Simple Art of Cooking: Cooking with Rachael Ray in the Sunshine State

Silvia Lehrer and Rachael Ray
Silvia Lehrer and Rachael Ray

How many hamburgers can one eat? Thousands were served at the Beach Burger Bash at Miami Beach’s South Beach (SOBE) Wine and Food Festival, hosted by Rachael Ray. Before I took time out to taste six (140 types were offered), I spoke with Ray, who is at once chatty, charming, family-oriented and warm. The Food Network star and celebrity chef loved speaking of her Sicilian grandfather (who lived with her family) and his influence on how the family cooked, as well about foods that have influenced Ray’s love of Italian cooking

As for the burgers, they came in every stripe and color. One had enough caramelized onions to equal the amount of beef, others featured double layers of beef sandwiching gooey melting cheese or were lathered with spicy salsas or creamy concoctions. My personal favorite was a salmon burger—buttery and deliciously tangy.

Here’s an adaptations of the recipe for one of my favorites at the SOBE Burger Bash.

Makes 8 sliders

1 pound boneless, skinless, fresh salmon fillet
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small dice
2 teaspoons each chopped fresh dill, chives and tarragon
Freshly ground pepper and dash cayenne to taste

For the condiment

2 tablespoons peppadew peppers* chopped fine
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed
1 tablespoon cornichon pickles, chopped fine
2 shallots, minced; rinsed under hot, then cold water
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

*Peppadew peppers are pickled sweet peppers.

For the mayonnaise dressing

2 tablespoons homemade or high quality mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Chinese mustard
1 teaspoon mustard oil

For cooking sliders

Salt to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 mini potato buns, watercress

1. Cut the salmon into small pieces and place in work bowl of food processor with knife blade. Add cold butter and pulse until relatively smooth. Add herbs and seasonings, pulse to mix well and refrigerate in a suitable container.

2. Combine condiment and mayo ingredients in separate bowls and stir to mix thoroughly. Set mixture aside.

3. When ready to cook sliders, form into 8 equal-size patties and season liberally with salt. Heat olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the patties and cook 1 minute on first side, then flip and cook only 30 to 45 seconds (your choice for doneness) on second side.

4. Assemble sliders on each bottom bun then distribute equal amounts of mayo and watercress. Top each with the condiment. Add top bun. Enjoy!

I’m tweaking my own favorite burger. 

Makes 4 burgers.

For the caramelized onions

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onion, thinly sliced

For the burgers

1 pound ground Angus beef chuck
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon olive oil
Potato roll buns, lightly toasted, optional

1. Over medium-low heat add oil to a cast-iron skillet (my preference) and put in the sliced onion. Stir onions for a minute or so to coat, then cover and cook slowly, stirring occasionally for 6 to 8 minutes, uncover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes longer until lightly caramelized. Transfer onions to a plate.

2. When ready to cook the burgers, place the meat in a wide bowl and flatten to a rather flat cake. Place chopped shallot over the center and add salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce and the heavy cream. Blend well with hands and form into 4 hamburgers about 3/4 to 1-inch thick.

3. Over medium high heat, add burgers and cook to your favorite state of doneness (about 3 minutes on each side for medium rare); season with salt and pepper. Place each burger on a bottom bun, top with equal amounts of caramelized onion. (I’m a ketchup person, but you can add a bit of grated Gruyère and/or salsa a la Burger Bash.) Add top bun and serve.

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