Ramen on Empty Burger

We’ve watched food trends explode over the past few years. Ones that come to mind – the cupcake frenzy of 2008 singlehandedly instigated by Georgetown Cupcakes, toasts, matcha, kale and cronuts.

I’m a dupe for social media shareables of searing-hot raclette cheese poured over some carb-packed vehicle. Raclette NYC does this right – so right. That, and Momofuku’s Milk Bar, which is – for better or for worse – two blocks from where I live. They dole out the most addictive and sedating cookies and cakes a human being will ever taste.

But of all the food trends I’ve seen come and go, my biggest regret is that I didn’t hop on the ramen burger train when I had the chance.

I had the intent while working part-time in New York to head to the celebrated birthing place of ramen burgers – Smorgasburg in Brooklyn. This never happened.

With no imminent plans to head to New York, I made this at home. I know I’m very late to the party here. I’m like Europeans screening U.S. blockbusters – always lagging behind.

But even though I’m obsessed with food, I’ve embraced my indifference to food trends – & I’m fully aware I’m just as uncool as I always knew I was. 😉

This recipe is fluid – approach it as a good use-up-your-pantry & freezer opportunity. I had frozen ground pork and scallions that I incorporated into the patty mixture to mirror the ingredients you’ll find in a bowl of ramen. The mayonnaise sauce is made from staple Asian condiments I always have stocked on the door of my fridge.

And if you’re familiar with the TV show Bob’s Burgers, I hope you might have picked up on my tribute to his pun-tastic daily burger specials in this recipe title. If you haven’t watched it – do.

I like to think I approach food the same way Bob does – content to cook the same ho-dum thing over and over again. All the while, Jimmy Pesto’s restaurant across the street grasps at the flashiest dish that will bring customers in. Bob refuses to sell out and play that game. He knows good food will always be good food.

You should also know – Thrillist did their homework & compiled a list of every single burger special featured on the show. You’re welcome.

This one’s for you, Bob! You just keep doing you!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 1 ramen burger.

  • 1 package ramen noodles
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 3 oz. ground pork
  • 3 oz. ground beef (80% lean to 20% fat)
  • 1 slice American cheese
  • 2 oz. microgreens
  • 2 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon wasabi
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon Sriracha
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon chili oil
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 / 2 scallion stalk, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 tablespoon flavorless oil, like canola or vegetable
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Dash of olive oil
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Cook the noodles according to package instructions, discarding the seasoning packet. Strain the noodles. Once cooled, mix with the beaten egg, pinch of salt and pinch of pepper. Set aside.
  2. Combine the mayonnaise, wasabi, Sriracha, chili oil & sesame oil. Set aside.
  3. Combine the pork, beef, scallion, and pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Form into a round, large golf-sized ball and set aside.
  4. Pull the caps off the mushrooms and slice thinly. Sautee on low heat with the soy sauce, a dash of olive oil, and pinches of sugar, salt and pepper. Once browned, set aside.
  5. In a nonstick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Take 1 / 2 of each of the noodle mixture and place them inside two large patty-sized mason jar lids inside the pan. Smush the noodles down to compact them. Cook the noodle buns for 4 minutes on medium heat until golden brown. At this point, remove the lids as the ramen buns should be able to retain their shape. Flip the buns over and finish cooking, about 4 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside for plating.
  6. Heat a tablespoon of flavorless oil, like canola oil or vegetable oil, in the bottom of a cast iron skillet. Once heated, place the meat in the pan, smashing with the underside of the spatula until it’s as about 1 1 / 2 to 2 inches thick. Cook for 10 minutes on medium-low heat, then flip and brown until cooked through for another 8 to 10 minutes. Place a slice of American cheese on top of the patty and cook for an additional minute until the cheese is completely melted.
  7. Put 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise mixture on each of the buns, topping one bun with the burger patty, then the sautéed mushrooms and the microgreens. Serve hot.

Cheeseburger à la Big Mac

I have a love connection with Big Macs from McDonalds.

Who doesn’t.

I rarely let myself indulge because I tend to feel sick afterward. And that was even before I watched Super Size Me. But I still crave them all the time.

