Yes, like most North Americans, I enjoy a good cheeseburger. The key word is good. A generation of mediocre fast food approximations have lowered the standard to a point that people are in a state of shock when they have a good cheeseburger. Hand-forming quality ground beef into patties take no time. Grilling on an outdoor BBQ or indoor grill or cast iron pan takes less time than sitting in a drive thru line-up after rush hour traffic.
Then why do so many people take that route? Most people don’t think about the food they consume, as they consume it. This level of gastronomic disconnect has led to this lowering of the standard. Focusing on each meal, making it more important, will allow us to raise that standard to something better. Something more delicious. Something worth doing.
During one of my mindful moments making my own sliders for lunch, I left aside a small ball of ground beef and had a thought, “How can I incorporate the flavours of a good cheeseburger into a salad?”
My thoughts went to a combination between an Italian arancini and the Hungarian fasirozott. The idea where a fried ball of something was stuffed with cheese. With arancini the “stuff” inside is leftover risotto. With fasirozott the “stuff” is garlicky ground pork. I thought if I made a cheeseburger “crouton” I could dress a salad with the usual “trimmings” you get on a burger (lettuce, tomato, onion, relish). I’m also lucky to have a local cheesemaker who makes a mustard seed-infused gouda cheese so adding the mustard element came naturally inside the cheeseburger “crouton.”
For the Cheeseburger “Crouton”:
150g/5-6 oz Sunshine Organic lean ground beef
50g/2 oz Sylvan Star Cheese Farm mustard seed gouda
1/4 cup Gold Forest Grains red fife flour
1 Sunshine Organic large egg
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp Gold Forest Grains flax seeds
1 Tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
Divide the ground beef into 12 equal sized portions. Form each into a rough meatball. Stuff the centre with a bit of the finely cubed gouda.
Pinch a seam over the cheese to encapsulate it inside the meatball and roll it into a ball shape. Repeat with the remaining meatballs.
In three small bowls, add the flour in one bowl, the egg beaten with a bit of water in another bowl, and in the third bowl, add the breadcrumbs, flax seed, paprika, garlic powder and salt. Dredge each meatball in flour, then egg-water mixture, then the breadcrumb-flax mixture. Repeat with all the meatballs. Allow to sit for 15 minutes to allow the breading to adhere properly before frying.
In a small pot outfitted with a candy thermometer, bring 1 cup of oil to a temperature of 190C/360F. Fry the breaded meatballs for 4-5 minutes until deeply golden. The meat will be a medium rare inside, so using a quality ground beef is more important than ever in this recipe. Drain on paper towels and set aside while preparing the salad portion.
For the salad:
1/4 cup Bles Wold plain yogurt
2 Tbsp Edgar Farms asparagus relish
4 cups Sparrows Nest Organics spinach
1 Doef’s Greenhouses medium tomato, coarsely chopped
2 Peas On Earth green onions, finely sliced
In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt and relish together with a fork. Add the spinach, tomato and green onions. Toss with the dressing until lightly coated throughout. To serve, take a handful of tossed salad on each plate, top with three fried cheeseburger “croutons.” Serves 4