Spouse vs Spouse: sliders
March 15th, 2012
04:15 PM ET
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Welcome to round nine of Spouse vs. Spouse, a series in which a couple of married food freaks, CNN’s Brandon and Kristy Griggs, square off in their Atlanta kitchen for culinary bragging rights – and invite you to weigh in too.

In each installment, Kristy and Brandon each make a creative variation on the same ingredient or dish – everything from pasta to seafood to cocktails to desserts. We serve both versions anonymously to our friends, who then judge which one they like better and why. We walk you through our kitchen process, bring the husband-and-wife smack talk and, of course, keep score. We also share our recipes here so that you can try them for yourself.

Our theme: sliders

March Madness is here, and if you’re having friends over to watch hoops, yell at the TV and tear up your brackets in frustration, you’ll need some tasty finger food to soothe the pain. In honor of the year’s greatest sporting event (sorry, Super Bowl), our March cook-off features sliders -– those friendly little burgers you can gobble in about five bites.

brandon griggsBrandon: The artisan-burger restaurant craze of the past few years has produced some crazy-good burgers with hand-ground beef, fresh-baked buns and even homemade ketchup. They’re delicious – and probably too much work for the average person to make at home. So after brainstorming my recipe, I decided to keep it fairly simple. No Kobe beef, no foie gras, no $100 grocery-store bill.

Inspired largely by a Jamie Oliver recipe, I went for cheeseburgers that have the seasoning inside the patty: chopped garlic, chopped parsley, egg, Italian bread crumbs and Worcestershire sauce. It's still too cold for outdoor grilling lots of places, but you can just cook these babies up in a pan.

Cooked properly using 80 percent-lean beef (it has the right ratio of fat), they’re juicy and so flavorful you don’t need condiments. I topped mine with cheddar cheese and served them on an English muffin, browned in the greasy burger pan for extra goodness.

I knew Kristy was going for salmon, not beef sliders - a risky choice. Every carnivore likes a good burger, but not everyone wants a salmon patty between their buns. Sometimes my wife’s creativity in the kitchen gets her into trouble. Considering our guests this time were a young couple with a fondness for bar food, I figured I was a near-mortal lock to win this one.

KristyKristy: When we chose sliders, I went with salmon because I decided it would offer a little more in the creativity department—plus I knew that Mr. Play It Safe was going to make a beef burger. I went into this round thinking, “Come on, pal. When are you going to learn you gotta take some risks in this little competition of ours?”

I got off to an ambitious start by making my own buns using an easy-to-follow recipe. Unfortunately, I ended up with biscuit-like hockey pucks that largely overshadowed the salmon patty. So I scratched that idea, bought potato rolls and, using a cookie cutter, fashioned them into perfect little round buns.

Then I added the ingredients (pureed apples, mustard, honey, panko bread crumbs, salt and pepper) to the raw salmon before forming the patties. Salmon burgers can be a little tricky to make because they tend to fall apart more easily than beef patties, so I made sure I had enough bread crumbs to hold them together without overpowering the rest of the flavors.

To my delight, they cooked up beautifully. I then topped them off with bacon and a dill-based mayonnaise. The end result had me texting this to my husband: “You got trouble.” Later, though, when we actually served our burgers and I compared the two, I thought I was the one who had a problem on my hands. Because he had made one tasty burger.

Judging: It was apparent early on that we had two discerning judges on our hands. Jacque and Ryan took their time eating both sliders and gave no indication of which they preferred. Instead, we toasted to Jacque’s recent promotion at work and sort of forgot we were having a competition, until there was a long pause in the conversation and we all began looking at our plates - and the ballots sitting next to them.

Winner: Kristy’s salmon sliders

Kristy squeaked out a win by just a point. Turns out Jacque loves salmon. Ryan preferred Brandon’s, but not enough to overtake Kristy’s high score. Jacque thought Brandon’s “lacked originality” and said that the sauce on Kristy’s slider “really made it amazing.”

Overall score to date: Kristy 5 Brandon 3, with 1 tie

Parting thoughts:

KristyKristy: I really thought you had me this time. That originality thing keeps biting you in the butt.

brandon griggsBrandon: Hey, it’s not like I just cooked up a frozen beef patty and slapped some American cheese on it. I can’t help it if one of our judges was temporarily insane.

KristyKristy: Remember that Jacque also said she doesn’t like bacon, and she still picked mine.

brandon griggsBrandon: I'll admit that yours was surprisingly tasty. But you got lucky. Four times out of five, I'd win this beef-vs.-salmon thing.

On to the recipes!


