Three straight burgers, all of them on identical pretzel rolls? Yes. I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a freakin’ global pandemic. I’ll try to mix it up next week, but I’ve apparently got more ground beef than Wendy’s does right now and I’m aiming to make good use of it.
The sandwich: The Great Caesar’s Ghost Burger. That’s what I’m calling it.
The construction: Two ground-beef patties, made with ground beef from Crowd Cow (which is providing more or less all my meat right now, and where we both can get $25 worth of meat if you use my referral code), with bacon, cucumbers, melted Babybel cheese, and a sauce I’ll tell you more about in the next section.
Why Babybel cheese? Because I had some in my fridge, my kid doesn’t seem to like it quite as much for a snack as he likes cheddar cheese sticks, and because I figured (accurately) it would melt well. Slicing it up into enough pieces to cover the surface of a burger patty was kind of a pain in the ass.
I still have no idea if there’s any actual science behind the idea of making “smashburgers” instead of just forming burgers into patties and throwing them on the grill, but I found a recipe online that boldly called for mixing melted butter into the ground beef so I mostly followed that for the burgers. I didn’t have any Worcestershire sauce on hand, so I replaced it with a mixture of soy sauce and hot sauce. I did have fish sauce on hand and I’ve been looking for an excuse to get rid of it, so I incorporated it, per the recipe, even though I find the smell of fish sauce extremely unpleasant. I know that I love a lot of foods made with fish sauce, but I think I prefer it as a don’t ask, don’t tell type of thing.
Important background information: I’m not about to aimlessly wander the grocery store looking for inspiration right now, so instead I turned to the wealth of mostly empty condiment bottles on my refrigerator door. And while looking them over, it struck me that, where blue cheese dressing and ranch dressing and certainly Russian dressing are very often used as dips or spreads, we pretty much only use Caesar dressing for Caesar salads. I’ve had chicken Caesar wraps, for sure, but I think those are the only sandwiches I’ve ever had with that particular salad dressing on top.
Why? It’s delicious.
For this sauce, I was essentially looking to create the Caesar dressing equivalent of Buffalo Ranch — something that married the creamy texture and tangy flavor of the dressing with a spicy, vinegary hot sauce.
I started by mixing Caesar dressing, Cholula and black pepper, but after tasting it decided it needed something sweet in there to take some of the edge off. So I mixed in some relish. Is that weird? Definitely sounds weird, but it turns out to be a pretty delicious sauce.
What it looks like:
It’s smiling back at you.
How it tastes: Pretty damn good.
First things first, I did a nice job on the burger patties. When you’re cooking them over a super hot cast-iron grill, as I am, it sort of requires a leap of faith to pull them as quickly as you need to pull them. I did not let these linger on the heat, and I think my timing and all the butter that was mixed in to the beef conspired to make for a deliciously juicy burger.
Babybel cheese, in a pinch, turns out to be a fine, if mild, burger cheese. It offered some creaminess and some saltiness, but its flavor mostly lingered in the background behind the more powerful ones, like bacon. Bacon remains excellent. Really can’t say enough about bacon.
I tweeted a photo of this burger yesterday, and a couple of people criticized my use of pickle slices on the burger. These people are flat-out wrong, and their closed-mindedness is negatively affecting their enjoyment of this world. I first encountered sliced cucumbers on a burger at a McDonald’s in China, of all places, but I took note even there that they were a surprisingly tasty way to add texture. I love pickles, too, and I’m not here to bash pickles. But pickles — and I’m sorry if I’m the one to break this to you — are cucumbers, and it’s bizarre that some people might only see cucumbers as an acceptable burger topping if they’re brined.
And the sauce, if I do say so myself, is delicious. It definitely maintains that unmistakable cheesy, tangy Caesar flavor, but it’s also spicy, and it tastes totally appropriate on a burger. I’d make this sauce again, and probably will, seeing as I still have Caesar, Cholula and relish in the fridge.
The main thing holding the burger back is the presence of the fish sauce. I didn’t tell my wife it was in there until after she finished eating, and she said she hadn’t noticed. But I totally noticed. I still enjoyed the burger, but every now and then I got a fish-sauce aftertaste that I wished wasn’t involved. I think I might have still had the smell of fish sauce on my hands.
Hall of fame? Nope, just a really good burger.