Steamed Hams (a.k.a. Krusty Burgers)

And here we are, one of the most iconic foods in all of The Simpsons. Whether saving Homer from starvation at sea, driving Krusty The Clown to the brink of bankruptcy following the Soviet boycott of the 1984 Olympics, or as an unappetising lunch option for former president George H.W. Bush, the Krusty Burger has been ubiquitous throughout the series.

 Growing up in Sydney long before good quality, American-style burgers started popping up at every hipster bar across the city, McDonalds was more or less the gold standard of burger options, and to 10 year-old me, The Simpsons parodying the franchise with their own version – complete with clown mascot cynically marketing to children and serving up grease-soaked, mystery-meat burgers – was hilarious. Or maybe I just liked Krusty’s comic disgust at having ‘swallowed some of the juice’.

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“Ugh. I’ll be tasting that for weeks.”

For the burger’s composition, I took instruction from the classic episode ‘22 Short Films About Springfield’, in which Principal Skinner famously endeavours to pass off Krusty burgers as ‘patented Skinnerburgers’.  This episode shows the burger to contain a patty, a red sauce, two pickles and another sauce, orange in appearance. And if you’re suggesting that I scrutinized every episode to find the one which most clearly depicted its components…you’d be right.

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Unlike the current writing staff, I’m willing to put in the effort when it comes to The Simpsons

TOMATO KETCHUP

400g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

½ brown onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

5 cloves

Pinch of brown sugar

Pinch of salt

Pinch of black pepper

1 cinnamon stick

Pinch of smoked paprika

Splash of red wine vinegar

Splash of extra virgin olive oil

Begin by roasting the cherry tomatoes in a hot oven until they’re a little charred. Remove from the oven and set aside. Saute the garlic and onion until softened, then add the tomatoes and the spices, as well as a splash of water. Simmer on a low heat for about half an hour, then set aside. Pick out the cinnamon and the cloves, add the olive oil and vinegar as well as extra sugar if required, then blend.

CHILLI MAYONNAISE

For the orangey sauce on the top of the burger, I decided to make a chilli mayonnaise. So then, mayo and Frank’s hot sauce. Done.

PICKLES

4 cucumbers

1 litre white wine vinegar

230g caster sugar

1 brown onion, sliced

A pinch of turmeric

1 tbsp brown mustard seeds

1 tbsp fennel seeds

1 tbsp black peppercorns

1 tsp salt

Slice the cucumbers and place in a glass jar. Add everything else together in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Once the vinegar has cooled, pour over the top of the cucumbers, seal, and leave in the fridge for at least a few days.

BURGER BUNS

Despite not being much of a bread-maker, I was determined to follow this recipe through without resorting to purchasing any pre-made ingredients, so took to the net attempting to find a reliable recipe for brioche buns. In the end I settled on this one

250ml warm water

2 tsp dried yeast

3 tbsp warm milk

2 tbsp golden caster sugar

450g strong flour, plus extra for dusting

4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

2 large egg, plus 1 beaten egg, for glazing

sesame seeds, for sprinkling

Mix the warm water, yeast, warm milk and sugar in a bowl. Let it stand for 5 mins until it becomes frothy – this is how you know the yeast is working.

Tip the flour and 1 tsp salt into a large mixing bowl, add the butter and rub together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Make a well in the centre of the buttery flour and add the warm yeast mixture and the eggs.

Use your hands to mix it into a sticky dough – don’t worry if the mixture feels a little wet at this stage, it will come together when kneading. Tip the dough out onto a floured work surface.

Knead the dough for 10 mins by stretching it on the work surface – it will still be very sticky at this stage but don’t be tempted to add too much flour.

The dough is ready when it feels soft and bouncy – this means that the gluten strands have developed. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and set aside to rise for 1-3 hrs or until doubled in size.

Once the dough has doubled in size, knock the air out and knead again for 2 mins. The dough should be much less sticky now, but add a little flour if it needs it.

Divide the dough into 12-16 even pieces. Roll into balls and arrange on lined baking trays. Loosely cover with oiled cling film and leave for about 1 hr or until doubled in size again. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 and place a shallow baking tray at the bottom.

Uncover the trays, brush the buns with egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Pour a cup of water into a baking tray at the bottom of the oven to create steam (see Tips for success, left). Bake for 20 mins or until golden, then leave to cool on a wire rack

They turned out pretty well, though next time I’d skip the step recommending kneading for a second time after leaving the dough to rise as I think it knocked a bit too much air out, and consequently, they weren’t quite as pillowy as they might have been otherwise.

So then, onto the main event – the beef patty was made using grass-fed chuck steak. If you don’t have a grinder, get your butcher to do it. At any rate, it’s worth getting decent meat for your patty, especially in a burger like this, where there’s not a whole bunch of other shit going on.

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Mmm. Meat

So what to serve alongside the burger? I contemplated making Krusty partially gelatinated non-dairy gum-based beverages, but really, there’s only one proper accompaniment to a burger, and that’s fries. And not just any fries, but Moe’s Million Dollar Birthday Fries.

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MOE’S MILLION DOLLAR BIRTHDAY FRIES

800g golden delight potatoes

2 litres vegetable oil

Salt

Wash, peel and slice the potatoes into fries. Wash again, and then pat dry. Heat the oil to 140 degrees celsius and cook the fries for about 3-4 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon, place on absorbent paper and leave to chill in the fridge. After half an hour or so, remove from the fridge, heat the oil to 180 degrees, and fry for another few minutes, until crispy, delicious and hot enough to scald Moe’s head. Remove, drain on kitchen paper and toss with some salt.

So then, to put it all together. I lightly browned the buns in a pan, then added the tomato ketchup, the beef, the pickles, the chilli mayo, and done! So how was it? I may be an odd fellow, but I can say with confidence that I steam a good ham.

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And yes, I call them steamed hams despite the fact that they are obviously grilled

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As a sorry footnote to this episode- to my dismay, I had no aurora borealis spontaneously appear inside my kitchen, though this was probably just as well, because I don’t think I even own a fire extinguisher

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