Thursday, September 6, 2012

Paula Is Amazed By A $50,000 Burger And I HAVE To Try It

Chinese Chicken Burger with Rainbow Slaw
Paula's Best Dishes with Paula Deen

Burger Showdown

Paula is having a friend in the kitchen with her today – Brigitte Nguyen who won $50,000 for a Chinese Chicken Burger!!! Brigitte thinks it’s just a fun visit to show off her burger, but Paula hasn’t told her that she’s actually going to pit their two burgers against each other in an impromptu cook-off to see who will reign supreme. 

Apparently Brigitte is the host of “From the kitchen of...” I have no clue what that is, but maybe it’s a reworking of Diners, Dives… with less spiky hair. Dunno.

They start with Paula’s Butter Bacon Burger. Brigitte gets to work frying the bacon, while Paula seasons her ground beef with salt, pepper and garlic powder!!!* (See note at end.)  

Next Paula adds her secret ingredient – cold butter. She cuts up A STICK of butter and adds it to the meat so that as the burger cooks, the butter melts and results in a juicy, rich burger. She’s using one stick of butter for 2 pounds of ground beef.

Paula sprays her grill (I wish she didn’t do that) and asks Brigitte if she prefers a thin or thick burger. “I’ll have it any way you make it,” Brigitte says. Paula forms relatively thin burgers and puts them on the hot grill.

Paula says she never thought about participating in cooking contests. Brigitte says, “People have such amazing ideas.” We see the burgers sizzling on the grill. It actually looks like they’re swimming in butter. 

I like a slightly different approach, but using the same idea – putting just a SINGLE pat of butter in the middle of each hamburger. It achieves a similar effect, but with a lot less butter. Ina is one proponent of that method. (Of course, Ina also includes SIX – extra large - egg yolks in her recipe, which definitely cancels out the benefits of the smaller amount of butter. I don’t think hamburgers need egg yolks.) I just like adding some chopped onions, which Paula’s boy does.

Two other little trucs with hamburgers:
Put an ice chip in the middle of each burger to ensure a pink center. 
Add a bit of heavy cream à la James Beard. It guarantees a moist burger.
Paula tells Brigitte that she has inspired her to come up with all kinds of burgers. Paula gives Brigitte a tour of all the hamburgers she’s tried out. There are quite a few on display, the most notable of which is her “Hamdog” - an oval hamburger with a halved hot dog on top between two pieces of white bread.  

Paula gets her buns ready.  Oh, they’re REAL buns that have to be sliced in half. Then - this is smart - she puts them cut side down on the grill to soak up the buttery juices that the hamburgers left behind. I like that idea.

Paula tops the burgers with American cheese. She gives Brigitte the bun and burger and invites her to top it with anything she likes. They both put bacon on and Paula says she uses the things that her mother and grandmother put on the table – mustard and mayonnaise.

Brigitte says that’s why she cooks. “I’m always chasing that memory – that flavor…and when it smells like my mom’s kitchen, that’s when I know I’ve done something right.” Well said. Paula says, “That’s brilliant – chasing memories”.

They finish garnishing their burgers – lettuce, pickles…no ketchup? Brigitte says it’s going to be “a five napkin burger”.  Paula says it’s an elbow licker. Brigitte loves the Butter Bacon Burger. Of course, she does. Paula IS two inches away, but it does look really good.

Next they make Paula’s favorite side dish with burgers – macaroni salad. Brigitte admires Paula’s scoops. Paula says, “Don’t you just love those scoops?” I do too, but they ARE pricey.  $265!!! (That IS with the stand though.)

Paula has Brigitte chopping onions. She does it the classic way - root end on, then horizontal, vertical and downward cuts to produce a perfect dice.

Paula tells her she serves her macaroni salad WARM just like her pa-tay-da salad. Brigitte is impressed. I’m not sure I would like that.

