There are certain phenomena which - immediately on appearance – cause a feeling of utter and profound revulsion in the breast of any gourmet cook, dear reader. One of those things is, for instance, the sight of a jar of pre-fab Yoghonaise, that horrid bottled brew for which innocent Mayonnaise gets smothered in an mudslide of acid dairy product, before being passed off as a health product to unsuspecting customers who know no better since they’ve been watching Hollywood sitcoms all their lives…
Another such sight which will make an honest cook puke, is the culinary metamorphosis of a pre-packed supermarket hamburger, freshly ripped from its shell of protective plastic that stops the rot for three months without refrigeration. Once dropped into a smudgy frying pan full of sizzling motor oil, such a slab of shredded animal first exudes half a pint of milky water, and then begins to ooze fat, and more fat, and more fat still, until the ‘meat’ turns to an honest pink hue which will never ever change to crispy brown but will only burn black at the outer edges.
What parent, what spouse, what cook worth his salt or caring householder with a conscience would ever serve such matter to his loved ones, dear reader? And again: WHY would he or she ever even contemplate such a line of action? For – if one really must serve hamburgers (and those of you who have children know there is no escaping this Existential Obligation…) – nothing is easier than to create your very own burger, with your very own hands, using your own carefully selected ingredients, to produce steaks of a good taste and a pleasant appearance. Not so much hamburgers, therefore, but… Homeburgers!
Let old Alfred help you by pointing out the two or three easy steps towards a dish which is tastier, healthier, cheaper and ultimately more satisfying.
Go to a reliable butcher, and ask the attendant to make, in front of you from choice cuts, some 75-100 grams of quality minced meat per diner. Chop ¼ of a medium sized onion per person into very small pieces. Put the minced meat and the onion into a bowl. Add one egg for every three people. Add a modest spoonful of nutmeg and salt to taste (err on the generous side, for minced meat somehow tends to obliterate salt).
NB 1: Other spices (pepper, cumin, curry, garam masala) may be added to the mix if you so desire, but personally I find they are unnecessary for a nice Homeburger (whose taste, after all, ought to stay close to the natural flavour of meat).
NB 2: It is a customary procedure to add bread crumbs to the minced meat if one wants to increase the mass and make the meatballs a little more ‘fluffy’. However, I discovered that it is far more efficient and tasty to use Danish ‘knäckebrot’ for that purpose. Just break it into pieces, and smash it to smithereens in a mortar.
|Step 2: fold the plastic foil over the meat ball|
Now take out common plastic foil and cut off a square sheet. Roll a firm meatball between your (wet!) hands. Put this a little to the side of the centre of the plastic, and fold the sheet over it. Press on top of it with the palm of your hand, flattening the meatball into the round hamburger shape of some 2 cm thickness. (Look: even a little brat like Hannibal, educated in the Portuguese schooling system, manages to pulls it off!) Next adjust the edges of your Homeburger by pressing them towards the centre and kneading a little.
|Step 3: flatten the ball into a burger|
Now: if wish to freeze your Homeburgers for later use, fold in the three edges of the plastic foil that stick out; then stack up the Homeburgers and put them together in a plastic bag before depositing them in the freezer. That way they keep their shape perfectly, and they won’t stick together. So you can always take out one, or two, or more from the stack, without having to de-freeze the lot.
|4a: wrapped and ready for freezing|
If, one the other hand, you are going to fry the Homeburgers immediately, carefully peel back the sheet of plastic, transfer the burger to a plate (preferably oiled so that it will not stick), and re-use the same sheet of plastic foil for the next procedure. No reason to burden this poor tormented world with more plastic than strictly practical, right?
Once you have all the Homeburgers you need, fry them in a minimum of oil until no more RED juices escape from the holes pricked with a fork (if no juices escape anymore at all, you’ve overcooked them!)
Put the meat on hamburger buns (prefab or of your own making) and decorate with garnish and sauces to your own heart’s delight.