The Good Stuff

Irresistible burgers, shakes, and fries from Spike Mendelsohn


For just a moment, let's not talk about what we're supposed to eat. Let's just give it up for what we want to eat, here at the end of summer, late on a Friday afternoon. Let's talk about hand cut fries and homemade cornbread, patty melts with caramelized onions. Applewood bacon, whipped goat cheese. Mayo infused with just about everything.

If you would presently give the world for a farmhouse burger or a toasted marshmallow shake, ignore the voice telling you to get a salad. Let he among us without a hankering for comfort food ... shut up and let the rest of us eat.

Spike Mendelsohn's ode to burgers and bar food makes a couple of nods to fresh greens and light fare (a poached egg and frisee salad here, a pear, pistachio, and brie wedge there). The pictures of these dishes are lovely to look at as you skim to find the real goods: The smokehouse burger, the pork and pancetta burger with smoked mozzarella, a bananas foster shake complete with dark rum.
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As befits a cookbook that has multiple recipes for cheese sauce, everything here is presented without pretension, and with clear, precisely-articulated process notes. Mendelsohn's burger blends and grilling tips are excellent for anyone who typically turns out sad, soppy patties, and wants to change his or her ways.

Wine Pairings: The nods to Italian cuisine in this luscious, fatty burger make it a perfect match for the high-acidity and food friendliness of California Barbera.

Pork and Pancetta Burger with Smoked Mozarella, Pepperonata, and Basil Pesto

(serves 6)

With a name like Mendelsohn, you might not imagine me pining for pork. Wrong! I'm absolutely infatuated with the other white meat, which is why this burger steals my heart.

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced Spanish onion
1 clove garlic, minced
25 ounces ground pork
5 ounces ground pancetta
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 focaccia rolls, cut in half
1 cup Peperonata (see Peperonata recipe below)
6 slices smoked mozarella
1 cup Basil pesto

Heat the 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is smoking, add the onion and cook, stirring, until lightly brown, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more. Remove and set aside to cool.

In a bowl, combine the pork, pancetta, the onion-garlic mixture, the rosemary, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and mix very well. To make the patties, roll six 5-ounce pork-pancetta balls and form each ball into a patty. Arrange on a tray, cover, and refrigerate.

Toast the rolls. Set aside. Heat the Peperonata.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add just enough oil to cover the entire bottom. When the oil begins to smoke, reduce the heat to medium and place the patties into the skillet. Season the patties with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Flip, and cook on the other side for another 1 minute. Place 1 slice cheese on each patty and continue to cook for 2 minutes more. Cover with a lid for the last 30 seconds to melt the cheese.

To assemble the burgers, spread some of the pesto on 1 toasted bun top and bottom. Place 1 patty on 1 bun bottom. Top with a spoonful of Peperonata, and badda bing. Cover with the bun top. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Don't forget to wrap the sandwiches in wax paper. Let rest of 2 or 3 minutes, then unwrap and serve.


4 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and julienned
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and julienned
1 tablespoon sea salt, plus more to taste
3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
Pinch crushed red pepper
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the red onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the bell peppers and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often to prevent browning, 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the sugar and vinegar and cook until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes more. Season with salt, crushed red pepper, and black pepper. Cool and reserve for later use.

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  • Snooth User: Elisamar
    552377 5

    I remember Spike from top Chef. He was my favorite that year. He is a true Rock Star in the kitchen. I can't wait to buy his book.

    Aug 20, 2010 at 3:57 PM

  • where can I find previous recipes? The Capone tonight was great! I want an etoufee recipe that uses NO soup. There was a good one presented on Snooth early this year.

    Aug 21, 2010 at 11:17 PM

  • Snooth User: dthomasc
    543359 11

    This recipe was soooo good, I can't wait to get his cookbook to try more!!

    Aug 28, 2010 at 2:18 PM

  • Snooth User: dthomasc
    543359 11

    click the tag above these comments that says recipes

    Aug 28, 2010 at 2:20 PM

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