Tribute burger: Om

November 29, 2011

Sadly I'm not going to make it over to Kuma's in time to get the Sleep burger tonight, but it's woven into my thinking about Thanksgiving flavours, cooking, and creating original recipes.

In another life I produced radio, and had a woman on as a guest who could guess where you grew up, if you told her your childhood Thanksgiving dinner. I cannot remember her name, and my Google fu fails me. Anyone know whom I'm talking about? If yes, please post in the comments below.

While the Sleep burger deserves the worship it so righteously receives, it's not my Thanksgiving. So I created my own tribute burger, with my own culinary history: the Om. It's a quarter-pound turkey thigh smashed patty, with a three-quarter-pound panko-crusted green bean casserole filled mashed potato croquette, topped with bacon, tempura fried onion rings, garnished with scallions, an angel's dusting of ichimi tōgarashi, on a brioche bun.

It's named after the Sleep spin-off band, Om, naturally, but is really a tribute to Kuma's Exec Chef, Luke Tobias.

But before I annointed my burger, I had to check with Luke to see if there had ever been an Om burger.

Luckily no.

But, Luke said he'd actually talked to an Om band member who shared with him what he'd like the burger to be.

"Steak tartare served on a f----ng block of dry ice," said Luke, "and this sounded perfectly reasonable to him."

"I don't remember what the seasonings were."

Please note, just in case you've never worked with dry ice, or tried to eat it, you can't.

Luke has been the Exec Chef at Kuma's for five years now. I can only imagine the drunken and otherwise mind-altered burger conversations he's had to endure from bands and bar patrons over those years.

A new limited editon burger premieres in December, and given the month, he said, "We like to make it especially blasephemous."

And so it is. The Kuma's Corner December burger: Impaled Nazarene. It will be the signature thick burger on a pretzel bun with blue cheese crumbles, garlic chips, bacon, aioli, and balsamic red onions. Named for the Finnish black metal band, of course.

Just in case you were wondering where Luke grew up, he's from northern Indiana, 30 miles south of Notre Dame, from the town of Nappanee, in Amish country. He was and is not Amish. His hometown was the setting for the Devil's Playground, he said, the award-winning documentary film about "the tradition of rumspringa, when Amish elders allow teenagers to explore the outside world, or 'the devil's playground,' and decide whether to commit to the strict rules of Amish life, or leave their family to join our society."

I also asked Luke if Kuma's still had the metal VIP cards. "Unfortunately they do still exist," he said, "It's nice for regulars who've been with us for the long ride, but there are some people who take advantage of it. You'll get someone who shows up on a Saturday night with a party of 13. We appreciate that they've been coming since our first week but that's rough. You've got people who've been waiting in line three hours. There's got to be a give and take."

If you're now wondering how to get one of those cards, he said, "They're not available. There's no way to get one."

But here's a tip: call ahead for no-wait takeout. Winter only. And to that I say: om...