None of the several components for Umami Burger's famed Umami Burger are complicated to make. But faithfully re-creating one at home demands a well-stocked pantry (for things like anchovies, cider vinegar, soy sauce powder) and starting the oven-dried tomatoes the night before. For simplicity's sake, Umami Burger owner Adam Fleischman advises home chefs to stray from the recipe and choose two flavorful ingredients for a manageable umami imitation.
Start with the patty: Grind dried mushrooms (Fleischman recommends porcini) in a coffee grinder, mix with salt and pepper and sprinkle on the burger. "Dried mushrooms are very high in umami," Fleischman explains. The simplified umami dust, sold at umami.com, can be applied to the raw or cooked patty – Fleischman says he does both. "That, combined with the ketchup, would make a nice Umami burger without going through all the trouble." If ambition gets the best of you, though, follow the recipe to a tee. Or pick from the complete burger's signature elements: Parmesan crisps, umami ketchup, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, and oven-dried tomatoes.
Fleischman makes one other recommendation for burgers of any style: Grind your own meat. "You never know what's in ground beef when you buy it in the supermarket," he says. You can use a variety of cuts, listed in the recipe, but Fleischman advises paying attention to the fat. "Choose something that has a nice marble. You don't want anything too lean or too fatty." Cube the meat and place it in the freezer for 20 minutes before grinding it in a food processor – cold meat will retain a chunky texture that allows oxygen to distribute flavor, rather than mushing together, Fleischman says.
Umami Burger, from Umami Burger
(Makes 4 burgers)
• 24 oz assorted cuts of well-marbled beef, such as short rib, flap, skirt, chuck, or hanger steak
• 4 soft potato buns, sliced
• 4 Parmesan crisps (recipe below)
• 6 oz umami ketchup (recipe below)
• 6 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
• Caramelized onions
• 8 pieces oven-dried tomatoes (recipe below)
• 1 tbsp butter
• Vegetable oil
• 3 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano
• nonstick baking liner (Fleischman recommends Silpat sheet pan liner)
• 32 oz San Marzano tomatoes
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 2 tbsp tomato paste
• 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
• 1/2 cup cider vinegar
• 2 salted anchovies, cleaned and pureed
• 1 tbsp salt
• Worcestershire sauce
• Oyster sauce
• Truffle salt
• 1 tbsp unsalted butter
• 1 tbsp vegetable oil
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 2 tsp star anise
• 2 lb onions, halved and cut across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices
• 2 tomatoes
• 1 tbsp brown sugar
• 1 tbsp tomato paste
• 3/4 tsp soy sauce powder
• 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Grind beef coarsely in food processor. For each burger, place 6 oz meat into 4-inch ring mold, gently tap down to form, and place in refrigerator. Heat cast-iron skillet on high for 5 minutes, then grease lightly with vegetable oil. Season patties with salt and pepper, and sear each side for 3 minutes. Let rest.
In another skillet, melt half the butter and sauté mushroom caps until soft, 2 minutes. Wipe skillet and toast buns with the other half of the butter. Spread umami ketchup on both halves, place patties on bun and top with 1 tbsp caramelized onions, one Parmesan chip, 2 mushroom caps, and 2 slices oven-dried tomato.
Puree tomatoes and juice in blender. In a heavy saucepan, cook onion in oil over medium heat, 8 minutes. Add pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, and salt; simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until thick, 1 hour. Puree ketchup in blender until smooth. Chill covered overnight. Add umami seasonings to taste; chill until needed.
Heat butter and oil in pan on high, then stir in salt and star anise. Add onions and stir occasionally, 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; stir frequently until onions are deep brown, about 40 minutes.
Coarsely shred 1 cup cheese. Line baking sheet with nonstick liner, arrange tablespoons of cheese 2 inches apart, and flatten with spatula to form 3-inch rounds. Bake in 375-degree oven until golden, 10 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, then transfer with metal spatula to rack until completely cooled.
Whisk ingredients together, brush on sliced tomatoes, and dry tomatoes overnight in oven on lowest setting.
Should you find this recipe too daunting, Umami Burger has created a line of fifth-flavor enhancers, including umami spice dust and ketchup, sold on the chain's website alongside Red Boat fish sauce, HAK's barbecue sauce, and other products hand-selected by Fleischman.