Turtle Burger

Though I can eat a turtle burger any time of the year, it seems somehow more fitting in the summer.  It is bar none my favorite decadence.

It is not made of turtles.

Counterintuitive, I know.

The first time I had a turtle burger was at Lerner’s Red Hots, which used to be located in Prospect Heights, but sadly is no longer there or anywhere, though it would be a wondrous thing if Lerner’s resurfaced because it was truly the quintessential burger/dog hole-in-the-wall. I remember plastic seating and a flourescent wash of lighting and the scent of bubbling hot oil and the standard white plastic menu board with small black plastic letters. On which you could read among other things “Seymour the Turtle”.  I love that this burger had a proper name.

It was called a turtle burger because it came with a hot dog split lengthwise on top, and with the hot dog sticking out of the bun, from the aerial view, it looks like a turtle.  Pickle added for enhanced effect.

Kuma’s Corner, which some would allege has the best burgers in the city of Chicago (and I’m inclined to jump on that particular bandwagon), has/had a version of this burger called the Goblin Cock. Last time I went, it was defunct. Temporarily? Dunno. It is basically a turtle burger with bacon.  And while bacon makes everything better, it’s really the combination of hotdog on cheeseburger that makes this burger near-fatally delicious. For me, the Goblin Cock has nothing on the turtle burger because it is not invested with all that sweet nostalgia, and I have to suffer a metal bar to acquire it.

Unless I make it in my own home.

Which I do.

More often than I should.

For me, it all starts with

Beer Burger Buns.

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup beer
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
5 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt

To a pan, add water

Half and half

Beer  – whatever kind you like –


and butter

Heat on low until the butter melts.  Let cool for 10-15 minutes.  Don’t skip the cooling.  If your mixture is too hot, you risk killing your yeast.  If you want to play it safe, melt the butter by itself, and add it to the rest of the wet ingredients.

I have my yeast ready in my KitchenAid mixing bowl, so once the yeast is proofed, I can add the flour and mix right in that bowl.   If you don’t have a stand mixer, no worries.  You can mix/knead by hand.

When the mixture is cool enough, about 100 – 110 degrees, (I check with a digital thermometer and if you make a lot of carmel/candy, you might want one too), add it to the yeast.

Yes, the milk looks slightly curdled.  It was the beer.  It’ll be fine.*

At this point, you can let it sit five minutes or not.**

In a small bowl, combine your flour and salt

Whisk together to evenly distribute the salt.

Then add your most of your flour mixture one cup at a time.  Using the dough hook, mix each addition on low

until the flour is incorporated and the dough is tacky but not sticky.  This dough may take all the flour or not. You’re just looking for tacky not sticky.  Then jack up your standmixer to medium speed and “knead” until it forms a elastic, smooth, slightly tacky dough that climbs up the dough hook and windowpanes, about 5-6 minutes.  Go 10 minutes if you’re kneading by hand.

I know what you’re saying.  Dough hooks don’t do anything but slap the dough around the bowl.  To this I say a few things.***

Here’s mine climbing the dough hook

So once it’s there, you can spray down the bowl with pan spray and form the dough into a ball

I then cover it with plastic wrap and  put it into my oven (without turning it on) because that’s the closest I can come at home to a proofing box.  45 minutes later ….

My dough has doubled and is ready to be portioned.

I used a bench scraper to cut the dough into @4 ounce pieces

I formed them into little balls, put them 2 inches apart on a parchment lined sheet tray

I flattened them a little, covered them with a towel, and put them back into my unheated oven to proof.

And once they have doubled in size…

Notice that they're different sizes. Good reasoning to weigh them all before proofing. But my burgers are never quite even either, so I like to think the right burger will find its bun mate.

Once they’re doubled, and a dent that I make with my finger takes a couple of seconds to fully spring back, I egg wash them.

1 egg.  A splash of water.  A brush.

Beat it and brush it.

I’m sure your local kitchen store sells a “pastry brush” for about $5.  I went to the hardware store and spent $.25 – up to you.

Be sure to brush all over.  I was constantly getting dinged in baking class for “inconsistent egg wash”.  The drippy look of inconsistent egg wash is kind of rustic and Jackson Pollack looking, but try to be consistent if  you can.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until brown, and hollow-sounding when tapped.  That’s it.

Know the best thing about these buns?

