Friday 30 September 2016

So how much burger should you really get for €20?

Amid uproar over the price of Web Summit snacks, our reporter goes in search of the most luxurious fast food

Katy McGuinness

Published 07/11/2015 | 02:30

Beefed up: Butcher and farmer Pat Whelan's burger.
Beefed up: Butcher and farmer Pat Whelan's burger.
Pat Whelan with his burger.

Earlier this week, the organisers of the Web Summit came in for flak about the cost of food at the event. The hashtag #foodgate trended as delegates complained about paying €20 for a burger, while it emerged that suppliers has been paid just €8.

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For accuracy's sake, we should point out that for their €20 the attendees also got a drink, snack and ice cream but still… that's pricey for what looked to us like a run-of-the-mill burger in a bun.

The record for the most expensive burger in the world is held by chef Chris Large at the Honky Tonk restaurant in Chelsea, London. Using Canadian lobster, Kobe beef and black truffle brie, the 'Glamburger' costs £1,100 and is served in a golden bun. It also contains Iranian saffron, Beluga caviar and a hickory-smoked duck egg covered in edible golden leaf.

In cities around the word where rich people like to hang out, you can find burgers costing in the hundreds of euros made from prime fillet steak and incorporating luxury ingredients such as foie gras and langoustines.

At Serendipity in New York, you'll pay $300 (which sounds almost modest after the Glamburger) for 'Le Burger Extravagant': Wagyu beef infused with white truffle butter, cave-aged cheddar, black truffles, and caviar, all held together with a diamond-encrusted gold toothpick that you don't even get to take away.

Closer to home, some of the most expensive burgers in Dublin are served at Nick Munier's Avenue restaurant in Temple Bar. For €25 you can choose between beef (60-day dry-aged smoked rib from fourth generation

Higgins Butchers serve with a brioche bun, lamb pancetta, beef tomato, pickle, and mustard aioli and duck (with foie gras served on a garlic-buttered brioche bun with Comté cheese, and gherkin).

Both come with fries and are among the most popular items on the menu.

Derry Clarke, the Michelin-starred chef at L'Ecrivain, doesn't have burgers on his menu, but his first reaction to a €20 burger was that it was "extortionate".

"To justify a price tag like that," he says, "it'd want to be made with prime sirloin and fresh truffles!"

Bunsen is generally agreed to serve the best burger in Dublin, and its basic version costs a modest €6.95. Fries will set you back a further €2.95.

Owner Tom Gleeson said he did not want to comment on #foodgate, but the Bunsen website confirms that their meat is supplied by FX Buckley, and the patties are made solely from three fore-quarter cuts of Irish Black Aberdeen Angus beef in a precise ratio, with salt and pepper being added just before cooking.

Clonmel-based butcher, Pat Whelan, who has branches of his James Whelan butcher shops in several Avoca shops, is a man who knows a thing or two about beef, and he loves a good burger.

He agrees with both Bunsen and Blumenthal that there's a formula for a good burger.

"You'll never make a great burger with inferior meat," says Pat, "so go for dry-aged Irish grass-fed beef.

"The perfect burger requires a meat-to-fat ratio of 80:20. Make a burger with meat that's too lean and it'll be dry rather than juicy.

"Some cuts, such as chuck, short-rib and cheek, naturally have about 20pc fat, so there's no need to introduce extra fat if you're using one of these.

"If you use a leaner cut, such as sirloin or flank, you can supplement the lean meat with bone marrow to achieve the desired 80:20 ratio. Adding bone marrow makes for a very flavoursome burger. Another thing that helps make a good burger is to mince the meat once rather than twice; the texture is far better.

"Most ready-minced beef has been through the mincer twice, so ask your butcher to mince your meat just once, on a coarse setting."

Pat Whelan is a farmer as well as a butcher, and over the past few years has been developing a herd of Irish Wagyu cattle, that he calls 'Eirgu'.

Wagyu cattle originate in Japan, and their meat is prized internationally for its high fat content and buttery taste.

"My favourite burger of all," he says, "is a Wagyu burger on a brioche bun.

"The composition of the meat is looser than other beef and the fat gives it a special, delicate, almost creamy flavour that make you go 'Wow!'"

Pat Whelan's gourmet burger

Makes 6 burgers

Ingredients

1.2kg chuck steak, short-rib or cheek, coarsely minced OR 1kg sirloin (rump) or flank steak, coarsely minced

200g bone marrow, chopped into 1cm cubes

Flaky sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Form the meat into six thick disc-shaped burgers, and press a dimple into the centre of each to help them to keep their shape while cooking. Cover and chill for an hour so that the burgers will retain their shape and hold together while cooking. Pre-heat a heavy, cast-iron ridged grill pan or barbecue until smoking.

Just before you place the burgers on the grill, season with sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper.

There is no need to oil either the grill or the burger, as the fat content of the meat will prevent the burger sticking; but if you are concerned that it might stick (because you have chosen to use very lean meat) brush the meat with a light coating of oil before seasoning.

Place on the grill and cook for four minutes. Flip and cook the other side, until the burgers are nicely charred. You can cook them for longer if you prefer your burger well done.

Serve on a brioche bun, topped with your choice of melted Irish artisan cheese (Hegarty's cheddar is Pat's favourite), red onions for sweetness, and gherkins for texture.

Cost: meat €19.10; buns €3; 300g cheese €8; onion 30c; gherkins €2

Total: €32.40

Irish Independent

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