Features Dress Up Your Summer Sandwiches with House-Made Condiments
Dress Up Your Summer Sandwiches with House-Made Condiments
May 2009

With Memorial Day upon us and Father’s Day fast approaching, customers will be clamoring for grilled burgers and summery sandwiches. Sure, it’s trendy to talk about how awesome your burger is because of its absurd beef-to-fat back ratio. And, yeah, tips on how to grill the perfect piece of meat are insanely popular during the summer. But the truth is, when it comes to summer sandwiches—no matter how juicy or perfectly cooked—your meat is just a patty on a bun until it’s sexed up with some condiments. Besides, putting a house-made relish or specialty ‘slaw is a great way to add value to a burger or sandwich.

For Tilth’s signature Mini Duck Burgers Chef Maria Hines knows that condiments are king, but the bottled stuff just won’t do. Instead, she mixes together her own hot mustard and heirloom tomato ketchup to slather on her toasted brioche halves. The burger really comes to life though with the house-made red onion jam topping her duck patty­­—a sweet and savory combination of red wine, honey, and slivers of cooked-down onion. Hines notes that yellow onions can be substituted for red, but she prefers red for their spicy edge. When creating your own ketchup and red onion jam from scratch, Chef Hines recommends that you take advantage of summer’s in season produce: play around with different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and keep in mind that peak season for Italian red onions is April through August.

Chef Duncan Gott of Taylor’s Automatic Refresher in St. Helena, CA makes the most of ahi tuna’s summer supply spike with his ahi tuna burger loaded with a heap of spicy Asian slaw and ginger-wasabi mayonnaise. Says Gott, “Condiments are a part of the American way of eating. They’re important to bring out certain flavors. Ahi by itself is good, but when mixed with other Asian flavors it’s outstanding.”

Gott dips his sushi grade tuna in the quintessential Japanese condiment, soy sauce, before searing it rare on the grill. For textural contrast and a hefty crunch he sandwiches the fish between two generous piles of a cabbage and carrot slaw dressed in a house-made spicy Asian-style dressing. And to top it off he adds a punchy wasabi-mayonnaise mixed with pickled ginger with a pinch of soy sauce, lime juice, and sesame oil. The ahi burger is one of the top sellers on his menu.

As an alternative to the typical burger-style summer ‘wich, Chef Erika Burke of Volunteer Park Café in Seattle serves a tender braised BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich. A great pulled pork calls for a great sauce to amp it up, but deciding what was right for the job proved to be a difficult decision. Rather than forcing herself to choose, Burke combined two of her favorites—BBQ sauce and mayonnaise—to make a sweet and spicy BBQ mayo.

Burke’s sauce is a labor of love, taking hours to prepare from start to finish. She begins by sautéing sweet onions and garlic in butter, then mixes in brown sugar. Says Burke, “Summer is season for sweet onions like Walla Walla and Vidalia onions. During the winter I go out of my way to find sweet onions for this recipe, but they are more expensive out of season.” She suggests substituting half of a yellow or red onion for a less costly alternative.

In traditional southern fashion—and as a self-proclaimed lover of cold condiments on hot textures, Burke completes her massive pulled pork sandwich with a bright purple helping of crisp coleslaw. For a refreshing drink pairing, she recommends serving it with a Mojito or an ice cold lemonade.

Inspired by another sandwich, the Greek gyro, this burger variation from Chef Julie Petrakis of The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, FL is beefed up with a yogurt-based Tzatziki sauce and colorful Kalamata olive relish. Says, Petrakis “I love this burger, because it’s so over the top with the foie gras ground into the patty, and the condiments just completely transform it and really take it to the next level.” The Tzatziki sauce, made with a thick and tangy Greek-style yogurt, is a cooling compliment to the cumin and chili flakes mixed in with the lamb. Adding more depth of texture and flavor is her Mediterranean Kalamata olive relish (based on a traditional Greek Country Salad) which highlights prime summer produce like tomatoes, cucumbers, and mint. Fire-roasted tomatoes and a stack of incredibly flavorful pickles top it all off. Petrakis credits the perfection of her pickles to making them in-house, “I can control the exact crispness, the spices, and the shapes, to be customized to any dish. People notice and really value the difference in taste.”

Whether you’re thinking up menus for the grill-centric summer holidays or entertaining on one of your highly sought-after days off, capitalize on the season’s ingredients for house-made condiments to elevate your summer dishes.