I’m not sure why my family moved to Comanche. It was the summer of 1968. Dad had been working as a teacher and coach in San Angelo and, according to what Mom told me when I was writing his obituary a few years ago, he obtained similar positions after we moved. Dad did have family in Comanche, though. His mom, Myrtle Tankersley, still lived there, as did his brother Kenneth and his family. That might have prompted the move.
My younger sister, Kara, was just a few months old when we moved, and my older sisters, Melanie and April, were in elementary school. I was almost 5. I don’t remember this particular day, but Mom told this story many times. When we first got to Comanche, we couldn’t find a house to rent, so we were in a two-bedroom duplex. We had arrived in town just a day or two before the school year began. On the first day of school for Dad and the older girls, we overslept. Most of our stuff was still in boxes, and Melanie and April could only find one petticoat, so an argument ensued. Earlier in the summer Melanie had broken her leg in a bicycle accident, so she was hobbling around our small space on crutches. Everyone finally got dressed and out the door, ready to begin a new year at a new school.
And the car had a flat tire.
We didn’t live too far from the school, so Dad and my sisters walked that day. It was not a good start to our time in Comanche.
We moved from that duplex to what we still refer to as “the green house,” a slightly bigger place with mint green siding. While we were living there — again, I’m not sure of the reasoning behind this decision — my folks decided to open a restaurant. Dad had worked in education; Mom had an office job in San Angelo and was a stay-at-home mom in Comanche. But they were determined, and Tankersley’s Hamburger Hut was soon a reality.
I remember the place was popular with high school kids, as we had a pool table or two and some pinball machines. I ate lunch there three days a week. After my half-day kindergarten classes, Dad would pick me up from school on his white scooter — I wore an old, blue football helmet (gotta be safe, after all). My go-to lunch was a steak finger sandwich on Texas toast with mayonnaise.
Tankersley’s Hamburger Hut wasn’t around for very long, as we lived in Comanche for just three years before moving to Waco. Incidentally, Dad’s first job in Waco was making pizza at Shakey’s Pizza Parlor on North Valley Mills Drive in the building that currently houses Taqueria No. 9.
So the point of this story: Burgers and my family go way back. Long after leaving the restaurant business, Dad would (usually) happily fix burgers for us on his backyard grill. And as much as I don’t know about this story, I do know one thing: He never would have made a veggie burger. But this one — made with black beans and topped with avocado crema — could even convert a meat-lover … almost.
Black Bean Burger with Avocado Crema
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs
- 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed, drained and mashed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2-4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/2 cup finely ground cornmeal
Heat olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add onion and cook, stirring until soft, for about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring until soft and slightly caramelized, for another couple of minutes. Add cumin, paprika, coriander, oregano and chipotle; cook, stirring until fragrant, for about 1 minute more.
Transfer to a bowl and let cool slightly. Add breadcrumbs, beans and eggs. Season with salt and pepper; mix well to combine.
Divide the mixture into 6 patties, each about 5 1/2 ounces by weight and about 1-inch thick. Place on a plate and refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until ready to use.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge three burgers in cornmeal and cook, flipping once, until toasted on each side and cooked through, for about 4 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining oil, burgers and cornmeal. Makes 6 burgers.
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 2 avocados, halved, pitted and peeled
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Taste and add salt and pepper, if desired.
Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes about 6 servings.
The Perfect Burger
- 1 pound ground chuck (80/20)
- 2 tablespoons yellow onion, grated
- 1 teaspoon garlic, grated
- 1 or 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat.
In a large bowl, mix together beef, onion, garlic and Worcestershire sauce. Form the mixture into 4 patties, each 3/4-inch thick, making an indention in the center of each patty with your thumb.
In a small bowl, mix together salt and pepper. Sprinkle the mixture over both sides of the burgers right before grilling, pressing it into the meat to help it adhere.
Grill the hamburgers directly over medium-high heat, turning once, for 4-5 minutes per side. Check for doneness by taking the internal temperature, which should register at least 160 F on an instant-read thermometer. If making cheeseburgers, place a slice of cheese on top of each hamburger during the last 3 minutes of cooking.
During the last 2-3 minutes of cooking, toast the hamburger buns, cut side down, on the grill. Serve the hamburgers on the buns with tomato, onion, lettuce, dill pickle or whatever condiments you prefer. Makes 4 burgers.
40-Minute Hamburger Buns
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (110-115 F)
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3-3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Heat oven to 425 F. Lightly spray two sheet pans with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add oil and sugar; let stand for 5 minutes. Add egg, salt and enough flour to form a soft dough.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, for about 3-5 minutes. Do not let rise. Divide into 8 pieces and shape each into a ball. Place on prepared sheet pans about 3 inches apart. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Makes about 8 buns.
Salted Honey Cornbread Brioche Buns
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 tablespoons milk, warmed
- 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
- Tiny pinch kosher salt
- 2 1/2 tablespoons salted butter, softened
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon water
For salted honey butter (optional):
- 4 tablespoons salted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons honey
Heat oven to 400 F.
In a glass measuring cup bowl, combine water, warm milk, yeast and honey. Let sit undisturbed until foamy, for about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together bread flour, cornmeal and salt. Add butter and cut into the flour mixture, using your hands or a pastry blender, until you have pea-sized pieces. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir in the yeast mixture, beaten egg and remaining honey until a dough forms; knead for about 4-6 minutes. The dough will be sticky.
Grease a large bowl. Shape the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, for about 1 hour.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Gently roll each piece into a ball and arrange 3 inches apart on the baking sheets. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap lightly coated in nonstick spray or a damp kitchen towel. Let the buns rise again in a warm place for 1 hour.
Beat remaining egg with water. Remove the plastic from the buns and brush the egg mixture on top of the buns.
Place a large shallow pan of water filled about 1/4 of the way full on the bottom rack of the oven right before baking. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake, turning the pans halfway through baking until tops are golden brown, for about 15 minutes.
To make salted honey butter, in a small bowl, mix together butter and honey. Brush the warm buns with the mixture if desired and serve. Makes about 12 buns.
Crispy Sweet Potato Fries
- Frozen sweet potato fries
- Olive oil cooking spray
- Kosher or large-flake salt
Heat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil.
Place as many frozen fries as desired in a zip-top plastic bag. Spray the fries a few times with olive oil spray. Seal the bag closed and give it a good shake, making sure all the fries are coated.
Spread the fries into a single layer on the sheet pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crisp.
Sprinkle with salt and serve while still warm. For serving size, refer to description on the bag of frozen fries.