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A couple of Sunday’s ago, on a lunch break at Whole Foods I caught an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay, and while I am not a fan of the show or its premise I shelved my distaste and decided to stomach the program since the subject matter was quite enthralling—hamburgers. I gleaned a lot of useful information from the program and was eager to prepare my own homemade hamburgers and apply the newfound techniques to my creation.

When I make homemade burgers, they come in three stages: conceptualizing the burger, sourcing its ingredients and then preparing it. I need to think about what style I am after, then I need to purchase the necessary ingredients to bring it to fruition and finally amass those individual components and create a cohesive and satisfying unit. May sound scientific but it is a simple process that requires little culinary skill and can yield big results as long as you are efficient and focused.

At the check stand, after my lunch break I had plenty of time to have my perfect burger (particular to that day) fester, the thought consumed me.  In my mind I ran through favorable styles that I had recently encountered like blending cuts of meat or infusing the patty with herbs or peppers but ultimately simplicity reigned supreme. I was also able to recall Mr. Flay’s advice about not complicating the meat, just rely on the seasoning. On my final break I selected some ground beef, and would combine it with some sautéed mushrooms, raw red onion, heirloom tomato, romaine lettuce and a few bread and butter pickles all on a bun.

The preparation—or second step—came when I got home, washing my hands and rummaging through my ingredients. Unloading my groceries, I sorted them; the vegetables were shifted to my bamboo cutting board after rinsing thoroughly, while the meat was unpacked. I quickly formed patties and applied generous amounts of kosher salt to both sides of the meat with a few cracks of fresh pepper per side. I had my large sauté pan heating while I was slicing vegetables. At this time I began sautéing the mushrooms with a lot of oil. Then when I deemed it warm enough, I threw in some oil to my large sauté pan and had the patties start searing at high heat for two minutes per side. After the short cooking time, I transferred the patties to a plate to rest the meat and began assembling the assortment of vegetables.

After ten minutes I had a gorgeous looking burger and popped open a bottle of Hawkes Merlot to pair with it—I was short on appropriate pairing partners at my apartment. The patty, as Mr. Flay emphatically insisted it would be from following his technique, was crusted perfectly. Mr. Flay also stated to not press down on the patty with a spatula, as is so often the case when people make homemade burgers—I followed his techniques to burger bliss. My burger was to taste so it would not be fair to say it was amazing—though it was my best effort hamburger—however the execution of the meat—cooking it to a perfect medium—it made me ecstatic, the burger was dripping, juicy and charred. The wine was not a perfect match but at least it provided some structure.

Homemade hamburgers have the potential to be the best, they are easy to prepare and extremely rewarding. They satisfy many demands, and if you are rooted in busy city life without a moment to spare then consider this: substantial food, quick preparation time, and they are very affordable making it a go-to choice. Rarely does a food item get better.

Dust off and fire up those barbecues—assuming you ever put them away—because the weather ahead is typical California, sunshine and heat waves are on the horizon. The sun was out on the past weekend; it was the perfect weather for firing up the grill and basking in the warm rays after an extended period of gloom.

I was invited to an ambitious meal on that Friday night to celebrate the occasion. On that night’s menu were coffee rubbed burgers with bacon, onions, thin wedges of tomatoes and sharp cheddar cheese all crammed in a potato bun with a generous helping of tantalizing chipotle sauce (made from scratch) for the condiment. I could not go empty handed, I just couldn’t, so I brought a bottle of Malbec to pair with the subtle notes of coffee on the patty and matchup with the sauce, at least that is what I was hoping for.

I was excited about the outing, being invited to spend time with close friends is always awesome, and of course eating a favorite food, that too makes any event that much better. When I first learned of the burger that would be served, I was a little skeptical because too many flavors can crowd the palate, overwhelming the taste buds. It was not too daring but the sauce and bacon were going to be heavy and hard to compete with. This left me to recount—mentally—all the failed burgers I have eaten because they were too bold, the ideas too grand. This burger however was well thought out.

When the burger made the plate I took a ceremonial picture (to officially mark the beginning of the season) and then dug in. Upon first bite the flavors were rich and well balanced; the tang from the sauce was mildly piquant and married the flavors of the coffee rub perfectly. The barbecuing also helped melt the rub into the ground meat, saturating the beef with complexity, which was quite savory. The texture of the meat was firm, not too crisp from the charred exterior of the patty lending to the depth of the burger. It was the best homemade hamburger I have had—it got better with each bite. A lot of time and trouble went into making that epicurean delight and each person polished their plates—so the chef (a friend’s girlfriend) could take pride in the fact that her guests were enraptured.

The Malbec—Doña Paula 2007 from Argentina, redolent of dark berries, currants and a little chocolate cocoa coated the tongue like a cashmere jacket. It has been a favorite wine of mine for a few years for the following reasons: it is affordable, approachable and consistent. The big fruit flavors are intense hitting your mouth instantly and they held up pretty well to the chipotle sauce on that burger. The wine is even satisfying on its own but it gets better when it is paired with matching flavors.

It was a nice night, punctuated by a fantastic homemade barbecue burger. This was a great way to kickoff the barbecue season and I sure hope it will be a long one if this is any sign of things to come.

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