A great hamburger starts with great ground beef, says David Walzog, executive chef at SW Steakhouse at Wynn Las Vegas. He advocates ground-to-order beef with at least 20 percent fat content, seasoned generously with salt and pepper. "After that, it doesn't need much else," he says—just a sturdy bun and sauce that won't overpower the beef, like this sweet-and-sour red onion compote. To make the juiciest burger possible, Walzog says to shape the patty gently and make a small indentation in the center; this ensures even cooking as the burger swells during cooking.
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Red Onion Compote
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ground coriander
3 medium red onions, finely diced (3 cups)
2 cups dry red wine
1 cup sugar
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
3/4 teaspoon ground juniper berries
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 pounds ground chuck
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 kaiser or brioche rolls, split and toasted
Lettuce leaves (optional)
How to Make It
In a medium saucepan, heat the vegetable oil. Add the coriander and cook over moderate heat for 30 seconds. Add the red onions, wine, sugar, bay leaves, orange zest, juniper berries, thyme and orange juice and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and is reduced to 2 cups, about 1 hour. Let the compote cool to room temperature. Discard the bay leaves and season with salt.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet. Gently form the ground chuck into four 4-inch patties about 1 1/2 inches thick. Make a 1/2-inch indention in the center of each patty and season generously with salt and pepper. When the skillet is hot, add the patties and cook over moderately high heat until browned, 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer them to a large plate and let rest for 5 minutes.
Place the hamburgers on the toasted brioche buns, top with the compote, garnish with lettuce and serve.
The red onion compote can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Juicy burgers love a juicy young Chianti.
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