May 18, 2015
un petit hamburger
It’s been over forty years since my one‑and‑only experience of eating a White Castle hamburger. It wasn’t a great experience. I remember buying a bag of six sliders expecting that there would be enough to share with my two friends. We all came away hungry and unhappy. At that point in my life, the first‑ever fast food joint and creator of the fast‑food hamburger gave all fast‑food joints and all the fast‑food hamburgers a bad name.
Every time I drive along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, either coming from or going to JFK, I pass a White Castle that’s always open. I can even order ahead online. The sack of six will now set me back 77¢ each. I think they were closer to 20¢ each the first time I had them. I also see they now come with ketchup. They used to be just meat, onions, pickle slice, and bun. Maybe I’ll try them again one day.
I’ve been thinking about doing a slider as an amuse‑bouche for quite a while, but every idea I have seems to be too tall. Then I figured it out. Imitate the White Castle hamburger. No one ever called a White Castle slider tall.  I will need the four separate elements: a thin bun, a thin meat patty, a thin slice of pickle, and “thinly” diced onions, to wit, the amuse‑bouche slider.
The first element is the bun. Walter A. Anderson, White Castle founder and first cook, is credited  with inventing the hamburger bun in 1916, five years before the start of the White Castle chain. The White castle bun is “basic white bread,” so I searched that exact term. The first result in the list became the basis for the following recipe. The 12 little buns produced by the recipe are much too tall to mimic the squat originals, so it’s necessary to remove the center two‑thirds from each roll before serving.
80 ml (13 c)
water, warmed to 40 to 43 °C (104 to 109 °F)
1 t
honey or agave syrup
12 t
active dry yeast
1 t
soft butter
4 t
nonfat dry milk powder
140 g (1 c)
all‑purpose flour
14 t
fine salt
1. Warm a metal bowl by filling it with hot tap water for a few minutes. Discard that water, and add the warm water and honey or agave syrup. Stir to mix. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water, and set the bowl aside for 5 minutes so the yeast can dissolve.
2. Add the butter, milk powder, about half the flour, and salt. Mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until everything is mixed. Add about two‑thirds of the remaining flour. Continue to mix until the dough fully comes together.
3. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, and knead it for 6 to 8 minutes. Add additional flour if the dough is or becomes too sticky.
4. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, and turn to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set the bowl aside in a warm, draft‑free place until the dough is doubled in size.
5. Punch down the dough. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball. Grease an 11‑ by 14‑cm (438‑ by 512‑in), or similarly sized, cake pan. Arrange the balls in a three by four pattern in the cake pan. Flatten the dough balls slightly. Cover the cake pan with plastic wrap. Set the cake pan aside in a warm, draft‑free place until the balls have doubled in size.
6. Preheat your oven to 200 °C (390 °F).
7. Bake the rolls in the center of your oven until nicely browned, about 20 minutes.
8. Wait a minute or two after removing the cake pan from the oven before turning the rolls out on to a cooling rack. Let the rolls cool thoroughly before separating.
Note: These rolls freeze very nicely.
Yield: 12 rolls.
Weighing 25 grams, or slightly less than an ounce each, the original White Castle meat patty was incredibly thin. The amuse‑bouche version would be about half that size. To make service easier, I decided to precook the meat and just reheat it for serving. To produce meat patties that would be about the same length and width as the finished rolls, it seemed to make sense that they should be formed in the same cake pan. So that’s what I did.
170 g (6 oz)
ground beef with about 15% fat
14 t
fine salt
14 t
freshly ground black pepper
1. Combine all of the ingredients.
2. Line the bottom of the same cake pan used for the rolls with parchment paper so the paper extends over the ends. Press the meat mixture into the bottom of the cake pan so it forms a single, even layer. Fold the loose ends of paper over the meat. Freeze until solid.
3. Remove the frozen slab of meat along with the paper from the cake pan and immediately vacuum pack it. Cook in 60 °C (140 °F) water for 30 minutes. Start timing from when the water comes back to temperature after inserting the meat.
4. At the end of the cooking, chill the meat package in an ice‑water bath for 5 minutes.
5. Unwrap the meat and discard the parchment paper. Pat the surface dry. Cut the meat into 12 portions to match the size of the rolls.
Note: These meat patties freeze very nicely.
Yield: 12 meat patties.
The pickle portion of this slider is taken from a recipe I was introduced to about fifteen years ago. The original recipe was printed in Bon Appétit magazine in 1993. When I first started making this recipe, I could fit 16 small cucumbers in my pickling jar. Now, I’m lucky to fit 10, and I don’t think my jar shrank. Buy the smallest pickling cucumbers you can find, but be prepared to maybe have more than will fit in your jar. This slider recipe will use less than one pickle!
I use an old, plastic, 2‑quart mayonnaise jar for pickling. Since the walls are flexible, it’s easy to stuff the cucumbers in tightly.
500 ml (2 c)
filtered water
500 ml (2 c)
distilled white vinegar
2 T
1 T
granulated sugar
12 bunch
fresh dill
10 cloves
garlic, peeled, germ removed, thinly sliced
2 T
pickling spice (with dill seeds)
1 t
crushed, dried red pepper
16 small
pickling cucumbers, washed
1. Combine the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar in a bowl and stir with an immersion blender to dissolve. Set aside.
2. Wash the dill. Discard any thick stems. Set aside.
3. Combine garlic, pickling spice, and red pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
4. Place a quarter of the dill and spices in the bottom of a wide‑mouth, 2‑quart jar. Vertically arrange as many cucumbers as will tightly fit in the jar in a single layer. Add half, two‑thirds of what remains, of the fresh dill and the spices. Place the remaining cucumbers crosswise in the jar. Top this layer with the remaining dill and spices. Slowly pour the liquid into the jar, all the way to the brim. Close the lid tightly. There will probably be more liquid than required to fill the jar.
5. Refrigerate for 10 days before eating.
To assemble four sliders for serving:
neutral oil
1 T
yellow onion, 3‑mm (18‑in) dice, not chopped or minced
fine salt
4 thin slices
dill pickle
1. Heat some oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions, sprinkle lightly with salt, and sweat the onions until translucent.
2. At the same time, wrap the rolls en masse in foil, and heat for 10 minutes at 180 °C (355 °F).
3. At the same time, heat some oil in a frying pan over high heat. Brown the meat patties, especially the edges. Drain on absorbent paper.
4. When everything is ready. Assemble the sliders by first slicing out the center two‑thirds from each roll. Place a quarter of the onions on the bottom slice of each roll. Top the onions with a meat patty followed by a pickle slice and the top slice of roll.
5. Serve while still warm.

© 2015 Peter Hertzmann. All rights reserved.