A few weeks ago, I was in a slider (mini-hamburger) kind of mood. My wife just wanted a plain slider with griddled onions, but me I wanted to elevate the slider to a higher gastronomic level. Being it was Sunday, I was in the mood for Italian, but didn’t want to spend the whole afternoon making sauce. So what I did was make my sliders Italian style. My inspiration for these sliders was Insalata Caprese, which is a salad of fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes, basil, sea salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. I put a twist on these ingredients and used them as topping for the sliders.
For the hamburger meat I used house ground hangar steak, which is called lombatello in Italian. After grinding the meat in my trusty Kitchen Aid stand mixer, I portioned it into 3 ounce balls, which I’ve found makes the perfect slider. Instead of fresh mozzarella, I used burrata, which is pretty much a shell of mozzarella surrounding an interior of cream and strands of fresh mozzarella. In place of the basil I made a basic pesto with basil, toasted pine nuts, pecorino cheese, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Ripe tomatoes this time of year are pretty much an oxymoron, so what I did with the best looking Roma tomatoes I could find was turn them into a jam, which I must say was quite amazing! For the salty element, I fried up a few pieces of salumi (what Americans call salami). I did griddle up a few white onions for the classic slider element.
To assemble to sliders, I started out by flattening the balls by hand to a ¼ inch thickness. I put some canola oil into my Lodge Logic cast iron skillet and set it over medium-high heat. Once the oil & skillet were nice and hot, I put the sliders into the pan. I let them cook for about 3 minutes. In the meantime, I fried up a slice of salumi for each burger. Upon turning the slider, I topped it with some of the griddled onions, the sliced burrata and the fried salumi. At this point, I put the bun top onto the slider so it kind of steamed it (a White Manna trick). After about 2 more minutes of cooking, I put the slider onto the bottom bun and removed the top bun to finish assembling it. I placed a spoonful of tomato jam onto the salumi and drizzled a bit of the pesto around the jam. I replaced the top bun and the Slider alla Caprese was ready for maximum consumption! Not because I made it, but I have to admit it was a really good burger. The flavors were spot on. This is definitely a burger I highly recommend you trying whether on the grill or in a cast iron pan.
Everyone has a pesto recipe, but I would like to share with you my recipe for the tomato jam. It’s quite easy, but I recommend you make it a few hours before cooking the burgers, so the flavors have a chance to meld together.
Makes enough for about 10 sliders
14 ounces Roma tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
A pinch of red pepper flakes (or to taste)
6 basil leaves, torn
1.) Combine the first 5 ingredients and 3 basil leaves in a heavy saucepan. Bring the contents to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.
2.) Reduce heat and gently simmer. Stir occasionally, until the contents takes on the consistency of jam, about 1 hour.
3.) Add the remaining basil leaves. Stir the contents thoroughly. Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly. It’s best to cool a bit before using, which will allow the flavors to meld. Once cool, put the jam into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Enjoy!
Living to eat,