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February 17, 2008 / Tony

Mini Man Burgers

For reasons that I really don’t understand, the small hamburgers, named Slyders (yes, that’s the correct spelling) by the corporation, from White Castle have somewhat of a cult following.  So what are they?  Here’s a partial decsription from Wikipedia:

“small, frozen square patties (originally supplied by Swift & Co.) which are cooked atop a bed of dehydrated onions laid out on a grill. The heat and steam rises up from the grill, through the onions. In 1949, five holes in the patty were added to facilitate quick and thorough cooking. The very thin patties are not flipped throughout this process.”

The meat and onions are then placed on a small bun.  There is some cultural significance to the chain as it is America’s oldest fast-food restaurant.  It was founded in 1921.  I suppose that sort of longevity would inevitably manifiest itself in popular culture and it has.  White Castle has been featured in a number of movies and songs-most notably the Beastie Boy’s Licensed to Ill and the film Harold and Kumar go to White Castle.  Here’s a clip from the latter [Warning: contains profanity]:

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (part 9)

I admit to having the “Crave” (another corporate moniker) after watching this movie a few years back even though I had never eaten a Slyder before in my life.  And I went to White Castle to satisfy that crave.  I was not impressed.  From what I can recall, the fries were soggy and the burgers, while heavily seasoned, mostly tasted like fat.  It was probably the worst dining experience I have ever had in my life.  I really don’t see the appeal of the place.  From what I have heard (urban legend style), a thin layer of lard is placed on each bun under the hamburger. 

Nevertheless, I was undettered in making Alton Brown’s Mini Man Burgers after seeing “The Man Food Show” episode of Good Eats.  After all, I like hamburgers.  Here’s his recipe:

Mini Man Burgers

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1 lb ground beef

8 small buns

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Preheat a griddle to 350 degrees F. Combine the onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Line a jellyroll or sheet pan with parchment paper, and place the ground chuck in the middle of the pan. Cover the meat with a large sheet of plastic wrap. Roll meat with a rolling pin until it covers the surface of the pan; it should be very thin. Remove the plastic wrap, and sprinkle the meat with the seasoning mixture. Fold the meat in half, from side to side, using the parchment paper. Use a pizza wheel to cut the meat into 8 even squares.

Wrap the buns in foil and place in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the burgers on the griddle and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Remove the buns from the oven. Spread a small amount of mayonnaise on each bun and top with the burger and any other condiments, as desired. Serve immediately.

This is the result I had (I added some caramelized onions):

 img_2066.jpg

They were absolutely delicious.  The meat was full-flavored and juicy with just the right amount of fat.  The onions added a beautiful sweetness and had a bit of a lightening effect on the dish.  The only thing I want to emphasize is that you really should use a small amount of mayonnaise.  Less is really more in this case as it can overpower the rather small amount of meat that you’ve put on the bun.  I really can’t wait to make these again. 

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