We're a couple guys from Boston. Our grandpappys weren’t cooking barbecue back in the early 1900s, and neither of us set foot in the South until we were in our 20s. But we have been immersed in the barbecue life for the past 25 years. Our new book, Pitmaster, is our tribute to many classic barbecue dishes, such as Central Texas Beef Ribs and North Carolina Pork Shoulder, and features some of the top pitmasters from around the country who helped us explore this great American culinary tradition.
For the slider recipe you'll also find in the book, we owe a debt to food writer Josh Ozersky, who took us under his wing and taught us a few things about burger cooking. Most notably, he showed us that with burgers — as with barbecue — simple is usually best. The world lost a jaw-dropping writer and meat-eating aficionado when Josh died in 2015. Here is our take on his favorite sliders, plus a recipe for pickled jalapenos that can add a little bite.
ODE TO OZERSKY SLIDERS
Makes 12 burgers
Make plans for the sliced onions, which take between 40 and 60 minutes to properly caramelize. They can be prepared a day or two in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
2 pounds ground beef, 75/25 blend
4 tablespoons salted butter
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt Slider buns
6 slices of American cheese, each cut in half
Shape the beef into 12 golf ball-sized meatballs and refrigerate until ready to cook the burgers. Place a 12-inch cast-iron pan on medium heat and add the butter. When the butter is melted, add the onion slices. Cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes. Add a tablespoon of water, turn the heat to low, and cover the pan. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove the cover, return the heat to medium, and continue cooking the onions until golden brown, another 10 minutes. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
Lay a paper shopping bag on its side and slide a platter, large enough for 12 sliders, inside. Set out your buns and mustard.
Clean out the cast-iron pan and set it over high heat until it is smoking hot, which may take a few minutes. An infrared thermometer should read 500 degrees; a drizzle of water should evaporate violently. (If you’ve prepared the caramelized onions in advance, reheat them in the pan for 30 seconds, stirring constantly, then move the onions to a bowl.) Sprinkle the tops of the meatballs with about ½ teaspoon of kosher salt each.
Place 3 meatballs salt side down into the pan. Flatten the meatballs into burgers with a solid, heatproof spatula. Use a wooden spoon to push the spatula down firmly to evenly flatten the burger. Season the top of each burger with another ½ teaspoon of kosher salt. Cook for 1 minute and flip the burgers, working the spatula around the edges first so you don’t disrupt the developed crust. Add a half slice of cheese to each burger. Cook for 1 additional minute. If necessary, cover the pan for 15 seconds to encourage the cheese to melt.
With a quick, firm scraping motion, remove each burger and place it on a bun. Add mustard and a tablespoon of the onions. Firmly place the top of the bun on each burger, place burgers on the platter, and roll the paper bag shut.
Repeat the process for the remaining burgers, placing each batch on the platter. After putting the last batch into the bag and rolling it shut, let sit for at least 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the platter from the bag and serve immediately. You won’t have leftovers.
Makes about 1 quart
This might be the most used pickle in our kitchens. We put them in eggs, salsas, sandwiches, slaws, burgers and pretty much anything else we can think of. Keep in mind they’ll need at least a day in the fridge before they’re ready to use.
40 jalapenos, cut into 1/8- to ¼-inch rings
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
Place the sliced jalapenos in a quart-sized Mason jar and set aside.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the salt and sugar have dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove the brine from the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Pour the brine over the jalapenos, making sure they are entirely covered by the liquid. Let cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.Andy Husbands is the executive chef and owner of Tremont 647 and The Smoke Shop. Chris Hart is a barbecue world champion and coauthor, with Husbands, of “Wicked Good Barbecue” and other books. Excerpted from “Pitmaster: Recipes, Techniques and Barbecue Wisdom.” Text copyright © 2017 Andy Husbands and Chris Hart. Photography copyright © 2017 Ken Goodman. Available from Fair Winds Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group, on March 15. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.