Alex Guarnaschelli Blogs: How to Craft the Perfect Burger (Cheese Sauce Included!)

07/21/2015 at 04:12 PM ET

Alex Guarnaschelli
Courtesy Alex Guarnaschelli; Inset: Food Network

Alex Guarnaschelli is an Iron Chef, Food Network celebrity chef, author of Old-School Comfort Food and the executive chef at New York City’s Butter restaurants. Read her PEOPLE.com blog every Tuesday to get her professional cooking tips, family-favorite recipes and personal stories of working in front of the camera and behind the kitchen doors. Follow her on Twitter at @guarnaschelli.

The most important choice when setting out to make a great hamburger lies with the meat. My mother loves chuck and brisket. She thinks meat shouldn’t be overly lean, and I agree.

My favorite, if given a choice, is chuck, brisket and short rib ground together. There is something about these “3 Stooges” of beef cuts that creates the perfect burger blend, and while I would love to take credit, I can’t. I got the idea from a great butcher friend of mine. He and I have also discussed that having the burger patty be close to the bun size (and not too much smaller) is important so that the first bite is meat plus bun and not just a big bite of bread!  Such a simple concept that took me a long time to realize is so important in burger crafting.

Alex Guarnaschelli
Courtesy Alex Guarnaschelli

I like this burger recipe because it varies slightly from the usual. I usually put the cheese sauce in a small pitcher and have my friends pour it for themselves. I often make the sauce in advance and let it sit so that the flavors develop more. I don’t, however, recommend making it and the refrigerating overnight. It is a tough sauce to reheat. The cheese sauce gives a little variety and fun, although I love some classic cheese slices melted over a burger too.

The onions, mustard and cheese in this recipe also come together and take me in a different direction than the plain burger (love that too) or one with ketchup (not ashamed to admit I love that too), and while there isn’t really one ultimate burger for me, I enjoy a mix of different burgers. I also don’t always use seeded rolls (so may decisions with hamburgers!) because the texture and richness of the seeds is nice with the cheese sauce. We Americans take our burgers seriously and with good reason. Hope you like this one…

Alex Guarnaschelli
Courtesy Alex Guarnaschelli

Alex Guarnaschelli’s Burger with Cheese Sauce
Serves 4

For the onions:
2 medium red onions, cut into ½-inch rounds
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, soft
Kosher salt
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

For the Cheese Sauce:
2 large cloves garlic, minced
½ cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. grainy mustard
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. Paprika
Worcestershire sauce
Hot sauce

For the burger:
1 ½ lbs. ground beef (preferably chuck and not too lean)
1 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
4 seeded hamburger rolls, halved
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 small Serrano chili, cut into very fine slices. For milder heat, don’t include ribs or seeds when topping the burgers

1. Preheat the grill.

2. Prepare the onions: When hot, toss the onions slices with the butter and a generous pinch of salt. Place them on a medium to low heat part of the grill to char slowly. When the onions are tender, 12-15 minutes, remove them from the grill and toss them with the red wine vinegar. Set aside.

3. Make the cheese sauce: In a medium saucepan, combine the garlic, milk, cream, mustard, Gruyere and Parmesan with a generous pinch of salt and the paprika. Stir to blend. Warm over low heat, whisking, until the cheese melts and the sauce become smooth, 8-10 minutes. Stir in a splash of Worcestershire and a splash of hot sauce. Taste for seasoning.

4. Make the hamburger mix: In a medium bowl, break up the meat and spread it up on the sides so that the seasoning really permeates the meat. Season generously with salt and add the Worcestershire. Mix with your hands to make sure all of the flavors get integrated. Form the meat into four even patties that are about ¾ inch thick. Take care not to overwork the meat here. It can toughen the texture of your burger!

5. Cook and assemble the burgers: Place the hamburgers on the hottest part of the grill and cook, undisturbed, for about 3-4 minutes. Turn them a quarter turn and cook for 2 more minutes. Use a metal spatula to flip them on their second side and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes for rare to medium rare. Toast the bun halves on the coolest part of the grill. Place a hamburger on a “bottom” bun half and top with grilled onions and Serrano chili slices. Pour some of the cheese fondue over the meat. Top with a bun “top”. Devour.

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