Brandon’s Beef Sliders
Makes eight to ten

1 pound ground beef (80 percent lean)
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 large egg
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 small block cheddar cheese
8 English muffins
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Using your hands or a kitchen tool, combine ground beef with remaining ingredients (except for cheese and muffins) in large bowl until well mixed. Form into small patties, about 3 inches wide and 1 inch thick. Coat lightly with olive oil and refrigerate for up to an hour or two.

Cut cheese into 1/4-inch thick slices and keep ready. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, core each muffin and split it half. Or, if you prefer, simply make larger patties and serve on whole English muffins.

Heat large pan on high for several minutes; turn down heat to medium and add patties. Cook about 3 (medium rare) to 4 (medium) minutes on each side, depending on your preference. After you flip them, top each patty with a slice of cheese and cover pan with a lid for the remaining 3-4 minutes to trap the heat and melt the cheese.

Remove patties from pan and immediately replace with separated muffins, middle side down. Let muffins brown slightly in the burger grease, about 2-3 minutes. Place patties on muffins and serve with condiments.


Kristy’s Salmon Sliders
Makes eight

4 pieces of bacon
2 medium-sized salmon filets
1 apple
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 potato rolls
1 tablespoon butter
5-6 sprigs of fresh dill
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lime

Brown the bacon in a frying pan (the same pan you will use to cook the salmon patties and the buns). When nicely crisped and browned, remove the bacon and place on paper towels. Pat the pieces dry.

Next, remove skins from the filets and finely chop the salmon meat. Remove the skin from the apple, cut into pieces and then puree it. You can also finely chop the apple but make sure there are no chunks to ensure that the patties don’t fall apart.

Add apple, mustard, honey, bread crumbs, salt and pepper to the meat and, using your well-washed or gloved hands, mix together. Form into small patties, about 3 inches wide and 1 inch thick.

Heat olive oil in the same frying pan used for the bacon over medium-high heat. Place the patties in the pan and cook each side for 4 minutes. Remove.

Slice buns in half (do this ahead of time) and, using a 3-inch round biscuit cutter, core the buns. Melt butter in the same frying pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is very hot, place the buns (round side up) in the pan and fry for 2-3 minutes and remove from pan.

Place dill, mayo and lime juice (add some sugar to taste if it’s too tart) to a food processor and puree for 1-2 minutes. You could easily finely chop the dill and mix the ingredients together in a bowl. Spoon dill mayo on buns, place patties on bottom bun and top with bacon. And voila! Yummy, and winning, salmon sliders.

Previously: Soup showdown and make a chocolate souffle at home

All National Cheeseburger Day coverage

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Filed under: Burgers • Challenges • Cooking • Dishes • Make • Sandwiches • Spouse vs Spouse • Tailgating

soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. shawn l

    A salmon burger is just gross in my opinion. Brandon's is much closer to a burger... except it's basically a meatloaf sandwich. I would have done something with carmalized onions, mushrooms, maybe fry the burger in some mustard, make your own brioche rolls. If you want to get fancy, you can make some kind of asian coleslaw, toss in some ginger in the burger meat before you cook it, and brush with some teriyaki sauce.

    March 29, 2012 at 6:04 am |
  2. mmi16

    A fishy slider – that is fishy beyond stomaching!

    March 19, 2012 at 3:52 am |
  3. Jake

    Anyone who writes a recipe that says "2 medium-sized salmon filets" automatically loses in my book. What the heck does that mean? That is such an ambiguous description...it makes me wonder if she's ever actually bought a salmon filet (and if so, whether it was atlantic, pacific, farmed, wild, sockeye, king, etc etc etc).

    March 18, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Mike Tyson

      She needs a Sockeye all right.

      March 18, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  4. Nunya

    Get rid of Jacque, the friend who doesn't like bacon: she must be an alien (or terrorist).

    March 18, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  5. Meh

    And the first casualty in the slider wars? The slider. Not a one to be seen in the pictures or the articles. If this keeps up, maybe they can be put on an endangered species list for protection against alleged chefs like these.

    March 18, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  6. The_Mick

    It's not as easy to get onions to stay in place on sliders: so I dice them and add them to the combined beef ingredients. I also add 2 tbsp, not 2 tsp, of Worcestershire Sauce. Also, whether you use bread crumbs as in the recipe here, or a couple slices of diced-up bread, soak them with a couple tablespoons of milk. It forms what chefs call a "panade," and it does two things to improve the burger: 1) it forms globules of moisture that are hard to cook out of the meat, making it juicier, and 2) it keeps the meat from getting too hot in places and thus keeps meat proteins from reacting with each other and forming longer molecular chains, keeping the meat from getting tougher.

