Local inspiration is a (noble) food ideal. In a Wordsworthian universe, the cook would open the door to face rolling hills and forests lush with mushrooms and herbs and everything that sprouts, hops, or lopes, ready to be gathered, mixed aromatically in a bowl with a delicious wine, and set on the stove. Lacking the above setup, greenmarkets have, to a certain extent, filled the romantic void.
There are times, however, when, rather than intriguing, local produce is quite uninspiring. Usually, the area is somewhat barren or, in the case of many islands, relatively remote and therefore dependent on shipped-in fruits and veggies. As I write, we’re on the Outer Cape, a beautiful spot of national beach and wild grasses, where the light is filtered through a wonderful sort of bleached, washed out scrim.
While the sea fare is incomparable, the soil fare is less than fabulous. There are the occasional local corn and tomato stands, but missing is that feel of a place where lots of stuff grows; where roads are lined with farms and the land is striped with rows of hanging, budding bounty.
Certainly, meat is not the specialty, as witnessed by the ubiquitous frozen burger. When the local high-end spot, Winslow’s Tavern, in Wellfleet, sells a possibly frozen but certainly bleak and dry patty, you’ve got a meat issue. But rather than despair, we found inspiration not in local bounty but its exact opposite. When faced with a culinary vacuum, you have to get a little creative. Hence the burger below.
Across the street from Winslow’s sits the Wellfleet supermarket, which sells the sort of drab ground meat fit for a true Winslow’s burger (local inspiration for the Winslow chef, I suppose). After a week of superb swordfish, tuna, sea bass, clams, etc., and hit with a burger craving, we picked up some Wellfleet meat and donned the old thinking caps.
Laying a fried egg atop a burger isn’t novel, but it’s tasty and adds moisture and richness, two things sorely lacking in these parts. While I don’t find it aids really great quality meat, an egg is critical for the crummy stuff. As to toppings and all that jazz, I made a basic pesto and threw on a splash of sriracha for heat. The unusual option (there always is one) was a watermelon slice, which believe it or not, tastes pretty good with a burger. And an egg.
Burger, Fried Egg (and other stuff)
1 cup packed basil leaves
small chunk parmesan (inch or so), halved
¾ cup olive oil
1 ½ pounds ground beef, preferably 20-80 or 25-75 (fat to lean)
4 large eggs
salt and pepper
- For the pesto: combine basil and parm in blender and slowly pour in oil, blending to a chunky puree. Reserve.
- Form beef into 4 patties, about 3 wide by 1 inch thick. Saute or grill to medium rare, about 3 or 4 minutes per side. Reserve on a platter tented with foil.
- Fry the eggs in butter sunny side up till just done and a bit crispy on the edges.
- Form burgers: (toasting buns optional) drop a few tablespoons of pesto on bottom, followed by watermelon slice, burger, drizzle of sriracha, and egg. Sprinkle egg with salt and pepper, close, and serve with napkins.