In days of yore, a trip to the meat counter yielded prime cuts of every variety imaginable. If you needed cooking instructions or suggestions, no problem, you needed to go no further than your chef-in-residence, the butcher, who would ready your purchase for cooking and reveal the secrets of how to prepare the perfect feast.
Today, the meat counter (or even the freezer case, for that matter) is a different scene: the case has expanded to include all sorts of prepared — dare I say “value added”? — delicacies. Perhaps the most plebian of these is the tried-and-true burger. But this is not just the chopped meat of yesteryear shaped into patty form. Oh, noooo, we’re talking prime choice Angus beef or lean cuts of natural, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef or turkey or chicken, which is then mixed with a myriad of ingredients like bacon bits and blue cheese, Portobello mushroom, caramelized onion, pesto and parmesan, goat cheese, cheddar-horseradish, roasted poblano pepper…and the list goes on.
OK, so not all of that is considered healthy, but look what it’s inspired. Other sections of the store have jumped on the bandwagon offering beautiful choices from salmon burgers to tuna burgers and you’ll even find veggies burgers in varieties from black bean to quinoa — all with their own unique ingredients to dazzle the mind and tempt the palate.
Last week, I happened to be traveling along the Connecticut shoreline when I spotted a butcher shop. Since these are a rare commodity in 2009 America, I just had to stop. Imagine my delight when I counted 6 different value-added, prepared burgers simply crying out for me to purchase them for a backyard barbecue. Next to each of these little darlings, was a miniature variety: the slider. This shop even carried cute, little slider buns — a veritable find in and of itself since slider buns are not easy to come by for such a popular menu item.
Three pounds of burgers and sliders later, I emerged from my shopping ecstasy and headed straight to where I was staying. The fun began amid shouts of “put another burger on the barbie!” It was the perfect end to a perfect day, which I am sure I will repeat throughout the year in my own humble kitchen — barbecue or frying pan at the ready.
(Photo credit: Corey Harmon)