Oh Father’s Office — an iconic LA hot spot with two popular locations: Helms Bakery District in Culver City and just off Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. With over 20 beers on tap ranging from local microbreweries to domestic brews to imported, this gastropub features some of Sang Yoon’s most well-known gourmet bar food creations – including the famed Office Burger. Quality ground beef, pungent blue cheese, sweet & sticky caramelized onion jam, and fresh spicy arugula on a French roll. With a strict no-substitutions policy (even, sadly, for the lactose-intolerant), the burger as the chef intended ranks on many lists as one of the best burgers in LA.
We just purchased a grill for our balcony, and it was serendipitous that our first project was this restaurant copycat. As one of our friends put it, it’s the onion compote that really makes it. Surprisingly, the flavors were not too difficult to replicate, although it does take an awful lot of TLC. Martin was the grill-master so it was largely thanks to him that this burger was so darn tasty.
3 slices applewood-smoked bacon
2 medium-sized sweet onions
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ketchup
Fresh cracked black pepper
(adapted from Will Work for Food)
All good things start with bacon. Well, not all, but this onion compote does. Heat a skillet on medium-high. Cook the bacon for about 5-10 minutes on medium-high heat, letting the fat render. Meanwhile, cut the onions (the long way, from root to tip) into fairly even-sized pieces.
Remove crispy bacon and set aside for snacking. You should have a few tablespoons’ worth of bacon fat in the skillet.
Add the 0nions. Sprinkle with salt. Stir to combine and let them start to sweat on medium / medium-high heat.
After about 5 minutes, sprinkle with sugar to help facilitate the caramelization process.
Let this go until the onions turn deep brown but not burnt. For the first 20 minutes or so, you will want to leave it alone and stir only every few minutes.
If the edges start to darken too quickly, lower the heat.
It was at this point that I realized the importance of cutting even pieces. The larger ones took longer to cook down than the little bits.
It took me 20-30 minutes with gentle stirring every 5 minutes until the last 10 minutes or so when I needed to stir every minute. This is about when you will need to pay close attention to the onions. They can easily scorch at this point and all of your hard work would be for naught.
Look at that gorgeous sight! When just about all of the pieces have passed the translucent stage and browned beautifully, add the liquids, using the balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan.
Continue cooking for about 5 minutes, letting the acidity burn off. Set aside.
This will yield enough topping for about 4-5 burgers.
NomNomCat Tip: I was able to accomplish this in my IKEA nonstick skillet. Don’t let the naysayers tell you that you have to go out and purchase a stainless steel or All-Clad just to get some good browning action (although a quality pan is definitely a great asset to the kitchen!).
Ground beef, about 1/4 lb per patty *
* I used 80-20 packaged ground beef from Trader Joe’s, but if you have a meat grinder, I’ve heard that the best blend is a 50-50 mix of dry-aged rib-eye and ground chuck.
Garlic salt (or salt and granulated garlic)
Drizzle of Worcestershire sauce (about 1 tablespoon per 1 lb)
Bleu cheese (I bought the kind from Trader Joe’s, but you could go fancy with Maytag or Point Reyes)
Gruyere cheese, grated
Arugula, washed and dried (salad spinner, anyone?)
Buns! Don’t forget the buns. The first time we made it, we used regular white burger buns. To really recreate the Father’s Office experience, you’re going to want to track down some French demi-baguettes.
Oh, and ice cold beer (not really an ingredient)
Season the ground beef and mix well to combine. Form consistent patties for even cooking times. I like thick patties since I prefer my burgers rare, but you can flatten them for quicker cooking.
Get the grill nice and hot. Cook one side and get a good sear. A medium-rare patty will take about 5 minutes per side. Flip once. Sprinkle on a small spoonful of each cheese on the seared side of the patties. Toast the buns.
Serve the patties cheese-side-up. Top with a generous dollop (or two!) of the onion compote. The saucy goodness packs a punch of flavor!
A handful of arugula and this burger is ready to sit alongside an ice cold glass of beer, just like an Office Burger would. Dig in and make sure you get a taste of everything in each bite! Not gonna lie, I was pretty darn impressed, even with the boring ol’ white bread buns. We are definitely going to be making this party favorite more often now that it’s the perfect weather for grilling. But first… the search for the perfect roll/baguette/bun continues. I’m thinking a Brioche or French roll brushed with melted butter before being tossed on the grill.
This homegrown version isn’t going to put the father of the gastropub out of business any time soon, but it is a great dressed-to-impress recipe for your next summer barbecue! If you try it, let us know how it goes — pictures or it didn’t happen!
(PS: Come back on Wednesday for our nom adventure / restaurant review post for Father’s Office in the Helms Bakery District. I know we did things a bit backwards, but our fans demanded the recipe and that’s what we wanted to provide!)