Four Bites Visitor's (& Portlanders) Shouldn't Go Without
Le Pigeon Burger
Le Pigeon chose a ciabatta bun by Ken's Artisan Bakery. The square shape of the bun was certainly part of the appeal, as was its size. Beyond that, though, Rucker had already established a strong relationship with bakery owner Ken Forkish, whose baguettes are also served at Le Pigeon. The buns are delivered fresh daily in plastic, so the moisture content remains high. Rucker does not butter the buns; rather he simply cuts them in half and grills them till charred. The buns are grilled so they don't get soggy.
One of the standout features of the Le Pigeon burger is its extraordinarily juicy and square-shaped patty. The trick, Rucker says, is to have a patty thick enough that you can develop a good crust without drying it out. And of course, "don't overcook it." The meat comes from a local farm, and Rucker particularly likes its fat content. The burger is seasoned only with salt and then grilled. Aside from the fact that restaurant doesn't have a griddle, Rucker grills the burger because that flavor recalls the flavor of a summer afternoon cook-out.
As with the bun and the beef, Rucker keeps it local with the cheese. Rucker uses Oregon-made Tillamook white cheddar. The cheese is aged and extra sharp, which balances the burger. The cheese was also chosen because it melts well on the grill. The sharp cheese is another way Rucker keeps his burger simple, but also add that complexity with well-sourced, flavorful ingredients.
In another example of blending the simple and the complex, the Le Pigeon burger is topped with an iceberg lettuce slaw and grilled pickled onions. The slaw was inspired by Rucker's love of shredded lettuce. He chose iceberg for its crispness. The slaw is tossed with parsley as well as aioli, since Rucker "do[es]n't like big globs of mayonnaise" on burgers. The grilled pickle onion, another nod to classic burger toppings, is "the best of both worlds" with an assertive crunch that still brings out the grilled flavors of the meat and the onions. The slaw and the onion have become signature features of the burger, Rucker says.
The Le Pigeon burger plays with the classic condiment trifecta of ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard. The ketchup on the burger in made in house. The recipe is pretty standard except that instead of sweating the onions in oil, Rucker simmers red onions in vinegar which gives them an "almost pickled, bloomed flavor" and makes for a more tart ketchup. Rucker pairs the ketchup with dijon mustard. The aioli, as explained above, is used to dress the iceberg lettuce, which is a cleaner "delivery system." Rucker went for aioli instead of mayonnaise because he wanted the extra kick from the garlic.
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