It wouldn’t be hard for you to guess the first meal I cooked for us upon our return from Oregon and countless meals of baked goods, berries, and hazelnuts, would it? No. A burger. Except I’m calling it Bifteck Haché, a name I quite like, thanks to a suggestion from Fitz. Indeed this was the perfect homecoming dish after a day that began by (1) Being rudely awakened to the sound of police helicopters for 2 hours; (2) the neighborhood cacophony of leaf blowers; (3) then what turned out to be a 2 hour trip to the post office to gather up our held mail, in which the elusive postal window man would periodically disappear and simply, smugly close his door to the line full of increasingly rageful customers, one of whom was yours truly.
Steak haché, or chopped steak, is the posh hamburger of France. It owes everything to the quality and freshness of the meat. If you go to a good butcher’s shop in France they will mince and mould it in front of you so all you need to do is season and cook it like a steak. If you go to a good butcher shop in the States, ask for what I’ve determined to be the perfect ratio: 1 lb hanger steak, 1/2 lb chuck steak, and 1/2 lb brisket. This will make 2 generous biftecks. Short rib meat is a good use in place of the hanger or brisket.
It is interesting to note that France health regulations preclude butchers from having minced meat at point of sale on the meat counter. It must be made on demand, in order that the customer can see exactly what meat is put through the grinder. Burgers are never seen on butchery counters in France. Let me assure you that as good as a preformed patty may be from your local butcher, when you grind the meat yourself it is even more awesomely tasty.
I’d like to share some photos from my favorite butcher shop that is less than 2 miles away from my front door. As much as I rant on Los Angeles, we do have so many first rate resources now for great, clean, healthy and tasty meat, cheese, and everything else. It’s almost overwhelming!
I eagerly awaited the opening of A Cut Above for nearly a year, permits and such causing delays, and have seen the shop from its spare beginnings grow into a full fledged shop that now offers sandwiches, salads and all sorts of other goodies like broth, tallow, and AMAZING sausages. The all beef hot dogs are to die for!
So then, a haché is prime steak meat, minced once on a coarse grinding plate, then pressed into an oval shape and without adding any seasoning at all (unlike pre made burgers which are usually seasoned during grinding), for it is seasoned at the cooking stage, just like you would with a normal steak. I use the KitchenAid meat grinder attachment, but, as above, only the course grinding plate. With a normal “burger” I pass the meat through the course plate first, then the finer plate. The haché, since it is only coarsely ground, will be a slightly looser and “meatier” patty, and is best served without a bun, and oftentimes with a compound butter such as Maitre d’ Butter, a wonderful mixture of butter, shallot, peppercorn, mustard, lemon juice and Worcester sauce. I also add parsley and sometimes olives or cornichons to my butters.