Copyright © by Ben Ford from TAMING THE FEAST, published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Used with permission.
Feeds: 80 or more
40 pounds ground beef (preferably ground yourself: 40% chuck, 30% short ribs and 30% hanger steak. If pre-packaged, look for 20 percent fat.)
160 slices good cheddar or Jack cheese (about 10 pounds)
80 tomato slices, 1/4-inch thick (from 10 to 15 big red tomatoes)
80 big iceberg lettuce leaves (from about 6 heads)
320 dill pickle chips (about 3 quarts)
20 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (a bowl of each by the grill)
80 quality sesame seed hamburger buns
2 1/2 pounds butter, melted, for brushing on the buns
8 recipes Not-a-Secret Burger Sauce, recipe follows
SEPARATE the meat into 4-ounce portions, and roll each portion into a ball, like cookie dough.
GENTLY PAT the balls into patties 1/4 inch thick; you want to flatten the patties without beating up the meat. Stack the patties on large baking sheets. Cover the baking sheets with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until it’s time to grill.
FIRE UP THE GRILL. Using a chimney, crumple several pieces of newspaper in the bottom compartment, set the chimney on the grill grate, and fill it with charcoal. Light the paper. When the charcoal at the bottom of the chimney is glowing, put on a heavy glove and turn the coals out into the grill. Every 40 to 45 minutes, add more charcoal to keep the fire going. Alternatively, fire up a gas grill to high heat with the lid closed to help it get nice and hot.
WHILE THE GRILL HEATS, get all your burger fixings ready: cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, avocados and sauce. Set them up on a station near your grill along with bowls of salt and pepper.
BRUSH the cut sides of the buns lightly with butter. Put the buns cut side down on the grill to toast them lightly. Transfer the toasted buns to a big roasting pan or disposable aluminum pan. Tent with foil to keep the buns warm while you grill the patties.(You could also toast the buns in the spaces between the patties while you grill the patties.)
PLACE the burger patties on the grill, seasoning them lightly on both sides with salt and pepper as you go. Cook the patties for 2 minutes. Turn the patties, and put a slice of cheese on each one. Close the grill if it has a lid, and cook the patties for another 2 minutes until they’re done.
TO DRESS THE BURGERS, coat the toasted sides of the buns with sauce. Layer the burger like this: bottom bun, 1 lettuce leaf, 4 pickle chips, 2 patties, 1 tomato slice and enough slices to equal one-quarter of an avocado. Spoon a little more sauce over the avocado and close the burger. Wrap the burger in paper, if you have it. Stack the burgers on a platter, no higher than two burgers, and put them out on the buffet for the crowds to dig in.
Not-a-Secret Burger Sauce
The 1970s were the heyday of “secret” burger sauces. Every burger joint, diner and fast-food restaurant had one, even though they all seemed to be made pretty much with the same ingredients—mayonnaise, ketchup, relish and sugar. This is my attempt at Fat Jack’s sauce, only I am not keeping it a secret. —Ben Ford
Makes: about 1 1/4 cups, enough for 8 or more burgers
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or white vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon freshly group black pepper
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
STIR everything together in a bowl. Taste, and add more of any of the ingredients that you want to. Cover, and refrigerate until the feast.