One Monday morning several months ago, my friend and former coworker, Alan Sytsma, rushed into my test kitchen and started gushing about “the most awesome burger” he’d ever had—an Aussie burger. Coming from Alan, this was major praise. At the same time, though, I was a little incredulous. I mean, I like burgers. There are some that I like much better than others. But besides great-quality, perfectly cooked meat and a nice bun, what could make a burger that spectacular? The answer, of course, is really amazing toppings.
After sampling the burgers at some local Australian restaurants and pubs, asking all the Aussies I came across, and looking at recipes online, I started to get a clearer picture of what would make the ultimate burger. Ask 10 native Aussies what belongs on their national burger, I learned, and you’ll get as many answers—but they all agree that a true Aussie burger absolutely has to be mounded with pickled beets. Both sweet and vinegary, they are the perfect foil for any other toppings. Raw or caramelized onions, pineapple, cheese, fried eggs, pickles, lettuce, bacon, and tomatoes can all make appearances in hamburgers from the Land Down Under, but since I wanted to develop a single exemplary recipe for an Aussie burger, I was searching for an optimal combination.
It had to be all about the interplay between sweet and sour, rich and crisp. I narrowed it down to grilled pineapple, fried eggs, lettuce, tomato, and, of course, the pickled beets. The acidity and sweetness of the pineapple and beets would contrast perfectly with the rich fattiness of the beef; the lettuce and tomato would add a crisp freshness. The egg would be the over-the-top element—coating the whole burger with its delicious, runny yolk. Finally, the sauce would be crucial. I wanted something to amp up the usual mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise, and I knew that a hint of spicy heat would make everything pop: thus, chile mayonnaise.
My ideas fully formulated, I ran through the recipe. I assembled the burgers, carefully stacking each ingredient on top of hefty Kaiser rolls and relishing the increasing precariousness of the structures. This would not be a burger for the faint of heart. I called the rest of the food editors over, and I was not disappointed by their reactions. Some gasped in delight; others just stood there with their mouths agape. More than one asked, “How am I supposed to fit that in my mouth?!” It took everyone a few moments to get up the nerve and devise a strategy for attacking the beast; but after they tasted it, the verdict was unanimous: This was one awesome burger.
Don’t be afraid to eat this hefty burger, but remember to keep a stack of napkins handy.