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Capital Region Cook-off: Crowning the Burger King

The chefs from Shake Shack and Next Door Kitchen & Bar go head to head in beefy battle.

Shake Shack's burgers, fries and milkshakes were an instant hit when the NYC-based chain opened a location inside Saratoga Race Course in 2010. (Cheyenne Cohen)

Nothing spells Saratoga racing season like paying your admission fee, clicking through the turnstiles and making a beeline for Shake Shack. Now that the burger joint, which was created by restauranteur Danny Meyer and originated in New York City, is a mainstay at the track, there’s no avoiding its magnetic pull. But wait one gosh darn minute here! Shake Shack isn’t the only burger in town—not by a longshot. In this installment of Capital Region Cook-off, we’re pitting Shake Shack’s classic Shack Burger against the equally to-die-for Next Door Burger, a creation of Chef Jeff Strom, which Capital Region carnivores travel by the carful to devour at Ballston Spa’s Next Door Kitchen & Bar. Which burger lands itself in the winner’s circle? Get grillin’ and tryin’!

Shake Shack: The Shack Burger

Ingredients

4 hamburger potato buns

4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

4 pieces green leaf lettuce

8 quarter-inch slices ripe plum tomato

1 lb. very cold ground beef, divided into 4 pucks

½tsp salt and pepper (Shake Shack keeps a mix ready-made at all times)

4 slices American cheese

4 tbsp ShackSauce

½ cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

¾ tsp Heinz ketchup

¼ tsp Kosher dill pickling brine

pinch of cayenne pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

• First, make ShakeSauce: Mix ingredients in a small bowl and stir well until combined.

• Heat a cast-iron griddle over medium-low heat until warm. Meanwhile, open the hamburger buns and softly brush the insides with the melted butter. Place the buns buttered side down on the griddle and toast until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer buns to a plate. Spoon the sauce onto the top bun. Add a piece of lettuce and two slices of tomato.

• Increase the heat to medium and heat the griddle until hot, 2 to 3 minutes.

• Evenly sprinkle a pinch of salt & pepper on top of each puck of meat.

• Place the pucks on the griddle, seasoned side down. Using a large, sturdy metal spatula, firmly smash each puck into a 1/3-inch-thick round patty. Pressing down on the spatula with another stiff spatula helps flatten the burger quickly. Evenly sprinkle another big pinch of salt and pepper mix.

• Grill the burgers, resisting the urge to move them, until the edges beneath are brown and crisp, and juices on the surface are bubbling hot, about 2½ minutes. Slide one of the spatulas beneath the burger to release it from the griddle and scrape up the caramelized browned crust. Use the other spatula to steady the burger and keep it from sliding. Flip the burgers. Put the cheese on top and cook the burgers 1 minute longer for a medium inside temperature. Cook more or less depending on your preference.

• Transfer the cheeseburgers to the prepared buns and enjoy.

Next Door Kitchen & Bar: The Next Door Burger

The secret ingredient in Next Door Kitchen & Bar’s burger is a slathering of house-made bacon jam.

Ingredients

8oz. beef burger patty (locally sourced from Kilcoyne Farms)

brioche burger bun

1½-inch slice beefsteak tomato

2tbsp bacon jam

5 pounds bacon, cut into 1-inch cubes cut into 1-inch cubes

5 yellow onions, julienned

1½ cups brown sugar

3/4 cups sambal chili paste

5 cups coffee

1½ cups Sherry vinegar

1½ cups Maple syrup

1 tbsp ground black pepper

salt to taste

2 tbsp garlic aioli

5 egg yolks

1 clove garlic

1 cup roasted garlic

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

juice of 2 lemons

3 cups blended oil

warm water

pinch of cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

• To make bacon jam (recipe yields 1 gallon), render bacon in a large saucepan. Add onion and caramelize. Add remaining ingredients and let simmer for two hours. Purée in a food processor, working in batches.

• To make garlic aioli (recipe yields 5 cups), add egg yolks, garlic, roasted garlic, Dijon mustard and lemon juice to a food processor and work until smooth and fluffy. Slowly stream in the oil, forming an emulsion. Add warm water if aioli becomes too thick. Season to taste with salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.

• Grill the burger patties to desired doneness, transfer to buns, top with tomato, bacon jam and garlic aioli. and serve with French fries and a pickle.

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