Monday, August 11, 2008

Big'Z burgers, and more importantly, FRIES.

Yes, that's a fried egg on a burger. At Big'Z Burgers, they call themselves "Big, Pink, and Dirty." While I know it sounds like a lewd sexual reference, what they are really communicating is that their half-pound burgers are huge, cooked to a perfect pink-in-the-middle medium, and served "dirty" with a fried egg on top if desired (and I always desire it dirty!).

The burger joint is my personal favorite. An entirely local place, it is owned and operated my San Antonio's own renowned chef Andrew Weisman. Chef Weissman's jewel is the nationally acclaimed La Reve restaurant in downtown San Antonio, serving multi-course tasting menus featuring classical French cuisine (Update: Chef Wissman's jewel WAS Le Reve, because Le Reve closed October 2009). I have not eaten there, but my office mate has, and he swears it might be the best meal he has ever experiences (Update: I DID eat there before it closed, it was amazing!). They serve a cheese course before dessert, complete with a lump of honey on the comb, and there is a waiter for each table who's exclusive job it is to place the correct silverware on the table before each course. It sounds fabulous!

The impression thing is that Weisman's passion for food is evident in the quality of food at each of his many restaurants, including the burgers and fries at Big'Z. Sure, it may be a comfortable, down-home burger joint, but the food is anything but average. The burgers are cooked made to order, and when you order medium, you get a truly pink and juicy medium. That's a big deal for me. In a world of prolific chain restaurants that ask you how you like your meat prepared and always serve a well-done patty regardless, a medium burger is a treat.

However, in my humble opinion, the best part are the fries. They are cooked to order and served in a paper cone, European style. And in true European fashion, Big'Z fries come served with mayonnaise as a dipping sauce. And not just any mayonnaise, but a variety of flavored mayonnaises like Kalamata Olive mayo, Wasabi mayo, Roasted Garlic Mayo, Sun Dried Tomato Mayo, Cilantro Lime mayo, Horseradish Mayo, Basil Pesto mayo, Cucumber Dill mayo, and my personal favorite, Rosemary Garlic Mayo. The mayonnaise is supplemented by some fabulous dipping ketchups as well, including Pineapple Curry ketchup, Habanero ketchup, and Chili Garlic ketchup.

Because I cannot eat burgers every day, even though I might like to, I recreated a frite dipping sauce at home that is good enough to serve at Big'Z, maybe even better than the sauces there. It is a breeze to create, and is the kind of condiment that will jazz up most any summer dish. I made the whole thing in my mini food processor in about 10 minutes, cleanup included. I also included a recipe for oven-baked fries and three dipping sauces that look like they just escaped from the menu at Big'Z. Try them all. I promise, it's so worth the effort to elevate beyond the standard ketchup. So, until my next venture into burgerland, I am set, and you will be too.

Shortcut Basil Aioli
as posted by Orangette, in all of her infinite culinary mastery. I should note that I am a huge fan of her recipes, in fact, I might almost consider myself a groupie, albeit a lurking groupie. I read her blog and love her recipes and even talk about her frequently at the dinner table, yet I have never left a note on her blog or had any direct contact with the lovely blogger. So really, I am sort of an Orangette stalker. Nonetheless, this recipe, from her site, is delicious, and fits the ticket for what would be served with the fries at Big'Z.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup packed basil leaves
½ tsp. lemon juice
1 medium garlic clove, pressed
Pinch of salt
½ cup mayonnaise, either homemade or commercial

In the jar of a blender (or a small food processor), combine the olive oil, basil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Process until the mixture is smooth like pesto, pausing every now and then to scrape down the side of the blender jar with a small spatula or knife.

Put the mayonnaise in a small bowl. Add the basil mixture, and stir well to mix.

Serve as a dip for raw vegetables, spread onto sandwiches, folded into chicken salad, or dolloped on top of deviled eggs (minus the paprika and hot sauce, preferably).

Note: This recipe doubles very easily. However, don’t automatically double the amount of garlic and salt called for here; start with the quantities for a single batch, and then add more to taste.

Yield: a little more than ½ cup

French Fries with Three Dips:
The recipe below is from Perfect Parties by Linnea Johansson.


4 large potatoes
1 tsp vegetable oil

Rosemary Mayonnaise
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

Wasabi Mustard
2 tbsp of Dijon mustard
4 tbsp of crème fraîche
1/2 tsp of wasabi
Salt and white pepper to taste

Curry Ketchup
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tsp curry


1. Turn your oven to 425°F.

2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into equal sized sticks, about a 1/2 inch wide. Toss the pieces that are too small because they will burn in the oven.

3. Rinse the potatoes pieces and place them in a large pot of boiling salted water. Boil for 2 minutes. Strain the potatoes and rinse them in cold water until they cool. Place the potato sticks on a layer of paper towels and let them dry off.

4. Once dried, place the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Dribble the oil on top and toss the potatoes with your hands until the oil is evenly distributed. Spread the potatoes evenly along the baking sheet, and make sure that the potato pieces are not touching each other.

5. Bake the potatoes in the middle of your oven for about 30 minutes. Turn the potatoes after about 15 minutes so they get even color.

Rosemary Mayonnaise
1. Mix the mayo and rosemary.

2. Let it sit for at least an hour in the fridge. When you are ready to serve the sauce, add salt and pepper to taste.

Wasabi Mustard
1. Mix the mustard and crème fraîche in a bowl and add the wasabi. Start with 1/4 tsp and taste the mixture. Then add the rest to desired spiciness. Keep in mind that the flavor will be enhanced the longer the dipping sauce sits.

2. Let the mixture sit for at least an hour in the fridge. When you are ready to serve the sauce, add salt and pepper to taste.

Curry Ketchup
1. Mix the ketchup and curry, and let it sit for at least an hour in the fridge.

Serving tip:
Nothing says "party" like individual serving cups—they are easy for your guests to hold while mingling and look great. Serve the fries in decorative cones made out of any decorative paper or even something simple like a newspaper (why not the yellow pages?). Roll the paper into proportionate cones, line them with wax paper, and staple them at the edge. Serve the cones on a tray with the dipping sauces. Make the perfect tray yourself by punching holes in a box lid and placing the cones in the holes.

Buy frozen French fries from your grocery store that just need to be heated or even ready-made ones from a restaurant. Get rid of the "evidence" and serve the fries in decorative cones with your homemade sauces.

For a challenge:
Chop fresh herbs and mix with the pommes when they come out of the oven. It looks, smells, and tastes great. You can also use different colored potatoes, such as red skinned, orange sweet potatoes, or blue potatoes of the delta blue variety.


Samwar said...

These are the best burgers I have ever eaten. Kate and I have found a delicious combination of ingredient we can't seem to stray from: avocado, Swiss cheese, bacon, and of course a fried egg. Sometimes, for an extra bit of awesomeness, we'll slather a bit of those delicious dipping sauces onto our burgers with a fry.

Lauren said...

I love fries. Any kind of fries. If you stand between me and fries, you will definitely lose.