by Patricia Michelson from The Cheese Room (Michael Joseph)
Ask your butcher to mince your meat freshly, but don’t turn up at their busiest time! A properly made hamburger with a gooey cheese topping and fried onions is a million miles away from McDonald’s. If you use clarified butter to fry the onions they will be sweet & crisp, but Mazchik vegetable fat, available from kosher delis, which is like pure rendered chicken fat (an ultra-sensational agent for frying onions – only the thought of terminal heart failure prevents me using it often), is healthier.
Makes 2 hamburgers
200g lean sirloin steak, minced finely
115g lean chuck steak, minced finely
½ large carrot, peeled & grated
1 onion, peeled & grated
fine sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 egg, beaten lightly
1 tablespoon sunflower oil, for frying
For the Fried Onions
2 large firm-textured onions suitable for frying
4 tablespoons clarified butter, vegetable fat or sunflower oil
A little red wine or water
For the Cheese Topping
2 chunky slices Gruyère, Comté, Beaufort, or similar fruity-tasting smooth-textured cheese such as Fontina, Gabriel, Appenzeller, Mahon or even Cheddar
Place the two meats in a bowl and mix them together with dampened hands. Add the carrot and onion and mix well. Don’t work the meat too hard but use loose relaxed hand movements. Add a good pinch of salt, season well with black pepper, and mix in the chopped thyme. Bind together with the egg. Form into 2 large patties or 4 small ones.
Chop the onions in half and slice them into fine strips. Heat the fat or oil in a heavy frying-pan until it is hot but not smoking, and sauté the onions until they are golden brown. Keep them warm in an ovenproof dish in the oven at 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.
Put the hamburgers into the same pan with a tablespoon of oil, and fry them for 4 minutes on each side if you want them rare – press the top of the meat to check: if it feels soft and squashy it is ready – or continue cooking for another 3 minutes if you want them medium, when they will offer a little more resistance to being pressed. If you want them well done they will feel firmer. Remove them from the pan and keep them warm on a heated serving dish.
Now scrape up all the lovely fried bits and pieces in the pan. Pour out most of the oil and shake in some mushroom ketchup and Worcestershire sauce with the wine or water, scraping up the bits until you have a little syrupy sauce – tip in any juices that might have escaped from the hamburgers while they were resting on the plate.
Turn the grill on high. Lay the slices of cheese, one side spread with the mustard, on the hamburgers, mustard side on the meat, and flash under the grill until the cheese starts to melt.
Heap a portion of fried onions on each plate, place the cheese-topped hamburger either on top or to the side, drizzle a little of the sauce around the edges and serve with creamed potatoes and salad. Or, if you must, sandwich the onions and the hamburger with the glaze dribbled over the top in a toasted sesame bun.