No…High Fructose Corn Syrup, Calcium Sulfate,  Cornstarch, Wheat Starch, Dough Conditioners (Datem, Sorbic Acid, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Ethoxylated Mono and Diglycerides, Calcium Dioxide, and/or Mono and Diglycerides), Yeast Nutrients (Calcium Carbonate, Ammonium Chloride, Ammonium Sulfate, and/or Monocalcium Phosphate), Enzymes, Calcium Propionate (to Retain Freshness)

All of which you will find in these –

Just saying.

And tell me these don’t look better

Once my buns are made, I get out the ground beef I bought at  Gene’s Sausage Shop, their house-made beef hot dogs, preheat the grill pan, and get ready to rock the turtle burger.

My burger recipe for this is bare bones –

1/4 lb ground beef
salt and pepper to taste
cheddar cheese

There’s a lot going on with the fixins’ so I feel the patty should be pretty straight forward.

I just form 4 oz of ground beef into a rough patty, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and slap that puppy onto a ripping hot grill pan

I know.  To some people, this looks like a lot of salt.  It’s necessary.****  On both sides. I salt one side, slap that side down on the grill, then salt the naked side while it’s cooking.

I cook the patty about 2-3 minutes, then flip, because I’m looking for grill marks but also for medium rare. Technically, yes, this is risky for a burger, but damn, damn tasty.  Once I’ve flipped, I add the cheese because I want it to be very melty.  Once the cheese is melted, I push on the meat to see where it is.  Usually it’s about done 2-3 minutes after I’ve flipped, depending on thickness and desired doneness.

I let it rest while I put a dog split lengthwise (and sometimes onions) on the grill and grab some pickles, tomato, mustard, lettuce (if available), and ketchup.

Once the dog is marked with dark char marks

I assemble.

Bottom Bun, Burger, Dog. (Potentially bacon if I’m suicidal)

Top Bun, Pickles, Tomato,  Onion, Mustard, Ketchup.

Smack together.

Unhinge Jaw.



Recover (if you can).

I know what you’re saying.  That’s all fine and well but, I somehow still have a smidgen of room…

To which I reply, “Brownies, sir (or madame). Stat.”


– makes 1 “spinster dish” full.  I call it the spinster dish because when my parents gave it to me they said, “We thought it’d be the perfect size, because it’s just you.”

Came out less snide than it sounds.  Funny as hell.  Also a lil’ sad.  The spinster dish is like 3″ x 6″?

Here’s my recipe adapted to super small pan “because it’s just you.” Feel free to multiply as needed.

1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (preferably callebaut, but whatever)
1/2 stick butter, browned
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp espresso powder (optional)
1/3 cup flour
heavy pinch salt
1/2 cup nuts o’ your choice

Spray pan with pan spray.  What an odd sentence.

Whip eggs and sugar together until thick, pale, and ribbony.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, brown butter in pan.

hard to tell in a black pan. Should be tan and smell nutty. It was and it did.

Combine with chocolate to melt.

Stir until smooth. Drizzle chocolate mixture into eggs, slowly, slowly.  Don’t want to cook your eggs.

Stop mixer and proceed by hand. Add vanilla. Add espresso powder if you have it/want it.  Deepens the chocolate. Add salt. Stir.

Now, caution.  Here’s where you can toughen your brownies.  The flour.  If you develop the gluten in the flour, your brownies will get undesirably chewy.  Carefully, fold in flour. Regard, a pink spatula. (Color optional.  Switch to hand mixing non-optional)

Fold in nuts.  I happened to have some toasted almonds and pistachios laying around.  It happens. Whatever you have around.  Or skip ’em.  Up to you.

Spread in pan.  In this case, the spinster pan.

Be careful of the edges.  Like I wasn’t….It will bake before the main brownies do and make your oven smell like they’re done when they’re not.

Lick spoon/bowl.

Bake at 325 for 25ish minutes or until a toothpick comes out moist but not runny.  The crumbs should be able to be rolled into a ball.

Leave them to set there for a bit.  10 or 15 minutes I’d say. I know, it’s hard.  You did lick the spoon, right?  Well, I tried to tide you over…

And… drumroll…

Yes, I need a better camera than the one on my phone.  One of these days…

These are even better when they’re refridgerated.  Fudgy consistency.  So, so good.


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