I lose hours of my week reading burger blogs, perving over buns, mustard and juicy, pink meat. I thought I knew about the burger, but that was until I went to dinner at Mishkin’s, a kind-of Jewish deli in Covent Garden.
The menu understates it, but then it’s the kind of place you expect understatement: 3oz steamed beef patty with onions and Swiss cheese. £5. I ordered it, obviously. It came alone in the middle of a small white plate. It looked a bit sorry for itself; it’s only just bigger than slider-size, but it also looked beautiful: the onions were falling out, mixing with the melting cheese; the bun looked full of juice, shiny or wet; the beef was a little meatball-like hunk (check out this photo). And it was delicious. So delicious I wanted to try and recreate it.
This is the first time I’ve left a restaurant and tried to work out how a dish was made so that I could recreate it. For me, the flavour in this was from the intensely savoury and sweet onions, their juices getting everywhere, loading the bun and the meat with their rich depth. I had to nail that part.
So I made braised onions. Lots of white onions, sliced really fat, softened in butter with sugar, thyme, salt and pepper, beef stock on top, left to cook for an hour, then cooled until needed. Then the burger: just beef mince and seasoning, seared on the outside and then braised in the onions, lid still on the pan (I did this for 10 minutes but next time I’d go for much longer to get it even juicier, I’d also have more onions so the beef is fully immersed). Some gruyere cheese piled on top of the meat a few minutes from the end, while I left it to rest. Loaded on top of a bun, onion juice everywhere, cheese melting all over.
This is not a clean burger to eat. This is the sort of burger you eat alone where you swear and sweat and cheer because it’s so disgustingly good. The rich, savouriness of the onion is incredible and cooking the beef in the stock sucks up that flavour. It wasn’t as good as the Mishkin’s beef patty, and it probably wasn't how they made it, as this photo shows, but that just makes me want to go back there and order another.