Until the first day of 2011 I had never eaten a slider. No, I’m not a social recluse. Yes, over the last four years I have been to my share of parties where charming servers have offered miniature sandwiches. But even the ones that incorporated a griddled patty of ground beef were unequivocally not sliders.
There is not much worse than a poncey dinner party host who insists that their bagged mini carrots be called crudites. Fights over controlled words like champagne vs. sparkling wine, or pargimigiano reggiano vs. parmesan cheese are almost as tiresome. Langauge does evolve and I’m happy to say that English handles these changes better than some others.
Now that I’ve established that I’m no expert and that I dislike strict usage rules I’m to go ahead and insist that a mini sandwich is not a “slider”. Adam Kuban who is one of the minds behind the site A Hamburger Today (AHT) does a better job of explaining why so take a look at his post. Or if you’re too lazy for a single click allow me to summarise: A slider is like a small hamburger in that it must contain a thin patty of ground beef but the onions on which it is cooked are integral and the bun it’s served on must be introduced to the cooking environment so that it can absorb the aroma and flavour of onions.
I don’t know of any Toronto restaurant that serves proper sliders. White Castle’s politburo has never deemed us worthy of an outpost–they’re all centrally owned–so without the mass-market example to follow I guess the genre has just never caught on here.
Obviously, where I’m going with this is that making sliders at home is the best, if not only, option. And again from AHT Kenji Lopez-Alt has what he calls his “ultimatest” slider recipe. Thankfully it does away with preparing the onion juice that was part of a previous version and instead uses a towel to trap the onion steam so that the buns and beef are impregnated with its flavour.
Because I was using a skillet with relatively tall sides instead of a flat griddle I worried that I’d have difficulty flipping the sliders if I filled the pan so used two instead. If you find yourself in the same situation use one pan to caramelise your onions and the other to start the patties. Once the patties have developed the crunchy, brown goodness on one side flip them onto the onions in the other pan, add cheese, stack the buns on top, and cover the whole works with a kitchen towel.
These are not the best-looking burgers I have ever made but they are delicious. At under two ounces of beef they are offer the flexibility to satisfy a snack-sized appetite with a single or can be a very substantial meal at four. They also strike me as the perfect way to indoctrinate children into the ways of freshly-ground, full-flavoured hamburgers. Best of all, the sweet and savoury onion notes that permeate all elements of a slider make it a supremely delicious and interesting change from the usual.