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Judges Pick $100,000 Winner in Sutter Home Burger Contest

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Sutter Home Family Vineyards has announced that Erin Evenson of Brooklyn, N.Y. is the winner of their latest Build a Better Burger Contest. Though the finals in the competition were held the weekend of May 18 and 19, 2013, earlier rounds of the competition actually began last summer and the sponsor considers the most recent finals the conclusion of the 2012 contest..

Evenson took the $100,000 grand prize for her 7 Train Caramelized Green Curry Burger. She wowed the judges with her creative burger featuring sweet and spicy green-curry glaze, salty pancetta, creamy minted basil aioli, roasted cashews, and watercress salad during the cook-off in St. Helena, Calif. Erin Evanson and Judges Sutter Home Burger PicmonkeyErin in center, flanked by judging panel.

The panel of judges also named the Indian Lamb Burger from Mark Richardson of Snohomish, Wash. as the Best Alternative Burger and $15,000 prize winner. The Grilled Green Tomato Burger from three-time finalist Mark Pyne of Troy, Ala. and the Better than Breakfast in Bed Burger from Kim Jones of Bloomington, Ill. were named as the People’s Choice Award Burgers by cook-off attendees.

To have served a recipe inspired by the love of both my family and my adopted city, New York, is a dream come true and I can’t thank Sutter Home and the sponsors enough,” said Evenson.

The winning burgers were selected from 10 finalist recipes, and thousands of submissions.

Erin’s burger was really a mouthful in the best possible way,” said Katie Chin, Asian food expert and contest judge. “She captured the essence of southeast Asian cooking with the sweet, sour and salty flavor combination, and unique texture.”

I was bewitched by the hot mango chutney in Mark’s Indian lamb burger,” said Jennifer Beckman, 2011 Sutter Home Build a Better Burger Recipe Contest grand prize winner and contest judge. “It was absolutely wonderful.”

The 2012 Sutter Home Build a Better Burger Recipe Contest winners were selected by this year’s panel of judges, including:

James McNair is the bestselling author of more than 40 cookbooks and head judge for the Sutter Home Build a Better Burger Recipe Contest since the contest began in 1990, and now also serves as Honorary Chairman of the recipe contest.

Steven Raichlen is a multi-award-winning author, journalist, cooking teacher and TV host, and is often acknowledged as the man who reinvented barbecue.

Katie Chin is an Asian food expert, cookbook author, TV host, and food blogger of The Sweet and Sour Chronicles.

Kevin Kolman is the Weber Grill Master, from Weber Stephen Products LLC, the world’s leading manufacturer of outdoor gas, charcoal and electric grills, and grilling accessories. Weber is also a 2012 Sutter Home Build a Better Burger Recipe Contest sponsor.

Jennifer Beckman was the $100,000 grand prize winner of the 2011 Sutter Home Build a Better Burger Recipe Contest with her farm-inspired Screen Porch Burger.

Erin Evenson's winning recipe follows below. Other recipes from the finalists and Sutter Home wine pairings can be seen at www.sutterhome.com, along with recipes from previous years of the contest. The 2013 recipe contest is now open for submissions including those from California residents, who can once again enter the recipe contest after recent changes in state laws. Entry information can be found at that same site.

7 Train Caramelized Green Curry Burgers with Crispy Watercress Salad, Roasted Cashews, and Minted Basil Aioli

"The number 7 subway train to the neighborhood of Woodside in Queens is better known in my Brooklyn apartment as "The Crispy Watercress Express." The best salad I have ever had resides there, combining peppery battered and fried watercress, a hot tangy dressing, and roasted cashews. This is my tribute to this culinary wonder on a bun, with a sweet and spicy green-curry glaze, a little nugget of salty pancetta, creamy minted basil aioli, the crunch of roasted cashews, and a tangle of that beautiful, mythical watercress salad. Enjoy!"  – Erin Evenson

Erin Evenson Burger Solo Picmonkey Ingredients

Green Curry Glaze

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

2 jalapeño chiles, stemmed and coarsely chopped

2 fresh kaffir lime leaves

1 stalk lemongrass, outer layers discarded, bruised with the back of a chef’s knife and chopped

1/3 cup coconut milk

1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons Asian toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Minted Basil Aioli

1 cup homemade or good-quality mayonnaise

3 cloves garlic

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

6 slices pancetta

Crispy Watercress Salad

3 1/2 cups canola oil

1 cup rice flour

1 cup chilled seltzer water

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 heads (bunches) young watercress, stem ends trimmed

3 shallots, thinly sliced

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar

2 teaspoons low-sodium Thai fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon Sriracha hot chile sauce


2 pounds ground chuck

Fat from cooking pancetta (above)

Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack

6 French sandwich rolls, split

1 1/4 cups chopped roasted salted cashews


Heat a gas grill to medium-high.

To make the glaze, combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until completely pureed. Pass the mixture once through a sieve to remove any errant chunks, cover, and set aside.

To make the aioli, combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and process to a smooth paste. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until assembling the burgers.

Place a large, high-sided, cast-iron skillet on the grill rack. Add the pancetta and cook until crisp, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain and pour the fat from the skillet into a large bowl; reserve.

To make the salad, return the skillet to the grill, add the canola oil, and heat until shimmering, about 325 degrees F. Combine the flour, seltzer water, baking powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and whisk to blend well. Add the watercress and stir to coat.

Add the shallots to the hot oil and fry until golden brown and crisp, 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Working in small batches, remove the watercress from the batter, allowing excess batter to drip back into the bowl, and fry until golden brown and crisp, 45 to 50 seconds. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime zest and juice, vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, and hot sauce until combined. Set aside.

To make the patties, add the chuck to the bowl containing the reserved pancetta fat and combine using your hands. Form the meat into 6 equal patties that are slightly larger in circumference than the buns.

Brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until juices begin emerging from the top of the patties. Baste the patties liberally with the glaze, turn, and douse the other side with the remaining glaze. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes longer (for medium-rare) or until desired doneness. Transfer the patties to a plate to rest until assembling the burgers.

Grill the rolls, cut side down, until they are toasted lightly. Place the cashews on a plate. Spread the cut sides of the rolls with the aioli and dip each roll top, aioli side down, into the cashews, pressing gently to make sure that the nuts adhere.

To assemble the burgers, combine the fried shallots and watercress in a large bowl and toss to combine. Drizzle the lime dressing over the mixture and toss again. Place a pancetta slice on each bottom bun, followed by a patty. Place a mound of the watercress salad atop each patty. Finally, add the cashew-crusted bun tops. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 burgers

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