The recipe for my Ultimate Umami Burger is just in time for National Burger Month. I’m not sure how food gets assigned a whole month versus a day on the National Day Calendar, but of all the foods Americans eat, burgers seem worthy of the extended period. We eat 50-billion burgers a year in the United States and the average American eats three a week — say what? That’s a lot of burgers! It’s not surprising why so many struggle with obesity.
I’ve posted a few burger recipes on Brisket and Bagels before. One of my favorites is The Big Mess Burger, a six-ounce beef patty topped with bacon, cheddar, onions and grilled pineapple. As the name implies, it’s a mess to eat, but worth the extra napkins. This Ultimate Umami Burger is slightly more refined but I challenge to you make a homemade burger that tastes as savory and delicious.
A few years ago “umami” was the big craze. You’d hear about chefs creating dishes featuring what is often referred to as the 5th taste: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. But that really doesn’t describe it’s flavor profile — the word that best describes it is savory. I’ve designed this burger around umami-rich foods like beef, shiitake mushrooms, cheese, miso, roasted tomatoes and cooked onions. You may or may not be surprised to find out that the compound responsible for the savory flavor is glutamate, that’s right, the same ingredient in MSG! MSG often gets a bad rap but glutamate occurs natural in lots of foods. It’s what gives dry-aged beef its intense flavor. Now I’m not advocating that you buy MSG and add it all your food, but hopefully after reading this you’ll realize: 1. You’ve been eating glutamate for years, 2. It makes food taste good!
The Ultimate Umami Burger isn’t complex to make, but it does take some time and preparation. Slow roasted tomatoes take about 4 hours to cook, but the concentrated tomato flavor is well worth the wait. The tomatoes can be made a day in advance but are delicate and can fall apart if transferred too many times so I don’t recommend it. The cheddar fricos, crispy cheese discs, will keep well as will the miso mayo so these can also be made in advance too.
The next time you’re planning a BBQ or are just in the mood for a great burger, get to the store and buy the ingredients to make my Ultimate Umami Burger.
- One recipe Shiitake Mushroom tapenade
- 4 slices tomato, ⅓ to ½ inch thick, cut from large beefsteak tomato that is 4 to 5 inches diameter
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 ounces cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 Tablespoon white miso
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 4 slices onion, ¼ inch thick, cut from large sweet onion that is 4 inches diameter
- olive oil
- 24 ounces (1½ pounds) ground chuck 80/20
- salt & pepper
- 4 hamburger buns
- 2 cups (1 large handful) arugula
- Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. To a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, place the tomatoes in a singe layer. Drizzle with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for four hours until the tomatoes have shriveled and most of the moisture evaporated.
- Divide the cheese into four 0.5 ounce portions. Preheat a large non-stick frying pan. Working in batches, add the divided cheese portions to the pan to form 4-inch rounds. Cook until the edges have hardened and the frico can be flipped, about 2 minutes. Using an off-set or thin spatula, flip the frico and cook another 30 second or until completely hardened. Transfer to a flat surface lined with paper towels.
- In a small bowel, combine all the ingredients and mix together until combined.
- When you are ready to start cooking the burgers, heat a gas-grill to high heat, or light a charcoal fire until the coals have ashed over and glow bright orange. Brush the onions with olive oil and transfer to the hot grill grate. Cook 5 to 6 minutes per side until the onions begin to char and soften. Attempt to keep the onion as a large slice when flipping, but if it separates, just reassemble after removing from the grill.
- Season the burgers aggressively with salt and pepper. To the same grill the onions were cooked on, place the burgers on the hot grates. Cook 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium rare (140 F) to medium (155 F) or cook to your desired level of doneness. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Allow to rest at least 5 minutes while you begin to assemble the burgers.
- Spread miso mayo on the inside surfaces of the buns. Next layer the buns with one hamburger, a cheddar frico, grilled onion slice, roasted tomato, 1 to 2 tablespoons of tapenade and a small handful of argula. Serve immediately.