All That and a Bag of Chips (if you'd like)

It's been a while since I did a food post. After a long day of work, it is hard to get motivated to make a nice meal. Sometimes the cooking part isn't hard, but the cleanup can be very daunting. These days, the economy is a driving force toward cooking more and eating out less, or toward eating cheaper foods. Fast food burgers are quick and cheap, but they aren't always tasty and definitely aren't good for you. The more upscale burger joints turn out gourmet burgers, but not everyone can afford (or justify) the price of a $10 burger. Fortunately, good burgers can be made at home; at the price of one gourmet burger, you can feed a few people or make several meals for yourself.

Personally, I don't like to add ketchup, mayo, or mustard so that the meat won't taste bland. I prefer that the meat is well-seasoned before it's cooked. Today I like to share my burger recipe. With less than $2 worth of materials, I made enough to last a couple of meals.

I had about half a pack of ground beef (a little over $2 a pack...I can't remember the weight) in the freezer, the leftovers from making something else. I was going to save that for a chili, but I came home craving a burger today and didn't want to spend the money eating out. Since I didn't have everything I needed, I hopped over to the neighborhood market to get some romain lettuce, a tomato, and an onion (total cost: $1.13). The rest was easy.

Since I don't measure, all I can tell you is what to add "to taste." Here's what I did:

1) Quick-thaw the meat in a "waterbath" (I just don't do microwaves because the edges of the meat end up getting cooked, especially ground meat). I covered the bottom of a pie tin with a quarter of an inch of water, then I put the frozen meat package upside-down so that the saran wrap side is partially submerged in water. The water melts the ice quicker than it would have if the meat was left out in open air. Since the foam bottom of the package needs to be thawed as well, I covered the bottom of a second pie tin with water and put that first pie tin on top.

2) After thawing, spread the ground beef out in a mixing bowl. Finely chop a little bit of onions, smash up some garlic, and throw it with the meat. The trick is to add just enough onions and garlic to flavor the meat without making the patties fall apart.

3) Add a dash of pepper, some celery salt (or regular salt, if you like), a little bit of Worcestershire sauce or balsamic vinegar (keeps the meat tender and gives it a bit of flavor), a tablespoon of mustard, and an already-beaten egg (which I believe holds the meat together better).

4) Shape the patties. I chose to keep them small because of issues with the bread (more on that below).

5) Cook the patties in a frying pan with some olive oil. Sear on high heat, then let it sit in medium-low heat to keep the juices in the meat. If you have a George Foreman grill, that will save some time and possibly cut down on the fat as well, but I do think the frying pan produces better-tasting results (mmm...carmelized onions).

6) If you have burger buns, that's great. If you only have loaves of sliced bread, that's OK too. You can either eat the burger like any other sandwich, or you can use a cup to cut out a round shape. (You can save the trimmed-out parts to make croutons or a bread pudding.) I kept the patties small because I only had sliced bread, and I wanted to play around with a concept--a stack of discs. I used a large cup to cut out the bread for the base, put on some lettuce, put the patty on top of that, then smaller slices of tomatoes, then a smaller piece of bread up top. To some degree, presentation does matter. A well-presented plate made me more eager to enjoy the meal, and tricks dinner guests into thinking that you've slaved away over the stove to put together a fabulous meal.

I wish I had a bottle of red wine and some fries (or chips) on hand to go with the juicy burgers, but I was quite satisfied without them. Prep time was minimal, and while it took 15 minutes to cook it to the way I want it, I didn't really have to watch over it too much.


yiqin; said...

OMG if only I am not so lazy..I will def make this now!

Sales Rack Raider said...

It'll be a great dinner on a night when you're not quite so lazy =) Very easy to make. I just made a whole batch for a party this morning and it took less than an hour.