A cheeseburger topped with cornichons, Camembert and a heaping helping of truffle may well be the ultimate mashup of French and American cuisines — and that’s no surprise, given the chef behind the creation.
Born in Dallas to chef parents, Alexandre Viriot honed his skills at Michelin-starred Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon before spending six years under French culinary legend Alain Ducasse. His 2022 return stateside after an executive chef stint at Ducasse’s Macau property led him to La Société in the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Downtown SOMA. Here, his menu unsurprisingly shows mastery of a wide range of French classics from sole almondine to French onion soup to steak frites. But it’s his burger we can’t quite stop staring at, topped as it is with a sexy blanket of gooey Camembert cheese.
“Camembert works really well with this burger because it has a nice melting point,” says Viriot. “Its richness balances well with the truffle, and creaminess goes very well with the patty.”
It’s accompanied by other toppings like French cornichons and peppery greens, both of which provide a counterpoint to the richness not just of the cheese, but also of the brioche burger bun, which is spread with balsamic butter before being toasted. Just before assembly, it’s slathered with a truffle aioli made by combining two forms of truffle (paste and oil) with mushroom umami powder, a touch of sherry vinegar and Blue Plate mayonnaise.
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“Blue Plate mayo is one of the first commercially prepared mayonnaise brands in the United States,” says Viriot of his brand of choice. “When they started production around 1930, they had a goal to produce a delicious, homemade mayo. That goal, as well as the recipe, has not wavered. To this day, they deliver one of the best mayos on the market.”
Given his strong feelings about mayo, it’s unsurprising that Viriot also puts quite a bit of thought into the patty itself. After all, despite being piled with no shortage of fancy accouterments, this burger is nothing without the beef.
“We source from a ranch in Southern California that takes very good care of their cattle, feeds them well, and produces a very tasty patty,” says Viriot. The ranch in question is Brandt’s, a family-owned operation founded in 1945 that remains committed to the sustainable, humane practices that have long been at its core.
“The burger we do is so tasty because of the patty we use,” Viriot says.
The final ingredient to mastering this burger? Patience. Slow-caramelized onions add just the right sweet-and-savory umami flavor to the finished dish.
“Cooking good food takes time,” says Viriot. “When one is able to sit back and allow the food to cook and the flavors to develop, one will realize that cooking in general takes time, and in mastering patience, one can master timing, which is very important in cooking delicious food. I don’t need a sentence to convince someone of this, just one word: flavor!”
- For the burger
- 4 brioche burger buns
- 4 tablespoons balsamic butter, softened at room temp
- 4 6- to 8-ounce burger patties (80-20 meat to fat ratio)
- 8 tablespoons caramelized onions (recipe below)
- 8 tablespoons truffle aioli (recipe below)
- 8 ounces Camembert cheese, sliced into 8 slices
- 4 ounces sliced French cornichons
- 1 cup watercress or peppery arugula
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- For the caramelized onions
- 2 cups thinly sliced sweet onions
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- For the balsamic butter
- 1 stick softened butter
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- For the truffle aioli
- 1 tablespoon mushroom umami powder
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 1 cup mayonnaise (Blue Plate, if possible)
- 2 tablespoons black truffle paste
- 1 tablespoon black truffle oil
Make the caramelized onions: Melt the butter in medium sauté pan. Add the onions, thyme, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat until onions release their juices and start to sweat. Continue cooking until juice is reduced; at this point the onions will start to caramelize. Stir frequently to ensure even color and to keep them from sticking and burning.
When onions are golden brown and sweet, remove from the heat, transfer to a storage container and reserve.
Make the balsamic butter: Combine all of the ingredients in small mixing bowl, and whisk to combine and emulsify. Transfer to storage container and reserve.
Make the truffle aioli. Combine the mushroom powder and sherry vinegar in a mixing bowl and whisk to dissolve. Add the truffle paste, truffle oil and mayo, and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Transfer to storage container and reserve.
To make the burgers, first heat the grill over high heat and brush well to clean. Spread half the balsamic butter on cut sides of brioche buns. (You can toast them separately in the oven or grill them with the burgers on a cooler part of the grill. Getting a good toast on the bun is critical to having them come out like they do at the restaurant.)
Season the burger patties with salt and pepper and place on hottest part of grill. Allow to sear properly before rotating them. Once the burgers have been on for a minute, rotate and continue cooking. Once they are seared properly, flip them and baste the seared side with the remaining balsamic butter. Cook burgers to temp that you prefer and give them one final baste before topping with caramelized onions and two slices of Camembert each. Cook for another 30 seconds with the lid closed to warm the cheese.
Add a tablespoon of truffle mayo to each side of the toasted buns, and top the bottom bun with burger. Add the sliced cornichons to the top of the cheese, then add watercress or arugula to the burger and top with the top bun.
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