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A relaxed friendly hands-on cooking holiday in the Dordogne, France
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Steak Haché (Hamburger)

Let's first dispel an urban myth...

What is the biggest misconception propagated about making burgers? That you need egg to bind the burger and to stop it falling apart during the cooking process.

How has this little piece of mythinformation come about? Well, we need to see what it is in an egg that is allegedly so 'beneficial' to a burger.

Egg white, or no egg white..?

Egg white (we're not concerned with the yolk here, but add it if you want for the flavour it gives) consists mainly of proteins (and other non-structural elements) suspended in water, which itself makes up something like 92% of egg white’s total weight. During the cooking process, egg white coagulates - i.e. sets - between 62° and 65°C.

Meat also consists of proteins (along with water and other elements). It coagulates from around 55°C, which is far earlier than egg white. So when we place a burger in the pan to cook it, the proteins in the meat begin to coagulate, binding the burger and preventing disintegration. The addition of egg white to the raw meat only serves to dilute the mixture and make it sloppy. One then has to overcook the meat in order for the white to reach it's setting point.

So, the moral of this little culinary tale is: don't add egg to your burger because it's positively detrimental.

The Burger...

In meat, as in life, you don't get something for nothing, and when it comes to beef, it's no different. The adage that the tougher the cut, the tastier the meat, is, broadly speaking, accurate. Traditionally tough cuts like skirt, chuck and brisket come from areas of the animal that do a lot of work whereas the more tender portions come from less well worked areas.

The tradeoff of using a tender, relatively expensive cut like fillet or sirloin is a slightly bland flavour but a lovely soft lean texture. Tougher, less expensive cuts, although they have more flavour, suffer from being chewy and, in some cases, impossible to swallow. Having said that, these cheap cuts often contain more fat, and fat, as any bonviveur will tell you, means flavour!

You pays your money and takes your choice.

Because it's there...

In this recipe for Steak Haché (or Hamburger) I've used fillet because I had some leftover raw steak from a Sunday lunch, but you could equally use any of the cuts mentioned. I will say, however, that an ultra-lean cut like fillet really does benefit from the inclusion of some extra fat and so I've added suet in a ratio of about 15% of the weight of beef (hence the little elongated pieces of white fat you see in the photos, but you could easily use back fat or other fat as long as it has a 'melting' quality).

Mince or chop..?

Either get your butcher to mince the meat for you on the 'coarse' plate, do it yourself at home, or, like me, chop it by hand with a really sharp knife. If you do follow my example, cut the meat into 5mm square strips along the grain, then cut those strips into 5mm dice across the grain.

Serves six

Ingredients:
1.6kg well marbled beef (sirloin or rump is best with 12 to 16% fat or added fat)
2 tsp fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Mince or cut the meat as above. If necessary, add extra fat cut up into little pieces. Season the lot with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Squeeze it all together with your hands, making sure the seasoning and any extra fat is thoroughly mixed in, then break into six even sized balls (I weigh mine, but do it by eye if you want).

Pat the balls into thick patties about 9cm by 4cm (I used a pastry cutter to form neat square-cut cylinders). Place the patties on a plate, cover with clingfilm and leave at room temperature for an hour (we're aiming for a tender pink interior and a dark brown crusty exterior, but if the burgers are too cold when you cook them, they'll be undercooked in the middle and overcooked on the outside).

Get your serving plates nice and warm (including one for the cooked burgers to rest on) and assemble your garnishes (toasted burger buns, sliced fried mushrooms, cheese, chips, salad, ketchup, etc).

Take a frying pan that will easily accommodate all six burgers in one go with room to spare and place it over a medium heat. Allow it to come to a hazy hotness. In the meantime, smear a little olive oil all over the burgers, then, in order to promote a tasty crust, season them really well with some extra sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

As soon as the pan is 'hazing' put the burgers in and set the timer for one minute. At the end of the minute, turn the burgers over and cook on the other side for another minute. Turn then four more times giving them a total cooking time of six minutes. This repeated turning further promotes a lovely dark crust and makes for even cooking.

Remove to a warm plate for a minute or two to rest, then serve with the garnish of your choice (me, I like fried mushrooms, cheese and ketchup and chips on the side!).

 

You have permission to publish this article and recipe electronically or in print, free of charge, as long as the following byline is included (a courtesy copy of your publication would be appreciated):

"Jim Fisher is an English chef who runs www.cookinfrance.com: relaxed friendly hands-on cooking courses in the Dordogne region of south west France. Contact him via: http://www.cookinfrance.com or Tel: 0033 (0)553 302405"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




       

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5 Day/5 Night Cooking Courses Include:

  • Expert hands-on tuition with British chef

  • All courses conducted in English

  • All cooking ingredients, equipment and aprons

  • A continental breakfast each day

  • Lunch each day

  • Dinner
    (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday)

  • Tea, coffee and wine

  • An evening meal on the day of your arrival

  • En suite centrally-heated accommodation

  • Recipe pack containing all the dishes cooked during your stay

  • Entrance fees to places visited

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    Some of the things you'll be doing on the cooking course:

    Learn how to cook pastries, breads and soups

    Select and prepare the best fish and shellfish

    Butcher common joints of meat

    Cook classic French and Italian sauces

    Construct modern dressings

    Master the art of stylish contemporary food presentation