Chef Tim Davis, of Caesars Atlantic City’s Seven Star Lounge, recently prevailed at an in-house corporate national burger challenge involving several hundred competitors from restaurants around the country called the Best Burger Battle 2012.
The meat must be allowed time to properly caramelize and crust, while simultaneously maintaining structure. Five minutes later, the burger gets flipped and finished in a 300-degree oven after, of course, the addition of another essential ingredient, cheese, specifically Cooper Sharp.
The chef splits two pieces lengthwise, creating a double-thick layer, which decadently oozes and melts while the meat roasts. Cooked to an internal temp of 125 degrees, it arrives a marvelously messy medium just prior to a brief respite.
“Equally important is that it gets to sit and rest for three to five minutes,” says Davis.
Once internal juices have fully recirculated, Davis applies his own signature finishing flourishes. These include an onion Brioche bun, heirloom tomatoes and mixed field greens.
But it is a pair of porky add-ons that supply the “oomph” that makes this such a special sandwich.
First, maple syrup candied apple-wood smoked bacon. Sure, that’s a mouthful. So is the taste. Slices of pork belly are painted with amber maple syrup, then slowly sizzled in an oven until just shy of crisp. They get cross-hatched atop the burger, sweet, salty and with just enough textural difference from the ground meat to be really glorious.
Then there is Davis’ true work of genius — a Vidalia onion, bacon and bourbon spread. Trust us folks, this ain’t yer standard special sauce.
Onions get caramelized, and blended with fully cooked, chopped bacon plus liquor. This mixture is allowed to reduce until thickened and cooled. Mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, ketchup, honey and Worcestershire sauce join the fray and the finished product is refrigerated for a day to allow all those diverse elements time to frolic together.
The ensuing masterpiece is a complex, sticky condiment that had us licking the excess off a plate after sampling.
Perhaps the coolest thing about this gastronomic adventure is Davis sharing the entire process with the world via a YouTube instructional video (Google search “Chef Tim’s Burger Recipe for Best Burger Battle 2012”).
If there is any one quality that defines great cooking, it just might be courage. Restaurateurs are largely by nature risk-takers, willing to push and prod their enterprises forward.