No-Labor Day

Every time Jeremy brings home ground beef, I know I am going to be making burgers for at least one night’s dinner. That means homemade buns, of course, but it also means figuring out what to serve alongside it. I think I’ve done most of the classics by now: potato salad (warm German vinegar-based and cold American mayo-based), oven-baked steak fries (white and sweet) and jojo potatoes, onion rings and haystacks, fried zucchini, coleslaw, and even roasted Brussels sprouts, which make a delicious but decidedly non-traditional burger side. Labor Day seemed like the perfect occasion to share a few of the recipes I have used, including the one I ended up selecting for our most recent burger feast.

Steak fries or jo-jo potatoes: I have yet to try making deep fried French fries at home. All of my efforts have gone into oven “frying” methods thus far, but it is difficult to hit the right balance with the baking times: they go from raw to soggy to crunchy/burnt, and ideally you want to get them out of the oven between the latter two stages, with the inside fully cooked and the outside starting to crisp up, but this varies considerably based on the thickness of your spears, which depends on the size of your potatoes and the steadiness of your knife hand.

Our most successful effort was in making jo-jo potatoes, which seem to be mostly a west-coast thing: I had never heard of them until my college boyfriend (now husband) bought some for us from a grocery store deli counter to go with chicken strips. Jo-jos are dredged in seasoned flour before baking, which gives them extra crunch, and are usually dipped in ranch dressing, so of course I made some yogurt ranch to go with this recipe.

Jo-Jo Potatoes

3 Russet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into 6-8 even wedges each
3 T butter, melted
1/2 C flour
2 oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 tsp seasoning salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or smoked paprika, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a rimmed cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with the melted butter, and slip it into the oven to preheat.

Combine the flour, cheese, and seasonings in a large paper bag or plastic freezer bag.

Cut the potatoes; do not rinse or pat the potatoes after cutting them as you want them to retain a film of starch on their cut sides. Add the potatoes to the bag, close tightly, and shake well to coat the potatoes on all sides. Place the potatoes, flesh side down, on the preheated cookie sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes, flip, and bake for another 25 or so, until cooked through, crisp and golden. Serve with ranch to dip them in.

Source: Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini and Life’s Ambrosia.

Onion rings, petals and haystacks: I’ve already written these up, any of which is an ideal accompaniment to a burger. One day maybe I’ll attempt an entire onion blossom… or not.


Fried zucchini: There really isn’t much to this recipe. I think I did your basic dredge (flour, egg, panko or breadcrumbs) on thin rounds of zucchini which I may or may not have salted and drained ahead of time. I have also written up an even simpler recipe for fried zucchini strips that can also be served as hors d’oeuvres, or even as sandwich filling if you want to pass up the burgers.


German potato salad: I have yet to be fully satisfied with a German potato salad recipe. I still prefer it to the mayo-based sort, which is usually clammy and mushy yet full of crunchy little bits that weird out the picky eater in me. However, the recipes I’ve tried for the warm bacony German version are kind of gloppy and too overtly sweet-and-sour for me.

Classic German Potato Salad

2 large Russet potatoes (2 lb total), peeled, diced, and cooked until tender
4 slices bacon
2 T flour
1/2 C sweet onion
1/3 C water
1/3 C cider vinegar
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp powdered dry mustard
1/4 tsp crumbled rosemary leaves
1/4 C sugar

Fry bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, cool and crumble. Add onion to the bacon fat left in the pan and cook until lightly caramelized. Add the flour and stir for a minute or two to cook out the raw taste, then stir in vinegar, water, sugar, salt and spices. Cook until mixture is of medium thickness. Pour over potatoes in a large bowl and add crumbled bacon. Stir gently to prevent mashing the potatoes and serve warm.

Source: Slightly adapted from Epicurious.

Coleslaw: I wrote about this just recently in combination with barbecue beef sandwiches, but it would be just as tasty with burgers. A creamy, sweet slaw made with mayonnaise and yogurt.

Potato chips: Our most recent burger accompaniment was just a bowl of potato chips, but this is one of the foods that we never ever purchase anymore, seeing as how we don’t even walk down the snack aisle. Still, a handful of crunchy potato chips hits the spot every once in a while, and I was curious to test out a method I have read up on recently: microwave potato chips. Essentially, you just slice potatoes very thin, toss with oil and seasonings, and cook them in the microwave until they are crunchy (and hopefully not burnt). I used Yukon golds, sliced on my mandoline, seasoned simply with olive oil and salt. Arranged evenly on a sheet of parchment, they took a bit longer to crisp up than the recipes called for—our microwave is over 10 years old now, so maybe it isn’t as powerful as the current models? Although they didn’t cook perfectly evenly, this is a handy trick to pull out when you get a hankering for potato chips.

Microwave Potato Chips

Slice unpeeled Yukon gold or red potatoes into thin (1/8-inch) rounds. Toss the slices in a medium bowl with a splash of oil and a pinch of salt.

Cover a large microwave-proof plate with parchment paper; arrange some potato slices in a single layer on top. Microwave, uncovered, on High until some slices start to brown, 2 to 3 minutes (depending on potato thickness and microwave power). Turn the slices over and continue microwaving until they start to crisp and brown around the edges, 2 to 4 minutes more. Check frequently and rearrange slices as needed to prevent scorching. Transfer the chips to another plate and allow to cool completely. (They will crisp more as they cool.) Repeat with any remaining potato slices. This method can be used with other root vegetables also, though cooking time will vary depending on moisture and sugar content.

Source: Eating Well.

I also wanted to note that I made a slight adjustment to my gold standard burger bun recipe this time around, using 3/4 C freshly ground flax seeds where the recipe calls for 1/4 C butter (flax meal can be substituted in a 3:1 ratio for fat in baked goods). The rolls tasted just as good with a subtle nuttiness from the flax and were visually a little healthier. They stayed on the small side, but I think that was more because I hurried the batch along than because of the substitution. I served them with my lacto-fermented ketchup, which is nearly too thick to get out of the bottle (good thing there is room to stick a butter knife in there!) and garlic-dill pickles, which marks the very first time I have willingly put pickle slices onto a sandwich rather than picking them off in disgust. They will definitely take my pickle-averse palate some time to get used to, but I ate the whole thing and that is a start.

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