Burgers, like music and movies, can be a very personable thing. From how the patty and bun is prepared to what’s put on top, people like it “their way.” For as long as I can remember, my way has been to take ice-cold butter, cut it into small pieces and mix it right into the hamburger meat. It makes the juiciest, most flavorful burger in the whole world. I don’t do those often, because, well, I don’t have to tell you why, but when I’m really wantin’ to blow somebody away with a burger, it’s gonna be a butter burger.
All the Fixin’s
There are about a million different ways to build a burger. I’ve topped mine with everything from fried bacon to fried eggs. But these days, the quintessential “Paula” burger is pretty simple. I love a really traditional burger with lots of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, mayonnaise and a little mustard. The only thing I can’t stand on my burger is ketchup, no matter how un-American that may sound.
The “Michael” burger can be summed up in one word: hot. That man loves a burger with some kick, which is why he always dresses ‘em with and handful of jalapenos. Bobby and Jamie have each experimented with their own delicious burger variations, toppin’ them with a heap of portabella mushrooms or mashed avocado.
Consequently, a dyed-in-the-wool burger blowout means having something for every guest’s tastes, whether it’s fried okra or fresh salsa. So many offerings also require a wide-open space, so we decided to throw the dinner party on my back patio overlooking the Wilmington River—the perfect view for any summer celebration.
Be My Guest
Michael and I took the opportunity to invite two of my treasured employees who rarely get a moment’s rest, let alone a home-cooked meal. And, of course, it’s never a party without Aunt Peggy. The minute she hears a burger is in her future, she moves faster than a cat on fire. Don’t be fooled by her soft voice and small frame—Aunt Peggy has herself a real appetite and, honey, she can eat.
Rance Jackson is the general manager at The Lady & Sons and the most wonderful young man. He walked into our restaurant a couple of months before we opened and introduced himself to Jamie and Bobby. I was busy talkin’ to someone else, but something about Rance caught my eye, even from across the room. After he left, I asked the boys, “What did that young man want?” They said he was a cook in the Army and that he wanted to apply for a job. I said, “Run catch him. Do not let him get away.”
In a moment’s glance, I saw the most wonderful thing in him—I saw the kind of person Rance was and I wanted that young man on our team. He’s good, honest, trustworthy and dedicated, and I’m blessed to work with him. I was also blessed to have him man the grill for our dinner party. I tried to tell him to sit back and enjoy himself, but once a cook, always a cook.
Our other guest, Noelle Hoppe, is the general manager at the Paula Deen Retail Store. She came to us not too long ago from Apple. Noelle didn’t have much experience in a business like ours, but I saw in her those same qualities that I saw so many years ago in Rance. Noelle has not disappointed; she’s really hung in there with the store. She’s not a quitter, even when things get tough—something I know a little about. And now she’s coming into her own with the store, fittin’ in perfectly with the Deen Team.
Stacking the Deck
Seeing Noelle build her burger only reaffirmed that she’s on the right team. No one held back. We stacked ‘em about as tall as the river is wide, experimenting with new flavors and combinations, dreamin’ up silly names that just might find themselves on a menu one day (Michael’s Mouth-burner or Peggy’s Pickled Patty, anyone?).
At the very least, they’ll be the stars of what’s sure to become a seasonal celebration.
Sink your teeth into some of Paula’s other signature burgers!