    March 18, 2012 at 8:11 am |
  7. my food mom

    Oh, there is hope in the world! Not from the featured "slider" couple, but from the many comments. I understand that the pictures are not professionally taken, but should be – or at least by a more talented friend of the family. If a slider needs 5 bites to be finished, it's too big. The breads used in both recipes look horrid. It is not hard to make ones own – one needs only organization. Yes, I speak from experience – raising children and working a monster job simultaneously (I challenge anyone to do my schedule. Usually farmers can, but not many more. But the gauntlet is thrown).
    I studied at Fordham in the Bronx in the '70s. We would occasionally order "ratburgers" and "cheeserats" from the local White Castle. That's when I started to seriously cook.
    Sorry, Eatrocacy. This was one sad experiment.

    March 17, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  8. Tom

    Both look equally gross and tasteless. It's hard to imagine a slider with just garlic and no onion for balance. Why do these people think they can cook? They demonstrate here no understanding of food seasonings, or any real culinary training. The best sliders came from General Sanders, a small chain in Dallas.

    March 17, 2012 at 7:43 am |
  9. tim

    I'd marry Brandon for his sliders, and im not even gay. The salmon looks nice...if i felt like fish n chps or something. If she wanted creativity she should have went with something exotic, like lamb or veal.

    And for those who havent tried one, the secret of the slider lies in the bun, IMO. It should be so soft like it was just steamed. small, easy to eat, basically they "slide" down your throat one by one...

    March 16, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  10. Fiftypence

    Egg and bread crumbs in the burger will make it dry with more of a meatloaf consistancy. The best burger needs little more than salt and pepper with the meat.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  11. Don

    Brandon, what's with the bread crumbs and egg in the beef slider? It's no as though you needed it to keep the 80% lean ground beef from breaking apart.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  12. rantingchef

    I love making sliders and would be disappointed in a competition like this to see a beef slider. I would have hoped to see an Italian Sausage slider, or even a Thanksgiving turkey slider.

    March 16, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  13. Two-Bites Max

    You lost me at "you can gobble in about five bites."

    They're sliders. If you're a novice slider eater, take your time and eat 'em in two bites. Everybody else, one. If you need more than that, they aren't sliders.

    March 16, 2012 at 7:05 am |
  14. SandwichNotSlider

    Lets not replace the "sandwich" with the term "slider".

    That is ridiculous and an insult.

    March 15, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  15. Ann

    The whole slider concept makes no sense to me unless you're using them as a means of trying different kinds in one sitting. I think most chain restaurants that try and cash in on it are also using them to cheap out.

    But I'm not married to a meat concept. Beef, fish, chicken, whatever. I'm not a purist.

    Sidenote, though: If you're going to use such a simple and dorky PS filter on your images, you may as well just run the photo as-is.

    March 15, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • SandwichNotSlider

      This group is trying to ignore the Earl of Sandwich that invented the delectable because of its ties to England – it is an intended slight.

      March 15, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  16. Richard

    Btw what's the originality of a "salmon slider"? I think McDonalds calls them "Filet o' Fish"

    March 15, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  17. Andrew

    Too cold outside for grilling? You aren't in the midwest, it's in the 70s.

    March 15, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  18. Richard

    If it takes more than 30 minutes to make (and 500 words to describe the process), it ain't a slider.

    March 15, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • ForReal

      I've taken 30 minutes before, and have read more than 500 words, because it sure wasn't sliding.

      March 15, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
      • LD81

        Not sure everyone will get it "ForReal", but this is one of the best comments in the history of CNN.

        March 15, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  19. Marty

    Sorry to burst your bubble but a true slider can only be had at a White Castle. At 3 AM. After a nite of general hell raising.The best is on Blaisdale & W. Lake St in So. Minneapolis

    March 15, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • steve

      you obviously never had to go to sea on a US Navy ship.

      March 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
      • Sarah

        @Steve, I have to wonder if you have ever had a Castle slider?

        March 17, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • ForReal

      I miss White Castles. I remember opening the sack and smelling pure beefy/oniony goodness. And the individual boxes made it fun, as did the fact that I got about 5 or 6 of them from the time I was 10....I remember that they used to cost $0.30 a piece, and $0.45 if you wanted cheese. But this was 1980's prices if I remember correctly.

      March 15, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
      • Cubby

        Thirty cents? Ha! I can remember when they were a nickel! Yup, twenty sliders for a buck. A regular sized coke was ten cents. (Sorry, don't remember the cost of an order of fries, but I think they were somewhere around fifteen to twenty cents, give or take.)

        I was a very young at the time, maybe five or six years old, but goin' out for Castles was a real treat. Now, I live where there aren't any White Castles, so I have to get 'em at Walmart. Somehow, even though they don't taste quite the same, they're close enough for my 'Castle fix'.

