Growing up in Canada and the US, one is never too far from a burger joint. I can’t think of any friends who didn’t enjoy a hamburger – be it at home or out with family or friends. One of my earliest memories of a eating hamburgers was at McDonald’s….long time ago when they were actually good! There’s Burger King, there’s Wendy’s, there’s even A & W! Before during after the era of the franchise burger joint also existed the independent – the family-run (usually Greek) burger joint that would offer hamburgers (some pre-made source) or their homeburgers and even a souvlaki!
There is definitely a burger renaissance taking place. You have an endless list of topping options, different burgers for different tastes: sirloin, Angus, Kobe, Prim Rib burger, lean, extra-lean, do you order well-done or rare, do I step out of the box and have a lamb burger or the unthinkable…a veggie burger! There are sliders (small burgers that can be downed in a couple of bites) and there are gourmet burgers: prime cuts of beef ground and formed into patties and accompanied by double-smoked bacon, artisan cheeses, foie gras, heirloom tomatoes, chipotle sauces, cilantro mayo, red pepper relish, pickled onions.
The only other “fast food” I can think of that occupies so many storefronts and exceeds the demands of the burger would be the pizza. Burgers are loved, consumed by kids and adults alike and they are quick, can be affordable (don’t top with foie gras or a lobster claw) and they are most satiating. Out of all the burgers that are on offer here (Toronto and Canada), I’d have to say my favourite is a Harvey’s hamburger. Harvey’s is a household name amongst Canadians, some Americans might have tried this tasty burger and even some other tourists from overseas.
Out of all the burger choices offered out there, Harvey’s is my favourite: it’s a great tasting burger, the service quick, the meals affordable and the burgers are grilled in front of you and the toppings are your standard fare (they have expanded the selection of late). Harvey’s is juicy, it’s consistent and I recently had one of their burgers as part of a lunch on the fly. Upon tasting the burger all by itself, I noticed that the Harvey’s burger is pretty much a Salisbury steak, served up in burger form.
Based on my tastebuds, memory and scanning some recipes for Salisbury steak, I think I have a good version of the homemade Harvey’s hamburger. The ingredients are very basic, simple and easy to find. You need Worcestershire sauce, slice bread and egg for binding, ketchup, salt and pepper and a packet of dried French Onion Soup mix, the kind also used to make the potato chip dip.
That’s it! No herbs, no other spices. I used a lean ground beef for this recipe as the burgers arern’t too thick and aren’t apt to dry out on you. I’ve also used a ring mold to shape the patties into near-perfect round disks, just like at the burger joint. If you can’t find the French onion soup mix in your area, try grating a medium onion, add some beef stock to soak your bread and you should be able to emulate the same effect (you can also make your own dried soup mix).
The hamburger is a sandwich and like in any sandwich, the choice of a good bread is important. Make your own buns or choose/buy a good hamburger bun. Toppings? The choice is yours but I like to keep it simple, preferring to be able to taste the burger. I like cheese, bacon, tomato, relish, red onions and pickle slices on my burger. How will you have your burger today?
Harvey’s Hamburger (Home Version)
1 lb. of lean ground beef
1 clove of garlic
2-3 Tbsp. of French Onion Soup mix
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2-3 slices of white (or wholewheat) bread, soaked lightly in milk or water
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. of ketchup
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
- In a large bowl, add your slice bread plus 2 Tbsp. of the soup mix, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Mix the ingredients with your hands until they are amalgamated.
- Now add your ground beef, minced garlic and large egg and mix well with your hands. Form into a small meatball, cook it off and taste. Adjust seasoning, add more soup mix if needed. Form into uniform, round patties or use a round mold to form into the perfect pattie, just like at the burger joint.
- Place in the fridge (covered) to set for at least an hour or freeze for another time.
- Pre-heat your gas or charcoal grill. Brush off the residue from the grill surface and you’re looking for a high heat. In the meantime, organize your toppings, condiments and buns.
- Grill your burgers for about 3-4 minutes a side. Toast the buns, add cheese on the burger for those that like it (I DO, I DO) and serve with French Fries and a choice of condiments/toppings.
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