THIS, my friend, is a Fried Green Tomato, Bacon, Egg, and Cheddar Burger.
After recently moving south of the Mason Dixon Line, I've been introduced to the wonder and beauty of fried green tomatoes as a burger topping. Truly, nothing beats the combination of salty, crunchy and juicy of a nicely breaded and fried tomato between two all-beef patties.
Unripe green tomatoes may be hard to find this late in the season, but this is still something you should know about and try any time you can get your hands on some.
1. First, form your burgers.
This is a monster of a burger because...well, because I like eating monster burgers, okay? To make a monster burger you need AT LEAST a pound of ground beef (meaning a half pound per patty). And don't be afraid to drastically exceed that amount.
Break the pound of ground beef into two chunks and form two nicely shaped patties, around 5-6 inches in diameter and 3⁄4 of an inch thick. I purchased pre-made 80% / 20% fresh (not frozen) beef patties. That means the ground beef is 80% lean and 20% fat, which is perfect for burger-making.
Season the patties vigorously with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to add an extra kick. Set aside and get ready to fry some tomatoes.
2. Set up a breading station.
For a standard breading setup, you'll need three bowls. Exact amounts for all these ingredients are in the full recipe at the bottom of this post.
1. In one bowl, whisk together two eggs, buttermilk, and hot sauce.
2. In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs and cornmeal with the salt and pepper.
3. Put all-purpose flour in the third bowl.
Arrange the bowls from left to right as follows: flour, egg/buttermilk, breadcrumb/cornmeal.
3. Slice the tomato into rounds about half an inch thick.
You'll need a relatively nice, big tomato (I used a green heirloom tomato because they're nicely sized). For frying, you're not looking for a particularly ripe tomato; you want one that is firm enough to hold up to breading and hot oil. Once it's fried it will be plenty tender.
4. Bread and fry the tomatoes.
5. Resist the urge to eat all the tomatoes immediately.
6. Set out the rest of the ingredients before you start cooking.
Make sure you know where everything is (that's called "mise en place," Chef) and have everything within reach. Slice the bun of your choice, mix together two tablespoons of mayonnaise and one tablespoon of hot sauce (trust me), grab your cheese, cut your lettuce, gather your bacon and egg.
This is my biggest recommendation for any cooking task. Just like in a professional kitchen, bringing all the components together at the same time is the ideal way to finish any dish. Get used to paying attention to two or three pans all working at the same time. Get larger tasks out of the way, like frying the tomatoes and gathering all ingredients, and then work the burgers, bacon, and eggs all at once so that they're all hot at the end.
7. Start cooking your burgers.
I know everybody pictures a backyard barbecue when you talk about cooking burgers, but if you've never made a classic, diner-style seared burger, you don't know what you're missing. It's deliciously crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside. You won't miss the grill-marks, promise.
Even without a restaurant-style flat-top "grill" at home (essentially a huge, rectangular griddle), you can get a similar result by using a black cast iron skillet, or even a non-stick sauté pan. In this case, I use a cast iron skillet, because of its relative size to the burger patties — it's large enough to cook both patties at once without the worry of losing a lot of pan heat.
To get a good sear on the outside of the burger, add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and get it hot. I'm talking seriously hot. When you place the burgers in the pan, you should hear a healthy hiss of that outer layer of beef getting nice and crispy. Cook the burger for about 3 minutes on each side to get a nice medium rare — or as long as you want, depending on how you like your meat cooked.
8. Cook your egg and bacon at the same time.
I like crispy bacon, so I start out with a little oil in a hot pan and lay the bacon in it at a medium to high heat to attain a quick crisp.
For an over easy egg, melt a little bit of butter in a non-stick omelet pan, crack the egg in at a low heat, and let it slowly cook from the bottom up without flipping.
9. For the last minute of cooking time on your patties, add a slice of cheese.
So the radiant heat of the pan and burger perfectly melts it on top.
10. Now, the moment has arrived: Assemble your monster burger!
Slather the bun with spicy mayo, and get ready to build a tower of taste. The order of building from the bottom up should be as follows:
1. bottom bun
5. two slices of bacon
9. more bacon
10. fried egg
12. top bun
Now revel in the beauty.
How do you eat it, you ask? However you want, by doing whatever it takes.
Fried Green Tomato, Bacon, Egg, And Cheddar Burger
For the burger patties:
1 pound ground beef (80% lean, 20% fat)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
freshly ground pepper
For the fried tomatoes:
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 large green tomato
2 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
For the burger assembly:
1 sesame-seed burger bun
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon hot sauce
2 slices white cheddar cheese
a few leaves of lettuce
1 large egg
4 slices thick cut bacon
1. Divide the beef into two equal halves and form two burger patties, around 5-6 inches in diameter and 3⁄4 of an inch thick. Mix together kosher salt, garlic powder and some freshly ground pepper (to taste), then season the patties on both sides with the mixture. Set patties aside on a plate.
2. Set up a 3-bowl breading station for the fried green tomatoes: In one bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and 1 tablespoon hot sauce together in a bowl. In a second bowl, stir together bread crumbs, cornmeal, kosher salt and pepper. Put the flour in a third bowl.
3. Arrange the bowls from left to right as follows: flour, egg/buttermilk, breadcrumb/cornmeal.
4. Slice the green tomato into rounds about 1/2-inch thick. Then, while keeping one hand dry at all times, coat the tomato in flour first (shaking off the excess), dunk it in the egg/buttermilk mixture (make sure it's thoroughly coated), and then completely cover in the cornmeal/breadcrumb mixture.
4. In the meantime, heat up the vegetable oil in a large, heavy skillet on the stove. The amount needed may vary, but the oil should reach halfway up the side of the tomatoes, about 1/4-inch deep.
5. Once the oil is hot (test with a pinch of breadcrumbs to see if they sizzle), carefully drop two tomato slices in at a time and cook for about 1 minute on each side, or until golden-brown. Line a plate with paper towels and lay out the newly fried tomatoes on it to absorb excess oil.
6. Slice your burger bun, mix together mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon of hot sauce (trust me), grab your cheese, cut your lettuce, and gather your bacon and egg.
7. Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of a large cast-iron skillet, and heat it until seriously hot. Place the burgers in the pan and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, to medium rare. For the last minute of cooking time, lay a slice of cheese on each patty to let it melt.
8. While beef patties are cooking, make the bacon and egg. For crispy bacon, start out with a little oil in a hot pan and lay the bacon in it at a medium-to-high heat to attain a quick crisp. For an over-easy egg, melt a little bit of butter in a non-stick pan, crack the egg in at a low heat, and let it slowly cook from the bottom up without flipping.
9. Assemble: Slather your bun with spicy mayo, and then layer as follows: burger, cheese, tomato, two slices of bacon, burger, cheese, tomato, bacon, egg, lettuce, top bun.
Jim Stein cooks on the line at McCrady's restaurant in Charleston, SC (training under James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock). On his days off, Stein makes sandwiches because they are cheap and easy.