I’ve eaten two hamburgers this summer, which has to be a record for me. Honestly, given the choice between a burger and a steak, I’ll choose steak every single time. Growing up, we had hamburgers at home occasionally, mostly in the summer when my Dad was in a grilling mood. (I’m leaving aside the ubiquitous fast food experience of most children of my era and location. I certainly enjoyed going to those burger joints as much as the next kid.) Since leaving home, though, I’ve rarely bought ground beef, mostly out of concern for food processing and contamination issues. Another big reason is that my parents often give me game and their own farm-raised lamb and pork. These meats easily surpass supermarket meats in taste and in healthfulness. I’ve been really lucky in that respect.
I happened to have a package of ground moose in the freezer, which I’d been planning to use in a shepherd’s pie once the weather got cooler. (I suppose purists would say I was planning a hunter’s or cottage pie, really.) Instead, I used it to make these burgers. I thought the flavours of the seasonings would go well with moose, with its slight gaminess.
The recipe calls for tarragon, parsley, capers, and cornichons (small, crunchy, cucumber pickles) to be chopped up and mixed with the meat. Sun-dried tomatoes are also called for, but I skipped those this time. I ground some pepper into the mixture, but omitted salt, as I thought the cornichons and capers would make the burgers more than salty enough for us.
Moose meat, like most game, is very lean, so I was a little worried that it might not hold together well. If it hadn’t, I’d have added a little oil or butter. It wasn’t a problem, though I was careful to be gentle with the patties, just in case. I got seven small patties out of the recipe, kept two aside for us to eat immediately, then froze the rest.
Another advantage of game is that I feel much more comfortable cooking the ground version to medium rare than I do with store-bought ground meat. My parents use a small, meticulous butcher for their meat processing and I trust that there’s no contamination danger from their equipment. This is another reason I avoid hamburgers – I always cook them to well done, though I prefer medium rare. [By now, you may have realized I’m a little fearful of meat-borne illnesses.] The moose burgers were perfect at medium rare, with a nice sear on the surface and a melting, juicy tenderness in the centre.
The burger is dressed with an onion marmalade, which is made by slowly cooking down minced red onion with coriander, butter and black pepper. The recipe calls for ribbons of Parmesan to top the burger, but I used Asiago instead. These dressings are more subtle than the usual mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup, which allows the seasonings used in the burgers themselves to shine. The final touch was Udi’s gluten-free hamburger buns. I’d not tried them before, but they’re great. They’re tasty, but more than that, they don’t crumble or fall apart. It was such a treat, knowing that we could enjoy our burgers, gluten-free and without any compromise.
I’m happy that we have some more of these moose burgers waiting for us in the freezer. Once they’re gone, I’m hoping that the organic meat store near my house will have opened. This recipe might mean that burgers make it onto my plate more than twice a year.
You can find many other blogged descriptions of this week’s FFWD recipe here: Café Salle Pleyel Hamburger