Shrimp burgers and herbed gin and tonics: A Labor Day to remember

By Jeanmarie Brownson


Chicago Tribune

We enjoy burgers all summer long — their charred goodness never ceases to satisfy. For Labor Day weekend, we’ll splurge on a departure from the usual beef: crispy shrimp burgers with a spicy homemade mayonnaise.

These indulgent burgers are inspired by a midday feast traveling in the UK with friends. After a morning exploring Abbey Road, we ventured to the Holborn Dining Room in London’s Rosewood Hotel. The gorgeous marble, polished wood and red-accented brasserie is well known for our favorite summer cocktail — the gin and tonic.

These are not the sloppy Tanqueray and tonics of our youth. The Holborn’s Gin Bar features more than 400 boutique gins and 27 tonic waters. In addition, the restaurant makes homemade syrups and secret potions to turn out more than 14,000 possible gin and tonic combinations. Fresh lavender, mint, rosemary, thyme and other botanicals, destined for muddling into a bar glass, scent the room.

It took us a long time to select a gin and a tonic combination. In the end, a lavender and pink grapefruit G&T swept us away. Converted, we spent the rest of the trip collecting gins to transport home. Several versions of homemade syrups now line the shelf of my fridge. My husband planted lavender just for cocktails.

The Holborn shrimp burger likewise haunts our memories. Versions at local restaurants pale in comparison. Finally, I ventured into the kitchen to work on recreating it. Turns out, raw shrimp, some of it chopped and some nearly pureed, yield the juicy, nearly bouncy burger reminiscent of Holborn’s signature sandwich. A hot, oily griddle, not a grill, creates a perfectly crusty exterior.

The shrimp burger mix is seasoned with a bit of garlic and fresh herbs. Breadcrumbs and an egg white help hold the patties together during cooking. To shape the soft mixture into burgers, I put mounds onto an oily, heated griddle and then press the mounds into 1-inch thick burgers as they start to cook.

Enlist a food processor to make speedy work of chopping and coarsely pureeing the raw shrimp. (I’ve been known to pack my food processor in the car to take to our lake cabin, so I could make these burgers.) Lacking a processor, a sharp knife and a cutting board works to finely chop half of the shrimp. Then, work in small batches in a blender to coarsely puree the other half of the shrimp.

Holborn tops their burgers with a spicy jalapeno tartar. I make my version with griddle-roasted jalapeno, chopped fresh herbs and a good-quality, store-bought mayonnaise. The combo tastes great on burgers of any flavor.

Brioche buns, toasted and smeared with the seasoned mayonnaise make holiday-worthy burgers. For more controlled weekday enjoyment, I serve the burgers on a pile of crisp romaine leaves with a dollop of the mayonnaise.

Accompany the burgers with butter-basted zucchini sticks and an icy cold gin and tonic. For dessert, seer small scoops of a nondairy frozen fresh fruit and coconut dessert. Your labors will be appreciated.