoning sticking to the stone instead of the fries.  Make sure the edges don't stick over the stone or they can catch on fire.  A quick tip for cutting the parchment is shown below.  Just fold it in fourths and trim off the edge.  Unfold it for a perfect fit.

Note:  This just shows how to trim the parchment.  The stone would actually be preheated in the grill before you add the paper.

Place the parchment paper on the stone and add the fries, one layer deep.

Close the dome lid and cook for 40 minutes, turning them occasionally after the first 20 minutes.

Season the fries with kosher salt as soon as they come off of the grill.

cheese burger, big green egg, pancetta burger
Yep, sometimes simple is best.

Giveaway Reminder
There is still time to enter my giveaway for a set of El Diablo Mustards - The Mustard That Bites Back.

Giveaway ends this weekend.

[Standard FTC Disclaimer]  I received no compensation for this post.  I have no affiliation with Burger Fi or Publix.