Paula says she MAY HAVE failed to mention something to Brigitte. Brigitte sweetly asks what’s that? Paula basically says she's invited a boatload of people to taste both burgers, so they can have a contest to see who made the better burger. Brigitte calls Paula a “trickster”. Paula can handle it; she’s been called far worse. Brigitte gets over the shock and says it sounds fun.

They finish the macaroni salad with grated carrot (by hand on a box grater).

I really hate my box grater and, honestly, the only time it’s used is when I have someone in the kitchen with lousy cooking skills and I don’t trust them with a knife, food processor or, heaven forbid, my new favorite thing - the mandolin.

They mix the vegetables in a bowl – carrots, onions and celery (including the leaves). I just saw a recipe somewhere else too that uses the leaves of the celery. I never use them OR the inside stalks. They’re too bitter.

Paula adds A LOT of mayo, which she immediately justifies by saying that the pasta will absorb a lot of it.  I think she should just own it. She LIKES mayo. (SO do I. I would have it on toast every morning, if no one were watching.)

Paula lost me when she adds relish and pimento. “Pimentahhh”, Brigitte repeats. To me, jarred pimento is a total waste of space on any supermarket or pantry shelf. There’s only one place where I can stand it - tucked inside olives that get sliced for Chicken Marbella. The little red accents look really pretty.

Brigitte peels the hard boiled eggs. Paula says she normally just “does them up in her hand”. I guess she just squooshes them. But they’re too hot, so she puts them in the bowl and just loosy-goosy smashes them with a fork. Huh? Why?

She’s going to have irregularly-sized pieces of whites and mushed up masses of yolks throughout the salad.  If she wants mashed yolks, why doesn’t she add the yolks to the dressing and then chop up the whites properly and add THAT to the salad? I don’t get it.

Plus let’s be honest - serving the salad WARM and having hardboiled eggs in it is kind of icky.

Paula makes the excellent point that she needs to drain the pasta “real good”, because the elbows in the macaroni hold on to the water. Brigitte gets it. She says that will thin out the nice dressing that Paula made.

Paula pours the pasta into a huge colander and really shakes it with a lot of muscle. “Who said I don’t exercise?!!” she exclaims. It goes back in the pot and she stirs it over heat for a second to really make sure to get rid of the water. They mix everything together, taste it and love it.

They move on to making the $50,000 dollar CHICKEN burger. "CHICKEN???," Paula asks. Yup, says Brigitte. It’s good she brought her own ground chicken. Paula asks her about the win. She won it in 2009 on Derby Day, but not at Churchill Downs.

She has Paula mix together the ground chicken, soy sauce and sugar. SUGAR?!! Paula says. Yup, let’s sweeten it up, Brig says. Sesame oil is the next ingredient and Brigitte asks Paula if she likes sesame oil. She says she does but a little goes a long way. Read that as “I’ll add sesame oil if you tell me to, but my southern friends are SO voting for MY butter burger”.

Brig adds in SIX cloves of (fresh) garlic. How COULD Paula use garlic powder? Ick! Fresh chopped lemongrass and scallions also go in.

Maybe I misread Miss Paula. She says the sesame oil smells good, good, GOOD, as she’s mixing up the whole thing.

(Do you take off your rings when you cook? I love that Paula leaves her huge rocks on even when she’s diving into a mess of raw meat or chicken. The easiest way to lose a ring is to take it off.)

Brigitte tells her to divide it up into six little burgers. She throws them on to her grill pan. Paula has made Brigitte’s burgers really flat and they’re kind of uneven around the edges. Is she doing that to give herself an advantage in the burger contest?

They move on to the rainbow slaw and chat a bit about her big win. Paula says that the contest really changed her life. Brigitte explains that she got a cooking show on the Cooking Channel out of it. Oh, the Cooking Channel... That's why I’m unfamiliar with it. I really need to find out what number that channel is. Brigitte says all these good things came from cooking and entering contests. She seems really sweet.

