The Making of the MATCH Restaurant Burger

Jeff "jfood" Schlesinger

Start with a patty of locally raised (Roxbury, CT) grass-fed beef. Throw in some bacon-cheddar sauce and sweet and sour onion jam. House it all on a caramelized onion brioche bun. And don't forget those fries.

No, this is not a new burger joint, this is Match's new Thursday Night Burger offer and CTbites was there for its beefy birth.

CTbites sent burger guru, "jfood," into the kitchen with Match Restaurant's Chef Matt Storch to develop this recent menu addition. From concept to reality, we bring you the new Match (SONO) Hamburger. Here's how it went down. 

During the summer months a significant number of food related conversations migrate to one of my favorite comfort foods, the all-American hamburger. Matt Storch, the C0-Owner / Chef at Match Restaurant in SONO decided to offer this seemingly simple item on his menu one day a week and he asked if I would assist in its development. And one lazy and scorching afternoon we set out to turn the kitchen of his restaurant, Match, into a science lab to taste test and decide on all of the burger components. We hand selected the meat, the roll, the toppings and the sides and created the 2011 Match Burger (see announcement below).

There are numerous characteristics that contribute to a great hamburger. The highest quality and deep, rich flavor for the meat are crucial; a flavorful cheese and a soft and delicious bun are also essential. Certain toppings fall into the required category, while others are optional. 

The Ingredients

The Meat – When Chef Matt and I initially discussed the concept we decided to perform side-by-side comparisons with several meats as contenders. The four choices that were included in the taste test were Greyledge Farms in Roxbury (fresh), John Boy’s from Cambridge NY (frozen), a custom blend (fresh) from Stile’s, a local Westport butcher, and West Conn (frozen). 

The Bun - The second most important aspect to a great hamburger is the bun. Whether this is a roll, a brioche or toast, the roll can make or break the overall presentation of the burger. Many believe that the bun should stand in the background, while others view the bun as an opportunity for additional flavor. For the test we used various types of rolls, all from Beldotti’s bakery in Stamford, including two types of brioche, a plain as well as one with caramelized onions, a sesame roll and a traditional hard roll. 

The Cheese - The first essential topping is the cheese. There are numerous options and each would bring a different flavor to the final product. Over the years I have gone through phases and enjoyed American, Swiss, Cheddar, Gruyere and Blues. Hoping to gain a rich creamy topping, Matt created a cheddar cheese béchamel sauce that used bacon fat to create the roux. The delivery of the cheese was the subject of much experimentation when the burgers were taste tested.

The Bacon – The discussion on whether to include bacon was short since both Chef Matt and I are big fans of bacon. The question of the type and how to include were discussed and the first attempt was a regular store bought variety that required an additional round of testing to achieve the desired result. 

The Onions - The next element that we discussed was whether to, and how to, include either raw or sautéed onions. Personal preferences came to the forefront as we discussed and toyed with different methods. I prefer sautéed, caramelized and frazzled onions while others believe that a nice raw slice is the perfect complement for both the crunch and the flavors.  Chef Matt cooked a batch of caramelized onions to which he added a touch of brown sugar and balsamic vinegar to achieve the desired sweet and sour component.

The Sides – The French fries at Match are some of the best in the county. Over the years Chef Matt has developed a proprietary double-cooked process for his fries. We felt that the current Match Fries would be a perfect side for the newly-developing burger.

Final Decision – After lengthy conversations Chef Matt and I agreed that a bacon cheeseburger with sautéed onions would be the basis for the 2011 Match Burger.

The Process:

As we unwrapped and placed the four mounds of meat on individual baking sheets, we discussed the size of the burger and agreed on a 7-ounce patty. As we formed two 7-oz patties from each of the candidates we noticed a few differences. The Greyledge, John Boy’s and Styles meats all maintained the long individual strands to the grind, while the WestConn was more compressed. The loosest of the four meats was the freshly ground Styles’ grind. We decided to experiment with one of the patties and blended a little Worcestershire Sauce plus some frazzled onions into the meat.

The cooking process was Chef Matt’s creation. First, he flame-grilled the burgers and created a nice crust on both sides. He next immersed each of the burgers into a simmering butter bath to bring near the perfect medium-rare doneness. The burgers were finally finished with a quick visit back to the grill. 

The buns were sliced and the exposed interior sections were dipped in the butter bath and placed on the grill for a quick toasting. The onions were slowly caramelized and finished with a touch of brown sugar and balsamic vinegar and a small mound was placed atop each of the burgers. We tried two methods for including the bacon; traditional slices sitting atop the burger and under the onions, plus a variation where we chopped the bacon and subsequently placed the chopped bacon directly on top of the onions.

The Results

I joined Chef Matt and his Sous Chef Jeff in the sampling and the judging. The burgers were sliced into quarters and each of us taste-tested each of the burgers that contained the various combinations of the meats and toppings.

The meat from Greyledge Farms was a clear winner in all of our opinions. The texture of the Greyledge was perfect and the flavor was an incredible, rich, beefy flavor. The John Boy’s and Styles were similar to each other in flavor and both were delicious but each delivered a less flavorful profile and the meat from WestConn meat was not as rich nor did we like the denser texture. 

The second clear winner was the Brioche rolls. They each delivered a wonderful flavor that perfectly complemented the rich flavors of the Greyledge meat. The one variable without as clear a winner was whether the plain brioche or the onion brioche was preferred. The slight addition of the few onions on top was more of a decoration than a differentiator so either would be a perfect choice. 

We tested several methods to deliver the wonderful cheese and bacon flavors of the béchamel. We tried spooning on the meat, spooning on the roll, placing on top of the onions. Finally, as we approach burger #7, Chef Matt grabbed the burger with a set of tongs and dipped it into the cheese sauce. I looked at Chef Jeff and we both smiled. Then Chef Matt spooned some of the cheese on the grilled roll, placed the cheese dipped burger on top, added some onions and chopped bacon, topped with the top of the bun and cut into four pieces. After one bite we all agreed that the dip and spoon method was the best procedure to convey the rich cheese flavor.

The first batch of onions was made with a little too much vinegar. We all agreed that the onions should have a lighter balsamic and a slightly sweeter profile and the final recipe is being refined.  

Of course a taste test for hamburgers would be not complete without a toast to the winner. What better way to toast a new addition to the Fairfield County burger scene then a big plate of fantastic French fries? As we sat and debriefed over the items, we consumed the final addition to the Match Burger…some of the best French fries in the area. 

The taste-test to create the Match Burger was a resounding success. 

And now with the science project completed it is time to debut the luscious burger... 

“With all the burger talk around it only seemed right to create our own juicy and delicious version of the American classic! Sooo….every Thursday night Match will offer you a gorgeous patty of locally raised (Roxbury, CT) grass fed beef on a Stamford baked caramelized onion brioche bun, smothered with a bacon-cheese sauce and sweet and sour onion jam, with ‘some of the best fries around’ for $17.00. We are also offering a weekly featured half bottle (2½ glasses) to pair along with your  juicy beauty for a total price of $34.00. This week we feature  Alexander Valley Vineyard Cabernet. See you Thursdays”

-- Match Restaurant


Match Restaurant, 98 Washington Street, Norwalk, CT 06854-3007, 203-852-1088