Hamburger in disguise –


Hamburger is ground or fine chopped meat. See the earlier discussion of burger biggies for a bit of a general idea. We have all mixed up a bit of ground beef with this or that and grilled it. Perfectly fine. Particularly with fresh lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, pickle and the condiment(s) of choice. I like mayonnaise and a bit of decent brown mustard. Salt and pepper, of course.

There are better things to do with good ground beef. Quick and dirty, when you’re tired and hungry: Sweat some chopped onions and bell pepper in a light bit of olive oil and butter. (Sweat = low heat for 4-5 minutes). Crank the heat up to about medium and add some ground beef. Lightly browned is about what you want. Lower the heat and stir in some of your favorite barbeque sauce, either bottled or scratch made. See the discussion of Lazy Man’s Ribs for our favorite sauce. Anyway – mix in the sauce until it has coated everything. Not dry at all, kind of juicy sloppy joe consistency. Taste and adjust salt, pepper and whatever else you like. Put about half a canned biscuit in each hole of a muffin tin (ungreased) and work the dough up the side to make a biscuit cup. Spoon in the mix to almost fill the biscuit cups. Put some shredded cheese over the top. Cheddar or something with a robust flavor. Bake in a 400° oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. If you want it fancier for a party, use some store bought puff pastry shells. Nice, light combo. You really don’t want to try scratch making puff pastry – it’s a trial.

A bit of real peasant fusion is the loco moco, invented in Hawaii in the late 1950s and still very popular there. This is rice, meat, brown gravy and an egg. Nice fusion of cultures and tastes. Cook some good Oriental white rice, not instant junk. Make up whatever burger mix you like. Usually there is a seven to one beef to pork ratio. Add chopped onion, panko (Japanese bread crumbs), garlic, salt and pepper. Form into patties and cook to your taste. Try 4 minutes a side, either grilled or pan fried in the oil and/or butter of choice. Make brown gravy in the pan juices. Low heat. Just add in flour about equal to pan juice volume, whisking until smooth and brown. Add water or beef stock until the desired thickness is reached. Usually served in a styrofoam cup in Hawaii – not terribly enviro-friendly. Put some rice on a plate, add a burger. Top with a light to medium fried egg – you do want the yolk soft, teriyaki sauce, and brown gravy. Rather nice. Salt and pepper to taste.

Now steak tartare is a wondrous taste bud tantalizer. When I was a kid and my mother made ground beef anything, she would make a little ball about the size of a quarter and salt and pepper it. Whichever kid was helping with the cooking would get it. Delicious. Notice I didn’t say anything about cooking it. People are scared to death of raw nowadays, I’ve even seen recipes that called for cooking steak tartare??!! Heresy!!! But, same discussion as elsewhere, if you can get some nice filet mignon or at the least a nice top sirloin (trim all fat) and swab the outside well with vodka or brandy and pat off all excess, you are probably pretty safe. Don’t bother with a lesser cut of meat. Mince or grind your own with squeaky clean utensils. Get a nice medium grind. Add a tablespoon of a good brown mustard – Grey Poupon is nice, egg yolk, woostershire, grated or minced onion, capers – rinsed and drained, salt, pepper, dash of brandy. Mix very lightly. Don’t squeeze the meat, we don’t want a paste. Ingredients are variable. Herself does not like capers – I do. Other ingredients sometimes used are Tabasco, wine instead of brandy, hickory salt, parsley or other herbs, cracked bulgur wheat, tomatoes, anchovies – the list is endless. The traditional serving is on thin sliced French bread toast or pumpernickel. Use crackers or whatever you like, just gently mound it up with a spoon. DON’T spread it – this squishes it down. This is not deviled ham or peanut butter.

BTW – The French, Belgians, and Swiss call it American fillet. It is very popular there and in Russia.

I gotta’ talk about peppers here, even if this was about ground beef. So-called bell peppers aren’t really peppers. Chris Columbus was either confused or lying. True peppercorns were a hot trade item. Bell peppers are really cultivars of the Capsicum Annuum species. (I think we’ll still call them peppers). The reason they aren’t as bad as their cousins the jalapeno types is that the capsaicin that makes the burn is genetically eliminated. The green jobbies are actually not a separate color, they are prematurely harvested unripe forms of other colors. They are therefore more bitter, less sweet, and more likely to produce indigestion than the fully ripened colors. In this neck of the woods you are more likely to see the yellow, red, and sometimes orange than any other. There are also supposed to be white, brown, purple, and blue, but I have never seen them. If you’ve only had green peppers and maybe are less than thrilled with them (or they with you), try some of the fully ripe type (vine ripened is best). Your taste buds and digestion will thank you. Oh, you do know that you skin out the seeds and ribs and toss them. You don’t eat them.

Just about any ground beef recipe can be doctored. Try a ground beef and ground pork mix in about a four or five to one ratio. You can also do ground beef, ground lamb and skin out a sweet Italian sausage into the mix. There are a million and one blends that can be made. Herb and spice them differently. I’m partial to basil and parsley. Some like sage. I’m ok with very light sage, but too much smells like the pencil sharpeners in grade school – also tastes like it to me. But, go for it if you like.


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