Sean Brock of Husk Restaurant, a gourmet food destination in Charleston, creates amazing cuisine, and like me is a lover of Allan Benton and his Smoky Mountain Country hams and bacon, procured in Madisonville, Tennessee. When he opened Husk he says, ” I knew we had to have a cheeseburger on the menu!”
I met Sean when he worked under John Fleer at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee, an incredible award-winning luxury bed & breakfast in the hills of the Smoky Mountains.
In the late 90’s at Blackberry Farm is where I found my passion for Benton’s Country Ham. In early 2000 I met Allan Benton and his wife at his first ever appearance, a Wine & Bacon Tasting in the property owners home. Allan’s eyes welled with tears that the guests in front of him cared enough about him, his story and product to listen. To this day he is one of the most humble gentlemen I’ve had the pleasure to meet, as is Brock.
If in Charleston, plan to sit at the bar at Husk and order a cheeseburger. It’s served on a Benne Seed bun with two patties, three layers of American cheese, house-made pickles, thin onions and a uniquely delicious special sauce. The other special ingredient… the meat is ground in house with 10% Benton’s Bacon, adding to the smoky flavor.
Brock says, ” Everyone has their own idea of the perfect burger; mine was inspired by the drive-in that my family used to take me to when I was young. Robo’s was the only real “restaurant” in my hometown, and my family just loved it. We would go there after my Little League baseball games. As a game wound down, I would be daydreaming about that burger, shake, and crinkle-cut fries. It’s probably the reason for some missed fly balls.”
If you don’t have a meat grinder for this recipe, ask your local butcher to grind the meats for you.
If you are a fan of Sean Brock, check out his new cookbook Heritage, and watch Mind Of A Chef, a show on PBS , narrated and produced by Anthony Bourdain. Brock was in season 2. I caught it on Netflix starting with season one: David Chang.
1¾ cups mayonnaise, preferably Duke’s
1¼ cups yellow mustard
5 tablespoons ketchup
½ cup Bread-and-Butter Pickles, drained and cut into ⅛-inch dice
¼ cup pickled jalapeños, drained and cut into ⅛-inch dice
Grated zest (use a Microplane) and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon Husk Hot Sauce (or other hot sauce)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons pepper vinegar, preferably Texas Pete brand
One 3-pound fresh boneless chuck roast
12 ounces fresh flank steak
3 ounces bacon, preferably Benton’s
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
10 hamburger buns, preferably potato rolls
1 cup shaved white onion
20 slices American cheese
50 Bread-and-Butter Pickles
For the sauce:
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large container and stir together to blend well. Cover, and refrigerate. (Tightly covered, the sauce will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.)
For the cheeseburgers:
1. Grind the chuck, flank steak, and bacon through a meat grinder fitted with the large die into a bowl. Mix gently to combine. Then run half of the mixture through the small die. Mix the two together.
2. Portion the meat mixture into twenty 3-ounce patties, about ½ inch thick (each burger gets 2 patties). If not cooking right away, arrange on a baking sheet, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. (The patties can be refrigerated for up to 1 day. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook; it’s important that the patties are not ice-cold when they hit the hot pan.)
3. Generously butter the tops and bottoms of the buns. Toast on a griddle until nice and golden brown. Reserve.
4. Heat two 12-inch cast-iron skillets until as hot as possible. Divide the patties between the two hot pans. When the patties are nice and charred, about 2 minutes, flip them over and cook for 2 minutes more for medium. Place the onion slices on 10 of the patties. Place a slice of the cheese on all of the patties and allow it to melt, about 30 seconds. Stack the non-onion patties on top of the onion patties. Remove from the heat.
5. Smear both sides of the buns with special sauce. Place 5 pickles on the bottom half of each bun. Add the burger patties and top with the top halves of the buns. Serve at once.
Excerpted from Heritage by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Peter Frank Edwards