Saturday, 17 March 2012

Home-Made Hamburgers

Who doesn't love a nice, juicy hamburger? I love them, and resisting the urge to order one when eating at a pub (or any restaurant that serves a decent burger) is incredibly difficult. Fast-food burgers have stopped being satisfying a long time ago: tiny, thin and flavorless meat patties are possibly the most underwhelming thing one can eat. And no should have to eat them! Not when it's so easy to make your own and season them exactly the way you want.

A pound of ground beef should wield 6 burger patties. Unless I have people over, I freeze 4 patties in pairs, with a piece of parchemin paper between the patties to make sure they don't stick too hard once frozen.

There are a million ways to season burger patties, and the recipe below is simply my favorite. Use the amount of garlic you want and switch the spices to your taste (sage is awesome, especially if you like mushrooms in your burgers!). I like the subtle, smoky taste paprika gives the meat, and a bit of garlic-bite is never a bad thing. The only ingredients I suggest keeping in at all time are the bread crumbs, the egg and the mustard. These will help your patties keep their shape during the cooking process. Nothing is messier or more frustrating than a burger that crumbles and falls to pieces as you grill it.

1 cup of bread crumbs
8 sprigs of fresh Italian parsley
1 teaspoon of Italian herbs
1 teaspoon of chili flakes
1 teaspoon paprika
3 cloves garlic
2 heaping teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 pound of lean ground beef
1 large egg
sea salt and ground pepper
olive oil

Put the crumbs in a large mixing bowl. Finely chop the parsley, including the stalks and add to the bowl, along with the mustard and the beef. Peel and finely chop the garlic and add to the meat mixture. Crack the egg and add along with a good pinch of salt and about a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Scrunch and mix everything together until well combined. Divide into six balls and form each into a patty, about 3/4 inch thick.

This is the part where you either freeze your patties or eat them right away. If you freeze them, use small freezer bags and parchemin paper. They can stay frozen a month or two. I recommend defrosting them in the fridge instead of in the microwave (I hate defrosting stuff in the microwave) because the diabolical contraption can cook the meat before you throw it in the grilling pan, and that's just not the point.

If you are gonna cook your burgers right away, drizzle the patties with olive oil, put them on a plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. Pre-heat a grilling pan over high heat for 4 minutes, then lower the heat to medium. Place the burgers on the grill and using a spatula, press down on them lightly to make sure the whole patty is in full contact with the heat. Cook them for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until cooked to your liking. If using cheese as a garnish, add the cheese on top of the patty for the last minute of grilling, to let it melt a bit. Serve on burger or ciabatta buns, with garnish of your choice.

I am a die-hard fan of caramelized onions and goat cheese or Brie, but so many delicious things can go in a burger besides the old classics of tomato and lettuce. It's all about complementary tastes: Swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms, strong Cheddar and finely sliced apples, Monterey Jack and bacon.

I suggest not over-crowding your burgers: the buns may get soggy and the whole thing will fall apart before you've had time to finish it! Carefully pick 2 or 3 garnishes and condiments. You'll enjoy the ensemble much more if you don't have to eat the whole thing in several pieces.

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