Paula says,”SOMETIMES to win the game, all you have to do is show up.” I’m glad Brigitte takes that as a compliment. Couldn’t she also be saying it doesn’t matter what crappy thing you make as long as you put yourself out there?

They spend the next few minutes spouting truisms: Paula: “Be willing to SHOW up.” Brigitte: “Get your game face on.”  Paula: “Take a risk. Put yourself on the line.”  Brigitte: “It’s good to do something that scares you every once in a while. You can’t get too comfortable.”

I can’t disagree with any of that, even though I just want to see this $50,000 burger. I didn’t sign up for Tony Roberts in a big grey wig...or a sleek black one.  

Paula is super-impressed with the way Brigitte cuts her red pepper. She tries it herself. Paula cuts the top and bottom off the pepper and cuts down the side “wedging” her knife between the skin and ribs, “unrolling” the pepper as she goes. . She continues on and she’s left with a flat pepper with no center stem or ribs. Very nice.

Paula flips the burgers. She’s kind of burned them. Oh, Brigitte says that’s what she wants - the caramelization from the sugar that she put in the burger.

Brigitte finishes her “Faux Slaw”. She shows Paula the jicama and says you can use cucumbers instead. Paula’s game for the jicama. Brigitte mixes in julienned sugar snap peas, some chili sauce and rice wine vinegar. The chili sauce looks like sriracha. (Oh it is. Good. And that's not in the recipe.) This next step is cool. Right before the chicken burgers come off the grill, Brigitte spreads some hoisin sauce on them. Yum.

Brigitte has Paula add soy sauce to the slaw as she adds sesame oil and a bit of sugar. She makes a spicy mayo with lime zest and juice and a squirt of hot sauce. 

That’s almost my recipe for chili lime mayo, which I put on everything from tortillas and frittatas to…well, actually that IS what I put it on – Spanish tortillas and frittatas. (I leave out the sriracha and put in tons of chili powder, which is the one and only time I don’t cook the chili powder before I use it.)

Paula says (to us) that she’s really, REALLY curious to see what a $50,000 burger tastes like. (She has a bit of an edge in her voice. Let’s she if thinks it was worth it.)

Brigitte puts the spicy mayo on each side of the bun. The burger goes on and is topped with the slaw. Paula takes a BIG bite and says, “It is SO good.” Brigitte says, “Music to my ears.” But then immediately after, Paula asks if she’s up to the competition. Brigitte says she’s ready.

Paula puts her hands on Brigitte’s shoulders and looks into her eyes and says, “No matter how this ends, we will still be friends.” She neglects to mention that she will never speak again to the people who dare to vote for Brigitte’s burger…but with Brigitte, she’ll be fine. Paula adds, “I will try not to get mad.” Then she gives a huge cackle. I think it may be all right, no matter the outcome.

They go out to the (beautiful) outdoor kitchen. Paula introduces Brigitte to her (bestest) friends – Coach Sam, Carolyn, Brandon, Donna and Sarah. Yeah, sure, Brigitte has a chance…Not! They dig in to each burger. Paula says (to us) she’s really not sure which one will be chosen. She says, “I could lose, y’all.”

Oh gosh, who’s going to win? I say they’ll tie. Let’s see:

Sam says he gives “1 pec dance” to the first burger and 2 to the second burger. I'm not sure which is which...

Paula gets a turn. She does? And she gives the same points to each WITH a pec dance thrown in. (THAT'S a sight!) Carolyn and Donna vote for the chicken burger, because it's so different. Brandon chooses the chicken burger saying it was like a party in his mouth. Brigitte votes for the classic butter burger. (Of course, she does. She knows which side of the bun her mayo is on…or however that goes.)

Paula says that means they’re tied – so I guess the Coach voted for hers and Paula's vote was cancelled out. Sarah has to break the tie. She votes for the chicken burger. Paula tells them whose burger was whose. I wonder if they really didn’t know. AND she tells them that Brigitte won $50,000 for this burger. Donna says WOW!!!

