There are some food topics that are at once perennial favorites ad infinitum — and also so entirely polarizing, arguments over the best versions and how to make them can seemingly come to fisticuffs: Pizza! Bagels! Tacos! Chili! Barbecue!
And then there’s burgers. What kind of meat? What kind of bun? To condiment or not to condiment?
We have become particularly swoon-y over Tavern at the Chequit‘s version. It’s not just one thing that sets this juicy gem over the top — it’s all the things insisted upon by executive chef Darren Boyle. The meat, the multitude of perfect, build-it-as-you-like add-ons, the brioche buns baked in-house by pastry chef Mazie Galle (“I call them ‘a-Mazie-ing!” he jokes), the hand-cut fries on the side.
But if you ask Boyle, the core of a great burger comes down to two important elements: “The blend of the meat and the person on the grill.”
To the former, Boyle’s sure-thing beef burger blend is 60 percent chuck, 20 percent brisket and 20 percent short rib, all ground in-house. As to fat content: “No more than 20 percent because it leaks out and the bun gets greasy.”
And by all means, take the time to head to your favorite local butcher, he implores. The meat will be freshly ground and of high-quality — the key element to a great burger. One of his favorites: Cromer’s Market in Noyak. “They’ll blend those together for you,” he says. “And they also have a steak blend that’s very good, as well.”
As to seasoning, Maldon sea salt is his only ally here, but never within the meat blend — only on the patty once it’s formed, and only on one side.
“I salt the top of the patty heavy,” he says, “Never salt the mix because you risk drawing all the moisture out of the burger.”
As a devotee of rare (“Nothing above medium rare, or I send it back!” Boyle says), he cooks his burger patties for one minute each side. If there’s cheese involved, throw it on as soon as you flip your burger. His pick: Grafton aged smoked cheddar. “It crystalizes from the curing process and the whey, and blends really well with the burger,” he advises.
If you come into Tavern at the Chequit for burger night ($16 a pop on Sundays from 5 p.m. year-round), there are a multitude of topping options — grilled, caramelized or fried onions, avocado, bacon, a fried egg and 12 kinds of cheese to name a few. Plus, he and sous chef Tommy Jacobs are coming up with their own house-made ketchup.
Of course, you can use any kind of bun you like — kaiser roll, English muffin, potato bun. But if you want the Tavern treatment, he suggests the brioche buns from Blue Duck Bakery, or call the Chequit a day ahead and reserve Galle’s house-made and baked brioche buns ($1.50/each). “I’m a firm believer in brioche. I like the eggy texture and sweetness,” he says. “They freeze well, too!”
As to the rest, for Boyle, the good meat blend, one-sided salt crust and cheddar are all he needs.
Generous guy that he is, Boyle shared his burger recipe with us. We’re pretty happy to have him make ours on Sunday nights, but if you can’t get to Shelter Island, here’s the next best thing.
Chef Darren Boyle’s Tavern burger
- 1 lb beef chuck, ground
- 1/2 lb beef brisket, ground
- 1/2 lb beef short rib, ground
- 1 to 2 tsp Maldon sea salt
- 4 brioche buns
- condiments of choice