Essentials: Hamburgers

It isn't summer yet, but the sun has me thinking. Every June when the food magazines put out issues full of gorgeous grilled things, I, a grill-deprived citizen of New York City, feel somehow snubbed. The rest of the country, I imagine, is enjoying lingering al fresco dinners on decks and in gardens as I continue to eat inside at a corner of the table that also holds my computer and my work. Certain things I never get to eat at home at all--grilled fish, grilled pizza, grilled corn.

Luckily, two summers ago I finally made the consoling discovery that you can cook very tasty hamburgers indoors in a cast-iron skillet. For some reason I never make them in winter, but now that I can leave the house without a coat, it's time to throw open all the windows for a Saturday night cookout high above 57th Street.

I prefer soft supermarket buns to anything fat and fancy, and all I need for topping is mustard, mayonnaise, and raw onion (if tomatoes are in season, I'll take a thick slice of tomato, too). Although my favorite recipe is the Julia Child take below, I know some people might object to the incorporation of sautéed shallot. Nevertheless, I think it's delicious, and a thin burger is not only easier to cook in a skillet, it is also much more pleasant to eat. In fact, I think 1/4 pound meat is the perfect amount; Andrew doesn't agree, but 1/2 pound burgers kind of gross me out.

I remember three things about my parents grilling hamburgers (outside, on a deck, of course) when I was a little girl: hamburger seasoning (I was fascinated that there was a spice just for hamburgers), the plastic device that my mom used to make patties (again, so specific!), and how intrigued and disgusted I was by the raw meat (I always wondered what would happen if I ate it raw). How do you make hamburgers?

I have been dreaming of repeating Blake Royer's meat-grinding experiments ever since A Hamburger Today linked to his tantalizing photos, but my Kitchen Aid Mixer, alas, lives in an inaccessible spot and is hauled out only for the most arduous baking escapades. A garden, a grill, a counter big enough for the mixer (or any other appliance besides the coffee grinder)--a city girl can dream, can't she?

About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.

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Essentials: Hamburgers

About This Recipe

Yield:4 hamburgers

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon butter or mild olive oil
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pound fresh ground beef, preferably 15 to 20 percent fat
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 hamburger buns or Kaiser rolls
  • Toppings and condiments as you like

Procedures

  1. 1

    Sauté the shallots in a small pan until soft in 1 teaspoon butter or mild olive oil.

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