        March 19, 2012 at 12:25 am |
  20. Hank M

    A salmon slider? Im sure its a good tasting salmon sandwich but it kind of makes a joke of the concept.

    In truth even the beefy sandwich is more like a gourmet meatloaf burger.

    March 15, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  21. Tr1Xen

    I'm so glad I live somewhere where we have REAL BURGERS instead of White Castle. Even our fast food is better down south. White Castle's got nothin' on Whataburger!

    March 15, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Two-Bites Max

      White Castle, Whataburger & Five Guys offer flavorless, plain, beef patties on Middle-America's favorite soft white buns.
      The White Castles' burger (slider, whatever) flavor comes from the dehydrated onions & dried up pickle.
      I've tried Whataburger. Dried, tasteless and forgettable.
      Five Guys' burgers were just as forgettable. Their claim to fame is a paper bag full of thick, hearty French fries. When I want a burger, I don't go for the fries. If fries are your thing, that's the place to go.

      March 16, 2012 at 7:16 am |
  22. Lila

    Brandon Beef sliders: 1 pound of pink slime ;) Yeah I will go with Kristy's, minus the bacon.

    March 15, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  23. NorCalMojo

    This article is lost on Californians. I had to google sliders. I always thought they were just small, dry burgers.

    March 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Edge327

      Actually, a true slider is a small greasy burger. That's why it's a slider.

      March 16, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  24. peter

    Brandon made meatloaf, these are sliders http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/03/the-burger-lab-how-to-make-the-ultimate-home-made-sliders.html

    March 15, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  25. Snacklefish

    Thin, greasy beef. Soft bun. Diced onion. Mustard, or ketchup. Maybe mayo. Slice of cheese. Seriously, I'm not a White Castle fan, but I'd crawl over broken glass before eating either of those frou-frou concoctions.

    March 15, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  26. Steve

    I think you lost cause of the English muffins. Both these sliders look pretty bad though. Is this what our society has become? We can ruin something so simple and perfect as the 'slider'?

    March 15, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  27. wonkavision

    I'm so glad California does not have that nasty White Castle here.

    March 15, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • paul

      so you think having more choices is a bad thing?

      March 15, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  28. Kevin

    White Castle or Krystal. Period. End of discussion.

    March 15, 2012 at 5:41 pm |

      Exactly, these are not sliders, when was it the everyone started to think a slider is a 2" thick patty
      If its not like a white castle its not a slider its just a small hamburger

      March 15, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Tr1Xen

      Bad and worse, end of discussion. White Castle is bad and Krystal makes me want to puke.

      March 15, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  29. Bill

    The premise is bogus There's only one slider: it's made by White Castle. Everything else is a mini-burger, and probably tastes much better. Calling anything else a slider is just co-opting the nickname.

    March 15, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • SherwoodOR

      Remember, they're called "sliders" because the White Castle product is go greasy that it slides down your throat.

      March 15, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
      • Tr1Xen

        right down your throat and right out your a5s!

        March 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  30. Texas Al

    I think it all depends it Brandon's ground beef has "pink slime" or "lean finely textured beef products" in it or not. Can he or someone tell us if it does?

    March 15, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  31. Gary

    Both are too big to be sliders. No bread crumbes should EVER be used. Ask any chef (real chef) not the posers that seem to tell everyone how to make a burger, and they will tell you that too many ingredients kill a good burger. Finally Chedder is too sharp for a slider.
    mayonnaise? Really? are we in Canada? please

    March 15, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  32. Unvegan

    Agreed with @TallinOK, those are not real sliders, they are mini burgers or sandwiches at best. They may taste good, but a real slider looks like this: http://unvegan.com/reviews/sliders-done-right-at-greenes-hamburgers/

    March 15, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  33. RichardHead

    You forgot to add the Pink Slime or it would have been a tie.

    March 15, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  34. Dave

    So these to people that have no food sense whatsoever continue to get space on Eatocracy? The sound more like mechanics than cooks.

    March 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  35. Valerie

    English Muffins???????????!!!!

    March 15, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • SherwoodOR

      Yeah... that is where Brandon lost it.

      March 15, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • SherwoodOR

      A lot of bakeries are now offering slider buns as a product. Look around.

      March 15, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  36. TallinOK

    There is only one True slider. White Castle.

    March 15, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • WhiteCastle4 ever

      I've never eaten a slider. However I've eaten a thousand White Castles. Sliders are for the unfortunate places who can't get White Castles.

      March 16, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • EdWoodJr

      I'm with the White Castler's here.........why even TRY?!?!??! The smell of a sack of White Castles at 3 AM is one of the great experiences in life – WITH pickles.

      March 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
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