11.01.10 1:16 PM ET
The Perfect Burger (Sans Bun)
This is what I cooked for dinner last night, and it's always a favorite.
Grass-fed Salt-Seared Beef Burger On a Bed of Arugula with Tomato Slices and a Red Wine Reduction Sauce
1 pound grass-fed ground meat, 85 percent
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 cups arugula
1 ripe tomato
The benefits of grass-fed and pastured meats are enormous, both for your health and for the health of the planet, but 100 percent grass-fed beef can be a challenge because it is relatively lean. However, if you buy grass-fed ground beef that is ground to the usual 85 percent meat-to-fat ratio, cooking it to perfection is easy as long as you don't go past medium rare. Here's my favorite technique:
Bring the ground meat to room temperature (this takes about 20 minutes). If it's drippy, blot the surface with a paper towel. Form it into thick patties (four patties for one pound of meat), using the same firm pat-pat as making a snowball. If you like, add in some finely chopped sweet onion and parsley. Make a dimple on top of each patty with your thumb (this helps the meat to shrink less!). Put the raw burgers on a plate to rest while you heat the pan.
You'll need a cast iron frying pan that is well-seasoned from past cooking sessions—it should look very slightly shiny from the oil it has absorbed. Put the pan on the fire, empty, over highest heat. Add about a spoonful of coarse sea salt. When the salt starts to pop (from the water trapped in the salt crystal), slap down your burger, dimple side up.
Cook over highest heat (open the window and put on the exhaust fan, if you have one) for no more than 4 minutes. Don't flatten the meat, don't stick a fork in it, just leave it alone to cook. When it doesn't stick (even if it's at the 3 minute mark) turn the burger to the other side. Cook another 3 minutes, then remove to a plate to rest and continue cooking while you make a red wine reduction sauce. Turn off the stove.
Pour about 1/4 cup of any good red wine into the pan, stirring with a wooden spatula to incorporate the browned bits in the pan. The wine will bubble furiously and will almost immediately reduce down to a tablespoon or two as the alcohol and water steam out. Remove the pan from the heat.
Cover a plate with arugula, drizzle it with good olive oil, put the warm burger on top, and drizzle the red wine reduction over all. Add some ripe sliced tomato if you wish. Now enjoy a great burger made with good meat!