Monday, August 13, 2007

Bifteck Hache a la Lyonnaise - aka French Hamburgers

(photo from
I probably should start out this posting with the sentence: I love thyme. It is this recipe that introduced me to its virtues. And I've been a frequent user ever since.

My memory served me poorly on this recipe. I've been making it for so long, and it's been written into my old recipe binder for so many years that I didn't remember who gave it to me. When I did a search for the title (in French) sure enough, I found it. This is Julia Child's recipe from her first major tome, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1. I found a write-up about the recipe on the Julia-Julie Project (the young woman who decided to methodically cook the entire contents of Julia's book in a year, all the while blogging about it, and she subsequently wrote a book based on her blog). I tried to read her blog a couple of years ago (after I read Julia's memoir, My Life in France, written by her nephew, which I just loved), but this woman, named Julie, has such a foul mouth I just couldn't continue. (I'm not even going to insert a link to her site because I disliked it so much.) I don't understand why people feel they have to use the f and s words in every sentence.
But, I also found the recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Sweet Napa. If you want to see what these French Hamburgers look like when finished, click on over to her blog to see it.

So, obviously, this isn't anything original. This has been a staple in my cooking repertoire for 40 years. I've even served it to guests (I double the sauce in that case), and whenever I do make these I make extra and freeze at least 4 patties so I can make them just by defrosting. They aren't difficult. Not in the least, although they do take a bit more time than just making patties from raw meat and cooking them.

Since I haven't read Julia Child's take on using minced beef (raw), I don't know the origin of this either. But she recommends using lean beef, then you ADD butter to the raw meat. Interesting, huh? Most current chefs and cooking magazines recommend using nothing leaner than ground chuck. But, realize that when you cook these, if the cold butter is in the middle, when the heat finally reaches the butter, it melts right into the meat, not out into the pan. That's what gives the meat it's richness. But first you saute some onion and butter, cool it, then combine that with egg and thyme to make thick patties. It's necessary to allow these to chill a little bit (with the egg to hold it together). That's an important step. Then you dredge them in flour, then fry them up until done to your liking.

You remove them from the pan and set in a warm oven while you make the sauce. Then you drain the fat from the pan, and add wine or broth. I usually use red wine, but have also used sherry. You can also use broth, or white wine for that matter. You deglaze the pan, scraping up any of those pan juices and little sticky parts, until the wine has evaporated some. Remove from heat and add some additional butter, in bits. Pour into a HOT little pitcher to serve at the table. The recipe says pour the sauce on the burgers, but then most of the sauce ends up on the platter, not on the burger, so I prefer a pitcher.

I like serving this with pasta, just simple buttered pasta. Because some of that sauce tastes great with the pasta. Then with a bright colored veg - like broccoli, or green beans perhaps. And a salad. This used to be - back in the days when nobody thought anything of eating beef 3-4 nights a week - a frequent visitor on my regular family menu. Now it's a treat.

French Hamburgers
(aka Bifteck Hache a la Lyonnaise)
Recipe: Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1
Servings: 4
3/4 c onion -- minced
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 lb lean ground beef
2 tbsp butter -- softened
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp thyme
1 whole egg

1/2 c flour

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 cup red wine -- or sherry or port or broth
2 tablespoons butter
1. Cook minced onion slowly for 10 minutes in butter, until tender, but not brown. Pour into a mixing bowl. Add the ground beef, additional butter, and seasonings to the onions and beat just until combined. Form into 4 patties, 3/4 inch thick. Cover with wax paper and chill several hours.
2. Just before sauteeing the patties, gently roll them in the flour. In a large, heavy frying pan, melt butter and oil, bring to a moderately high temperature and add patties. Sear them until they're brown on both sides, then reduce heat until they're done to your liking. This usually takes longer than I think - about 15 minutes.
3. Remove patties to a heated oven. Pour fat out of the pan and add sherry (or other wine), scraping up the pan juices, until it's reduced to a thick syrup. Take off the heat and add the butter and serve in a small pitcher to pour over the patties.
4. Note: the original recipe calls for red wine, white wine, vermouth or beef stock for the sauce. Use either red wine, sherry or light port.
NOTES : Originally this dish was called "Bifteck Hache a la Lyonnaise" but we always called them French Hamburgers. I believe it is a Julia Child recipe from way-back, when we didn't care (or know) much about watching fat. But, it's a wonderful company meal. I've altered the original a little by reducing some of the butter. When making these I usually buy extra beef and make additional patties to freeze.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 766 Calories; 60g Fat (73.4% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 235mg Cholesterol; 1160mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 4 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 9 Fat.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top.


Kalyn said...

Hi Carolyn,

I wondered if you knew that Lisa from Champaign Taste is having a blog event to celebrate Julia Child's birthday on August 15. This recipe would be perfect for it!

You would have to edit and add a link to Champaign Taste if you wanted to enter; then just send Lisa the permalink for this entry and she would mention your blog and recipe in the roundup. No pressure, I just thought you might like your recipe to be included.

Carolyn T said...

Thanks, Kalyn. I did read her blog a few weeks ago and had forgotten all about it. Thanks for the reminder. Don't know if I've made it under the deadline or not. We were out of town for 2 days and just sent it this morning. We'll see.
Carolyn T