Ground beef for making hamburgers continues to be one of the best buys in the supermarket, but the tastiest burgers are not always made from the leanest of meat. As a compromise, you might consider making your own burger mix from part ground chuck and part ground sirloin and limiting the size of portions. Except for a bit of salt and fresh ground pepper, I don't like to add anything else to the ground beef, especially if I am planning to serve burgers topped with sauted sliced fresh mushrooms and, maybe, a sauce prepared with red wine. When making burgers, shape them into patties, about 5 ounces each -- so you'll need one and one-quarter pounds of ground beef to make 4 servings. And, even if you like your burger still pink on the inside, as long as it's cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, it will be safe to eat. If, on the other hand, you prefer burgers well done, poke them in the center to assure a cooked, juicy middle and edges that are not frizzled and dried out. Turn them only once during cooking. For a change of pace, try serving burgers with homemade gnocchi, a real treat especially if there's gravy to pass around. Gnocchi dough isn't hard to make and once you get the hang of it, you'll want to make them often to serve in soups and stews. Burgers, good for lunch or supper, are versatile and have no shortage of takers. Add-ons for burgers are limitless meal stretchers and always in budget. If you don't know what to have for dinner, have a burger. Burgers on a bun, burgers with fries, or burgers -- with gnocchi.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at email@example.com
1 1/4 pounds ground chuck, or a mixture of ground chuck and ground sirloin beef
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
In a large mixing bowl, using your hands, blend meat with salt and pepper, then divide into four patties. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Cook patties, turning once, about 4 minutes, per side, for medium-rare, 5 minutes for well-done.
(For well-done burgers, poke a small hole in the middle of the burgers before cooking. This will help to cook the middle, without drying out the edges.) Drain burgers well before serving.
2 pounds (about 4) Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into uniform 2-inch chunks.
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling dough
Gravy for serving
Minced fresh parsley, for garnish
Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold, lightly salted water. Bring water to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes; drain. Rinse the pot and fill it again with lightly salted water and bring to a boil. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, push potatoes through a potato ricer into a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, then mix in the baking powder and the egg. Add the flour a little at a time and mix with your hands just until the mixture forms dough you can handle. (Do not overwork dough.) Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 or 2 minutes until smooth. If dough is too sticky, and a little more flour. Pinch off a piece of the dough and drop it into the boiling water to see if it holds its shape. If it falls apart, knead a little more flour into the dough and test it again. If the dough holds its shape, you are ready to make the rest of the gnocchi. Break off a piece of the dough and roll it back and forth into a rope about 1/2-inch thick, then cut the rope into 1-inch lengths. Gently roll each piece down a wooden gnocchi board while pressing a small indentation with your finger, making the pieces somewhat curved and ridged. If you do not have a gnocchi board, roll each of the dough pieces down the back of a fork. As the gnocchi are formed, place them in a single layer on a baking pan that has been dusted with flour. Then, working with just a few gnocchi at a time, drop the gnocchi into the boiling water. The gnocchi are done when they float to the surface, about 2 minutes. Remove gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon into a serving bowl. Spoon some gravy over the gnocchi to keep them from sticking. Garnish with minced parsley, if desired, and serve immediately. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
1 pound fresh mushrooms
2 minced shallots, optional
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 (10-ounce) cans beef consomm or beef broth/double strength
1/4 cup Burgundy wine
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons flour mixed with 1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Gently wipe mushrooms clean with a dry paper towel, if needed. In a large skillet, heat butter with oil over medium-high heat until butter begins to foam. Add mushrooms and shallots, if using, and saut until mushrooms are lightly browned and have just begun to release their juices, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add broth and wine to skillet and simmer, on low heat, for 15 minutes, adding thyme and salt and pepper, to taste. Thicken gravy with flour/water mixture and cook a few minutes more. (If gravy requires further thickening, combine another tablespoon of flour with 1 tablespoon of water and add it to the gravy, cooking until desired consistency is reached.) Stir in fresh parsley, and keep warm until ready to use. Makes 2 1/2 cups.
*Kitchen Ade Note: Moisture is an enemy to fresh mushrooms, so do not clean them by rinsing, but rather brush off any soil that clings to them with a soft brush or paper towel. The soil mushrooms are grown in is sterile.
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