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4 soft-but-sturdy burger buns (prefer potato, onion rolls, or challah)
Mayonnaise, toum, or both
1 pound ground beef (20-25% fat)
4 tsp butter, softened
4 pieces (1/2-3/4 ounce) of St. Andre or Délice de Bourgogne (or other triple-cream cheese)
Cognac or brandy
1 sweet or white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 dill pickle or a handful of cornichons, thinly sliced
Coat the buns with a thin layer of mayo, toum, or a combination.
Make 4 equal-sized balls out of the beef, and top each with a teaspoon of butter. This supplies both fat to help with the initial sear, and flavor.
Heat a flat-top griddle to medium-high, or heat a couple cast iron pans or a griddle on your grill or stovetop.
Toast the buns on the cut sides until they are golden-brown, then set aside on a cutting board.
Scatter salt and and generous quantity of Pierre Poivre and/or Le Poivre over your cooking surface in 4 places.
Place the balls of meat butter-side down in each spot, then using a spatula press them into a patty shape. Sprinkle the uncooked sides with more pepper blend and press it in with your spatula.
After 2-3 minutes check the burgers. Give them a flip once they are nice and brown on the first side (this will depend on your cook temperature).
Cook for another 1 1/2 minutes (again this will vary a bit depending on your heat source) on the second side, then add the cheese and a splash of cognac to each patty.
Cover with a pot lid or melting dome until the cheese just begins to melt (about 2 minutes more).
Remove to the buns, top with onion (which I like a lot of as you can see) and pickle slices, and enjoy!
I love a light and refreshing wine with this (as opposed to heavier reds), but one which still has enough structure. Try Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) rosé from Germany for a nice treat.
• I like the flavors that frying brings out in pepper, try this technique, substituting chopped fresh tuna mixed with olive oil for the beef and butter, akvavit for the cognac, and Swiss or cheddar for the cheese. Serve on toasted rye bread.
• Vegetarian? I find these flavors work great with with a mushroom and black bean burger.
• Try the last variant of my Stovetop Mini Meatloaf recipe, but cook as above rather than making mini loaves, and use cheese rather than making a cream sauce. You'll want to cook them at a lower heat for longer to ensure they are cooked through.
• Odd, but tasty, au poivre sloppy joes. In a skillet cook shallots with Pierre or Le Poivre until caramelized. Scrape to the side and brown 1 pound of ground beef. Remove the fat (this can be used to cook another dish), then add a healthy splash of cognac and cook until nearly evaporated. Add cream and cook until slightly thickened. Great over thick slices of toast.
Food images and recipe © Christian Leue
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