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~ Herbaceous Caramelized-Onion & Boursin Burgers ~

IMG_7487Eating à la Française, in the the style of the French people, is a remarkable experience.  As a person who is 100% willing to throw calories under the bus for outstanding fare, dining in France is literally at the top of my food chain.  Speaking of chains, over the past few decades, "le fast food chaînes" have indeed invaded France, but, only to the point of being easier to find without replacing "haute cuisine" (fine dining) or interrupting eating "en famille" (family-style meals).  

That said, for a culture that loves "pissaladière" (the French answer to pizza) and has long-established ties to "pommes frites" (French fries), a "hambourgeous-fromage" (a hamburger with cheese), unless it is purchased at a "Quick" (a fast-food chain), is different from the American-style hamburger or cheeseburger in that it is made with "biftek haché" (chopped beefsteak), which gives it a coarser, slightly dryer, not to be confused with dried-out texture -- it's wonderful.  One more bit of trivia: It's not a "Royale with cheese", juste "le Royale cheese".  C'est la vie!

As the French say:  "Du pain, du vin, du Boursin."

Translates to:  "Some bread, some wine, some Boursin."

6a0120a8551282970b022ad386a1bc200cBoursin is classified as a "specialty" cheese, but, I classify it as "party cheese" -- serve it at a party with crackers or toasts and people flock to it.  This cow's milk cheese has a creamy, buttery texture and a full flavor, similar to cream cheese, which makes it perfect to serve with wine or cocktails.  The Boursin brand is available in five flavors, (Garlic & Fine Herbs is my favorite). Whichever one you choose, there are two constants in each variety of Boursin:  garlic and peppercorns.  

IMG_7362Boursin was the creation of François Boursin in 1957, in Normandy.  It was "his take" on the French tradition of serving cheese with an assortment of minced, fresh herbs, which guests sprinkled atop the cheese to suit their own palate. Here's one last bit of trivia: When you are purchasing Boursin, if the package does not say "all natural Gournay cheese on it", it is not authentic Boursin.  "Gournay" is the word François Boursin picked (naming it after the town he grew up in) when he was required to declare its origin to customs officials.  The Boursin brand was first advertised on television in France using the slogan, "Du pain, du vin, du Boursin", meaning, "some bread, some wine, some Boursin".

Want caramelized onions on your 'burger?  Make 'em first:

6a0120a8551282970b017d3bf9e9ba970cOnions contain a lot of sugar and slowly cooking them on the stovetop draws out their natural sweetness. The longer and slower they cook, the sweeter they get.  When lightly-browned or browned, they take on a pleasant, nutty taste.  When caramelized to a deep amber color, they get sweet.  Caramelizing onions is easy, but, if it's a deep caramel color you want, you'll need to allow a good 35-45 minutes.  

IMG_7417Technically, any onion can be caramelized, but I think sweet onions work best, with yellow onions being my second choice -- I don't recommend caramelizing red onions.  My favorites are: Vidalia, Walla Walla, Maui, Texas Sweet and NuMex.  Here are two tips:

1)  To insure even cooking, slice to a consistent thickness.

2)  Onions will loose about 2/3 of their volume, so start with a lot more than you think you need.

IMG_73801 1/2 pounds (after peeling) 1/8"-1/4"-thick-sliced half-moon-shaped sweet onion (6 cups) 

3  tablespoons olive oil

3  tablespoons salted butter

1  teaspoon granulated sugar 

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

2-4  tablespoons sweet white wine, for deglazing pan (vegetable stock or plain water may be substituted)

6a0120a8551282970b017d3bf9e9ba970c IMG_7370 IMG_7370 IMG_7374 IMG_7386 IMG_7386 IMG_7386 IMG_7386~Step 1.  Peel and slice the onions as directed.  Over low heat, in a 12" skillet, melt the butter into the olive oil.  Add the onions to the skillet.  Season with the sugar and salt.  Using a large slotted spoon or spatula, toss until the onions are evenly coated in the oil/butter mixture.  

IMG_7394 2 IMG_7394 2 IMG_7394 2 IMG_7394 2 IMG_7401 IMG_7401 IMG_7401 IMG_7401~Step 2.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Continue to slowly cook, stirring occasionally.  After 10 minutes, onions will have lost a lot of volume and will be limp and steamed through.  There won't be any browning just yet.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, another 10 minutes. It's now that you are going to start to see what I refer to as light browning.  Continue to cook, stirring more frequently, another 10 minutes. Now onions are nicely-browned and truly beginning to caramelize.

Note:  From this point on, do not leave the stove.  The onions will require almost constant stirring, and, they can and will go from browned to burned quickly.  My onions cooked for another 5 minutes today, with me stirring constantly, before I added the wine and quickly (30-45 seconds) deglazed the pan, or, for a total of 35 minutes.  Deglazing the pan is an important step that takes caramelized onions from ordinary to extraordinary, so don't be inclined to skip it.