Paula says she will happily come in second and she says Brigitte’s burger really was unique and quite delicious. I love a gracious loser. Actually, I like a gracious winner too and Brigitte was that and more.

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I had to try this recipe. The burger was pretty fabulous and so were the extras.

A few notes: I ground my own chicken breasts, (that sounds like something Paula would say) by pulsing them in the food processor. There are a lot of liquid-y additions and so the mixture is pretty soft, but just do the best you can shaping it.

I wish I had made my burgers thinner like Paula did, because I had a bit of a hard time deciding when they were done. They definitely were not cooked inside when the outside was a gorgeous crusty (not burned) brown, so making them thinner would have helped.   


The dressing for the slaw was delicious, but I used whatever vegetables I wanted – red cabbage, red pepper and snow peas. Darn good. And the mayo was wonderful.

Was this recipe worth $50,000? Well, it wasn’t my money and I mightily enjoyed the burger and will be making them again, so, sure, why not? 

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*I feel there’s only one place for garlic powder and that’s in a rub used in blackened chicken, fish, or whatever. Real garlic would burn and turn bitter long before you got the blackened color you were after. 


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I'm always looking for ways to jazz up boring poultry burgers and both ideas sound great. I think I'll stick to your method for the butter though. Paula overdoes it as usual. Not so sure how I feel about the mayo though. SPP and I strongly dislike that stuff. I'd be shying away from the macaroni salad because of that as well.

I do hope Paula doesn't get into legal trouble over the Five Napkin Burger comment. The restaurant could sue her. :)

Paula doesn't take off her rings when mixing raw meant? Ewwwwwwwww! Salmonella hands! I hope she at least cleans her rings right after cooking and washes her rindless hands to wash off the under-ring residue!

Sue said...

Hey Rach,
I really think you'll like the flavor of these burgers.

I can't believe I never heard of Five Napkin Burger! What a great name!

Now, look, there is no one more obsessed with bacteria and ick in the kitchen than I am, but I know what happens (or will eventually happen one day) when you take your rings off. They'll get lost, fall down the drain or swiped. I wash my hands well at every stage of cooking and so I'm not concerned about anything left on or under my (considerably smaller than Paula's) rings.

Abandoned By Wolves said...

I knew about the sugar trick from the first Dave Lieberman cookbook - it really adds a lot to the results. But I love the idea of putting just a pat of butter in the middle of the pattie - definitely giving that a try.

Educational and entertaining as always, Sue, many thanks for such an excellent post.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it fun when you see a recipe that looks so good you have to try it? Happens less frequently to me with the Food Network these days, though. Good to know these burgers have your seal of approval -- I'll try them next week.

Sue said...

Hi James,
That was new to me...adding sugar to a hamburger mixture, but it does make a nice char on the outside.

Thank YOU so much for taking the time to comment. I'm always interested to hear what you have to say.

Let me know what you think. Don't make them too fat, though. It's easier to be assured that they're cooked through when they're on the thinner side.

Emily said...

I'm so glad you recapped this episode. I wanted to see it but I forgot. I've met Brigitte! She's very nice and friendly. That chicken burger looks great!

Brigitte said...

Brigitte here! I could NOT love this recap more. Sue, you are amazing. Talk about a play-by-play, step-by-step, laboriously recapped episode. Beautifully done and your hard work is much appreciated. I'll be forwarding this link to all my friends & family who missed the episode, as you've summed it up better than I ever could. You've got a new reader here! Thank you so much for watching and for giving my recipe some shout-outs!!!

p.s. hi Emily!!

Sue said...

Welcome, Brigitte! And thank you so much for your kind words. Yes, I admit I like to watch and analyse every little thing that goes on....and I LOVE to kibbutz. There's always so much to say...and learn.

I thought you were positively charming on the episode and I really did LOVE your burgers. I'm sure cooking with Paula was the most fabulous experience. She must have been a riot to cook with.

Stop by anytime and congratulations on all your success. It's definitely deserved.