Which has motivated me to find a way to recreate the same mouth-watering, sans-additive version that can be made at home, where you know full-well what foods and ingredients you are ingesting.

The key is to up the fat and salt factor as much as possible. Warning. This is not healthy. I repeat. Not healthy.

There is a fun, trendy ingredient I included as well. Black garlic. It elevates the standard Big Mac sauce into smokey, ferment-y & slightly funky sauce.  I wouldn’t use in place of fresh garlic, but since I’m big into funky foods, I will be experimenting more with it. It certainly worked here.

A cast-iron pan works just as well as a griddle that may be used at Micky D’s, especially a nicely, seasoned worn-in one that you barely (or never) wash with detergent soap.

I did not know this was a thing at first.

Lodge, a great brand that I buy from, has a guide on how to properly maintain your cast iron cookware. It involves just gentle scrubbing, rinsing with water, drying immediately afterward and applying a bit of whatever neutral cooking oil you have on hand to prevent rusting and discoloration.

In my case, my pan has built up so many layers of savory flavor that the foods I cook on it taste more complex and developed. Like a fine cheese or wine, it just gets better with time (in this case, usage).

So go with me on this one – live your best life and pig out. At least it’s “healthy” because you’re not eating the McDonald’s, right?

Here is a picture of my sweet puppy, Ina. Her favorite toy is her squeaky cheeseburger. I bet she wishes she could have one of these cheeseburgers, but she’ll have to stick with her puppy chow instead. For now. 😊

Ina

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 4.

  • 1 1 / 2 lbs. ground beef, 80% lean to 20% fat ratio
  • Sesame seed hamburger buns
  • 1 / 8 head iceberg lettuce, sliced to a chiffonade
  • 8 slices American Kraft Singles
  • 1 / 2 small white onion, minced finely
  • 1 jar kosher dill pickle chips
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus additional as needed
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted

F o r  t h e  S p e c i a l  S a u c e

  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 teaspoons ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 pickle chips, minced finely
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon pickle juice
  • 2 dashes Tabasco hot sauce
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

O p t i o n a l

  • 1 clove black garlic, minced

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Prepare the beef patties. Take portions of the ground beef, rolling each to the size of a large golf ball and place on a plate.
  2. Chiffonade the iceberg lettuce very finely. Mince the white onion. Prepare to have 2 pickle chips per cheeseburger. Unwrap the American Kraft Singles and have on hand nearby.
  3. For the special sauce, combine all ingredients and set in the fridge to chill. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt (or hot sauce 😊) if desired.
  4. Heat the cast iron skillet with one tablespoon of butter. Make sure the pan is searing hot, but not so hot that the butter begins to burn.
  5. Place as many halved buns as possible in the skillet and allow to soak up the butter and brown, probably 2 – 3 minutes per batch, making sure they do not burn. Repeat with 1 tablespoon of butter as necessary until all are toasted. Once toasted, remove the buns from the skillet to another plate.
  6. To cook the patties, add yet another tablespoon of butter. Once heated through, place two rounds of beef in the skillet, and flatten with all the strength you have with a metal spatula. Sprinkle both with 1 /4 teaspoon (a dash or so) of salt. The irregular shape will not matter. Just make sure the patty is as flat as possible, while still being thick enough to hold together.
  7. After 2 – 3 minutes, flip the burgers. Place the cheese on top of each. Allow the cheese to melt completely so it oozes over the edges, cooking for an additional 2 – 3 minutes. Once cooked, set aside to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
  8. Continue to cook the patties in batches until all are done, adding a tablespoon of butter to the pan before each new batch. There should be two cheese-covered patties per cheeseburger.
  9. To arrange the cheeseburgers, spread 1 tablespoon of the special sauce on the bottom of the bun. Place two pickle chips on top. Then add the first cheese-covered patty, and then the second. Sprinkle with a teaspoon or so of minced white onion, then a thin layer of iceberg lettuce. Top with another 1 tablespoon of the special sauce.
  10. Smush the cheeseburgers down a bit so that the cheese and special sauce have a chance to ooze together and mingle.
  11. Serve immediately. You know you can’t wait any longer!