Block Burgers at Joyce’s

So on Tuesday, me and Keaton went up to Joyce’s to make Block Burgers after I fucked up making steaks on the new grill Joyce got last week. Dad emailed me the recipe for the chili that’s supposed to go inside Block Burgers, but there was no way I was gonna be able to make it. I don’t own half the kitchen equipment the recipe calls for.

Lucky for me I’ve got a best friend from Texas who makes awesome Texas chili. Keaton had a few days off in a row, so he had plenty of time to make some. It’s the stuff that he brings to Joyce’s on Christmas so we don’t have to have turkey leftovers day after day after day for the next week, and it’s totally bombass.

Once your mouth stops burning.

Keaton always says that he dials the heat down when he makes his chili for non-Texans, but I still don’t believe him. Or, if he does dial it down, he doesn’t dial it down far. I don’t see how much hotter it could be and still be edible…although Keaton did tell me that he won a habañero eating contest when he was working in Galveston.

Now I do know a little about how to make Block Burgers. Dad let me help with them sometimes, so I know what you have to do to form them and get the chili to stay inside. (Dad said I could write that the secret is to glue the edges of the meat together with egg white and not just pinch them.) Me and Keaton took care of that in Joyce’s kitchen while she put her feet up on one of the living room couches and read a magazine.

I probably should of guessed it, but Keaton’s an expert with the grill. Dad may not have taught me his secrets, but Mr. Penner was the opposite. He said it was important that Keaton know how to man a grill when he got sent out into the world right after high school, so he started teaching him when he was still a kid.

“Don’t forget that we Texans take barbecue fuckin seriously, bubba.”

That became pretty dang clear once Keaton started in with the chimney and getting the coals going. It was a little embarrassing the way he did things so well and I’d made such a dang idiot of myself the night I made the steaks, but:

“Somebody’s gotta show you. You can’t figure this out on your own. At least that’s what my dad always said. I don’t know what you thought you were doing thinking you could get a grill going using FaceTime. It’s a miracle you didn’t drop your fancyass iPhone into the coals.”

“As it is I set myself on fire,” I confessed.

“The fuck?,” Keaton asked.

“I’ll tell you later. Just be careful of your mask.”

So Keaton took me through the whole process, hands on. It’s not always fun being shown up by your best buddy, but the fact is that I really didn’t have any idea what I was doing when I was flying blind with only Dad on the phone to help me. Turns out there’s shit involved like holding your hand over the coals to feel how hot they’ve gotten.


And, oh yeah, keeping your face out from over the hot coals when you’ve got a flammable mask on your face lol.

Joyce made potato salad and cole slaw earlier in the day, so she just stayed in the air conditioning and chilled. I don’t think Dad ever made it quite as easy on Mom as me and Keaton were making it on my girlfriend.

“You got anything for flipping these things?,” Keaton asked as we carried the tray of burgers outside. “Didn’t you tell me your father invented a special tool?”

“Dude,” I said, “we got more barbecue tools than you ever saw in your life. Let me show you.” Keaton put the burgers down and came with me into the garage.

“Holy fuck,” he said. “Ok…only a chick could have bought all this shit.”

“She ordered it all off Amazon.”

“She got that gayass grill from us too?”

I nodded.

“Fuck is there a lot of shit here.” Keaton rummaged through the equipment. “You’re fuckin kidding me: an automatic burger flipper??”

“Batteries and all.” I turned the thing on and showed him.

“Ok, that’s the gayest grilling tool I’ve seen in my life. Don’t you ever even fuckin think of using it, bubba.”

He rummaged some more and came up with a couple of spatulas and what looked like tongs made with two spatulas.

“That kinda looks like Dad’s Block Burger burger-flipping tool,” I said.

“If you say so,” Keaton said and led the way back outside to the grill.

Of course the coals were just right now that Keaton was in charge of them (that hurt my fragile male ego lol), and we got the burgers on without any problems.

“The hard part is flipping them without them splitting in half and getting chili in the fire. That makes a huge fuckin mess.”

“Don’t worry, bubba. I got this.”

Well…he almost had it. We had plenty of meat and way more chili than we needed, so we made 6 Block Burgers. Keaton fucked the first one up as he tried to turn it (he squeezed too hard), but, working together, we got the other five flipped and cooked just right.

Keaton went to get Joyce while I put the burgers on those Mexican sandwich rolls that are perfect for burgers. Only two condiments go on a Block Burger: a little mayonnaise on the bun and some sliced tomato. That’s supposed to be it. Mom always insisted that we have ketchup out when guests came over for burgers, but Dad used to cringe when he saw people using it. He’s right of course: the ketchup kills the taste of the chili.

I insisted we eat outside. It’s one thing to grill steaks outside and eat them inside in the air conditioning, but grilling burgers outside and eating them inside is totally gayass. Joyce has a nice table and chairs outside, and it was starting to cool off and turn into a beautiful summer evening. Joyce brought out some Lagunitas IPAs for me and Keaton and a Mexican Coke for herself. Then we sat down to eat.

“So…what do y’all think?,” I asked after everybody had a chance to try their Block Burgers. You gotta give people a chance to get to the chili in the center before you ask them.

“Mmmm,” said Joyce.

Keaton just kept eating his. He definitely was gonna have a second, I could tell.

“But hot,” she said, fanning her tongue.

Keaton looked up from his burger and said “yeah…I forgot to mention, I didn’t dial the heat down this time. I figured y’all were ready to have the recipe true Texas-style.”

“What do you think?,” Joyce asked me.

“They’re great. Best Block Burgers this side of the Mississippi…but they’re not exactly the same thing.”

“A different chili is going to make a difference, I’d think,” said Joyce. “Maybe they need a new name.”

“Like what?,” I asked.

“Let me think… How about Blenner Burgers?”

“Yeah,” Keaton said, “not happening.”

“Then…what about Hunton Burgers?”

I looked at Keaton. He looked at me. I knew what he was gonna say, but he was also smiling as he got ready to say it.

“That’s so fuckin gay.”

“Hunton Burgers,” I said. “I kinda like it. It’s a Block Burger made with Penner family chili and served on a Mexican sandwich roll. Maybe not the original,” I said, “but, then, there are no lightnin bugs flying around while we’re eating them either.”

“Hunton it is,” said Joyce.

I called Dad the next morning and told him how my first go at Block – I mean Hunton – Burgers went. He said he was glad that Keaton was around to help me figure out the grill, since he was getting pretty scared that I’d burn Joyce’s house down the time with the steaks when I kept calling him. (I never told him I set myself on fire lol.) I reckon me and Joyce may invite Keaton over again the next time we do steaks, but I reckon I’m starting to get the hang of the grill.

I’d better. Joyce is already talking about doing a brisket.

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