This is a new, semi-regular cooking column by Jean Grae.

When I got the opportunity to write this column, I was super excited and also concerned. I'm not good at giving exact instructions. I cook from my heart, taste buds, eyes, imagination and most of all, out of love and care.

So I didn't know how to really translate that to text and a photo.

Then, during my, "I think I have the fucking flu" sick day recently, I finally watched Anthony Bourdain's Inside The Mind of a Chef. I'm so glad I did. I remembered that I can cook and tell you guys how I'm cooking—in my own way. Watching amazing food being made just makes me get up (in this case, even at 4:16 a.m., with the sickies) and say, "I have to make something."

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I was with a man who understands the need to get up and make something creative, and it was his company that made me do this. Also, we were watching the "Gluttony" episode and I didn't have the ingredients to make a Hot Brown like the one Bourdain had, but my guy seemed really excited about it, so I felt like he should have something awesome anyway. 'Cause he's awesome sauce.

I present to you the work of art that came out of that sudden moment of inspiration:

Jean's 4:16 a.m. Burger

I just got back from a cruise (shout out, JoCoCruisers!), so I haven't had the chance to do a big supermarket shop. All I had to work with was what the man got today from my weird flu-induced supermarket list and what was leftover in the fridge.

Ingredients

  • Ground beef
  • Bacon
  • A yellow onion
  • Elephant garlic
  • Panko
  • An egg
  • A slice of whole wheat toast
  • Couple of leaves from a mesclun salad
  • BACON. FAT.
  • Some Malbec
  • Cornstarch
  • Baking powder
  • Vodka
  • Plain seltzer water
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Smoked paprika
  • Old Bay Seasoning

The Process

I didn't want to be stupid and make this burger with 2 slices of whole wheat bread on each side, because stop it. So, first, I just took a glass and pressed out a circle of bread, later to be used for the base of the burger.

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Then I mixed a handful of ground beef with salt, pepper, a lil' sprinkle of panko, and some Malbec. Not so that it's soaking, just so that I went, "yeeeah" at it enough.

Formed that into a patty, moved on.

Took garlic and sliced about 5 super thin pieces off. Elephant garlic is huge and lovely and easy to do this with. If you have a mandolin, you are cooler than me. I just used a knife. Moved on.

Took the onion and just sliced a tad bit off. 6 rings, I'd say. It's a tiny burger, so less is more. Then I mixed a bit of cornstarch, a teeny bit of baking powder, a splash of vodka and a splash of seltzer water in a bowl. Throw some Old Bay in there. Mix that in, too. You can stick in in the freezer or fridge for a bit too.

All that groovy stuff makes for a really light batter. It is fucking great. Only used this little, because it's 6 tiny onion rings. However, I would totally just fry that batter and eat it. Like a heathen. Seriously. I would.

Took a piece of bacon, sliced that into chunks. Stared at it lovingly.

Alright. Here's the part where I just my jar of bacon fat out of the fridge. I have that, because I am a good person.

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I normally cook bacon in a panini (and other stuff) grill, which has a drain on it, so all that good shit gets kept where it should be used: for 4 a.m. burger and other such everything.

Pan. Bacon fat. In it. Hot. Burger patty in there. Sizzle, sizzle. Getting a crusty, sexy thing going.

Other pan, little olive oil, medium heat. Drop in garlic. Ooooh. Flipped garlic. Remove garlic. Placed on paper towels. That took like, 3 seconds. Win!

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Add a little more olive oil to that pan, grabbed onions, grabbed batter out of freezer. Dredged onions in batter. Dropped in pan. Sizzle, sizzle. Flip onions. Okay, those are done. Removed, put on paper towel. That took like... 7 seconds.

Really time to give the burger some attention. Checked the underside until it got a sexy crust, flipped it. Took a spoon, basted it. Let it kinda kick it for a second and dropped the bacon in the other pan.

Cooked bacon how bacon gets cooked in a pan. Took out, set on paper towel.

Went to take burger out of pan, but then decided it should have a drink. So I plashed wine in that damn pan, basty-basted for a few seconds until I felt it in my heart.

Took burger out and let it rest a sec.

In the former bacon pan, I placed an unscrewed ring from mason jar down (I couldn't find egg ring) cracked egg into it. Little salt on it. Next to that, placed circle of bread. Yes, I did.

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Flipped bread when it got toasty, removed ring and egg. You can have your yolk hard if you are some sort of monster. We don't do that sort of thing here.

Do not use your bare hand to remove stuff, like I did. I do that shit all the time: I will stick my hand right into a flame. Don't do that.

The Plating

From the bottom up:

  1. Plate.
  2. Toasty bread.
  3. Leafy shit (this was really only for show).
  4. Burger.
  5. Egg.
  6. Onion rings.
  7. Bacon.
  8. Garlic chips.
  9. Some pepper, a dash of salt, paprika.

The Results:

Served it like a G, then passed out.

Cook for people you love. Cook for yourself, because you love yourself, too.

Jean Grae does everything like a gangster. You can google her to find out and follow her on the internet and in real life.

Illustration by Sam Woolley.