For Daisy Martinez, a great burger does a bit of tug-of-war in your mouth.
"I always like to put together flavors that complement as well as contrast each other. This concept is especially important when creating a burger because you should experience that 'kapow factor' with each and every bite," she said in an e-mail.
So for her contribution to AP's 20 Burgers of Summer series, Martinez sought a balance of salty and sweet, which she satisfied by pairing grilled fresh figs with serrano ham.
"It was a short leap then to add the piquancy of a Cabrales blue (cheese), which complements the beef component of the burger," she said. "Can you say 'party on my plate'?"
Martinez is a big believer in big flavor in her burgers, and over the years says she has enjoyed many variations, including ones made from Kobe beef and seafood, even veggie varieties. But in the end, her blueprint for a great burger goes back to her childhood.
"Some of my fondest hamburger memories involve making homemade patties with my dad when I was little. He would season them with salt, fresh ground pepper and onion powder, then we would grill them over charcoal briquettes in our backyard, and the result was a slightly charred burger on the outside that was pink and juicy on the inside," she said.
For the topping, it was beefsteak tomatoes and lettuce fresh from her mother's garden, as well as her "salsa golf" (a mayo-ketchup blend).
"That was a little bit of heaven, right there on our plate," she said. "Nothing compares to the burgers of my youth, made with love by Mom and Dad."
Start to Finish: 35 minutes
1 pound ground beef
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large Spanish onions, halved and thinly sliced
4 fresh figs, halved
4 large hamburger buns
1/4 pound Cabrales or other blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 pound serrano ham, thinly sliced (prosciutto also can be used)
Form the beef into 4 equal patties, then season each with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a small bowl, stir the mayonnaise with the lemon zest. Set aside.
In a large skillet over high, add the water, olive oil and onions. Cook until the water is completely evaporated, then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and completely caramelized. Season with salt and pepper, then set aside.
Heat a grill to medium-high. Coat the grates with cooking spray.
Place the beef patties on the grill, cover and cook for about 3 1/2 minutes per side for medium-rare.
Season the figs with pepper, then place on the grill cut-side up. Place the buns on the grill cut-side up, as well. Sprinkle the bottom halves of the buns with the blue cheese. Cover the grill and cook for 1 minute.
To assemble, place each beef patty on a bun half with the melted cheese. Top with 2 slices of ham, 2 grilled fig halves and a dollop of the caramelized onions. Spread the remaining toasted bun halves with lemon mayonnaise, then top the burger.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 658 calories; 333 calories from fat; 37 g fat (11 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 104 mg cholesterol; 44 g carbohydrate; 39 g protein; 3 g fiber; 1,381 mg sodium.