When the multilingual Ms. E and I took our “villa” (read: “part of a really old house”) in the south of France we left behind us many of the things that we took for granted here in America. Phone service, for one. We didn’t have a history of paying bills and so we weren’t eligible… Good Bourbon was really hard to find — even at a bar. Fortunately, great wines, champagnes and numerous cheeses were readily available. We adapted, cheerfully. The things that we thought we would miss, didn’t really become an issue.
Until the Fourth of July rolled around. And what is the 4th without burgers on the grill? Vaguely un-American. And — as living for any length of time overseas will show you — our “Americaness” runs deep.
So, we went shopping for burger makings. And along the way, I discovered what makes a really great cheeseburger: a little fat, and don’t mess with ’em too much.
Which probably describes the French perception of Americans, too.
That night, I cooked out on the grill. And we sang every patriotic song that we knew. It being summer at the beach in France, there was a fireworks display. And a quiet rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” by the only two Americans for miles around.
The Easy and Elegant Life Backyard Burgers (Pronounced: “‘amburghur” in the French manner.)
The French don’t age their meat as much as we do and you can tell the difference. That’s when I realized that the key ingredient is the meat… I’ve got a butcher, so I can get good ground meat. Use sirloin or chuck and make sure that it has at least 15% fat. That will keep them moist on the grill.
Shape the meat into the burgers with a minimal of handling. Don’t make them too thick. And certainly don’t make them too thin. I’d say that mine run about 3/4″ to 1″ thick. Sprinkle them with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. And leave them alone.
Heat up the grill. It doesn’t have to be blazing hot. Burgers with that much fat in them will cause flare ups. Add the burgers to the grill and …
Leave them alone.
In about 4 or 5 minutes they will release from the grill and you can turn them. Cook for another 2 or 3 minutes, add your cheese (any kind will do, but if you’re adding American cheese — please, not “cheese food” — use two slices.) As long as the grill is heated you might as well toast the insides of your buns a little. Or you can use half of the buns to cover the cheese after you add it to the burgers.
Ms. E likes her onion slices grilled. So I add them under the burger after I flip it.
That’s it. You should have a rare to medium-rare, perfectly seasoned and delicious cheeseburger. Add whatever condiments you like — me? I’m a dijon mustard, onions, pickles, lettuce, tomato and jalapeño kind of guy.
Happy Independence Day. And may God bless America.