Parameters for my American-French cheeseburger:

IMG_7512Every once in a while I like to pretend I'm from France.  Today, my inner-French-self decided to come up with a to-die-for American-French-style cheeseburger that would make any Frenchican or American proud to eat.  My parameters were quickly established.  Start with a 2:1 ratio of American, store-bought ground beef to French-style processor-minced steak (flank steak). Liberally season the meat mix plenty of dried/dehydrated garlic, onion, salt, pepper, French herbes de Provence + a boost of granulated beef bouillon.  The steaky-textured 'burgers get pan-seared, relatively-quickly in a bit of melted butter, then topped with a creamy, flavor-packed French cheese, Boursin, and, caramelized onions.  Served on a French roll (there is no substitute for brioche) with green-leaf-lettuce, these moist, juicy burgers need no special sauce.

IMG_7421For the beef and seasoning mixture:

2  pounds 85/15 (85% lean/15% fat) ground beef

1  pound flank steak

2  teaspoons herbes de Provence

2  teaspoons fine sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1  teaspoon dehydrated, minced garlic

1  teaspoon dehydrated, minced onion

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon onion powder

1  generous teaspoon granulated beef bouillion (1 packet)

IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4661~Step 1.  Place 2 pounds ground beef (32 ounces) in a large bowl. Cut 1 pound flank steak (16 ounces) flank steak into 1 1/2" chunks.  Place the chunked steak in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade -- depending upon the size of the food processor, working in two batches may be necessary.  Using a series of 30 rapid on-off pulses, process/grind/mince the meat.  Place the ground steak in the bowl with the ground beef.  Using your hands, thoroughly combine the two.

IMG_7425 IMG_7425 IMG_7425 IMG_7425 IMG_7425~Step 2.  In a small bowl, thoroughly stir the herbs and seasonings together.  Sprinkle the seasoning blend over the top of the meat mixture. Using your hands, thoroughly combine the two.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator 1-2 hours, or overnight, to allow the flavors time to marry -- if you have the time, overnight is terrific.

My American-French cheeseburger -- the Boursin burger:

IMG_7452For the 'burgers, the toppings & the buns:

3  pounds Mel's-meat mixture, divided into 8, 6-ounce portions, each portion (initially) formed into, 4"-round 'burgers

1 5-ounce wheel garlic-and-fine-herb-flavored Boursin cheese, cut into 8 wedges, at room temperature, very soft

1-1 1/2 cups caramelized onions, from above recipe

8  4"-round brioche hamburger rolls, sliced in half horizontally, toasted or untoasted, your choice

1  head, soft Bibb lettuce, 2-4 leaves per sandwich

3 tablespoons salted butter, divided in half, for preparing electric skillet

IMG_7446 IMG_7446 IMG_7256 IMG_7256~Step 1.  Divide the meat mixture into 8 portions, then using your hands and the aid of a 4"-round food-ring, pat and press them into thick discs, about 4"-round (they will get flattened more during cooking process).  Set aside, to come to room temp, about 30 minutes.  Cut Boursin into wedges and set aside, covered with plastic wrap, to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

IMG_7458 IMG_7458 IMG_7458 IMG_7458~Step 2.  In electric skillet, melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter over low heat.  When melted, using a pastry brush, paint bottom of skillet. Increase the heat to 385° and wait 30 seconds.  

IMG_7469 IMG_7469 IMG_7474 IMG_7474 IMG_7474~Step 3.  Place four 'burgers in the skillet and using a grill press or a spatula, firmly press each 'burger down, lifting and lowering the press 2-3 times to make sure the surface has been evenly pressed (into a free-form, craggy-edged 4 1/2"-5"-sized patty).  Sauté for 2 minutes.  Flip the 'burgers over and cook for another 2 minutes (1 1/2 minutes for rare-ish, 2 minutes for medium-rare-ish).  Turn heat off.  When the butter-sputtering stops, use a spatula to transfer to rolls topped as directed below.  Repeat process with remaining four 'burgers.

Brioche bun, lettuce, 'burger, Boursin, onions, eat:

IMG_7498Herbaceous Caramelized-Onion & Boursin Burgers:  Recipe yields 1-1 1/2 cups caramelized onions/8 Boursin burgers.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; kitchen scale; 12" nonstick skillet; large spoon; paper towels; plastic wrap; 4"-round food ring (optional); 16" electric skillet; pastry brush; 'burger press or spatula; wide spatula;  serrated bread knife

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3ce3e35200bCook's Note: Mashed, smashed or whipped potatoes, made from Russets, reds or golds, skins on or skins off, baked in the oven, boiled on the stovetop or cooked in the microwave -- a case can be made, and a recipe developed, for each and every scenario, and, as long as the end justifies the means, the basic machinations for potato perfection is, for the most part, personal. ~ Buttery-Rich & Boursin-Cheesy Whipped Potatoes ~ are a personal favorite.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)


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