Some food, some drink.
Steak on a Weeknight! Hamburger Steak, that is.
The best made plans for an easy weeknight dinner shouldn't need to always involve opening a few boxes or passing the contents of bags straight from the freezer to the toaster oven. Case in point: These hamburger steaks are always a winner at our house. A study in decidedly un-snobby simplicity; this take on burger-sans bun begins with responsibly-sourced lean ground steer seasoned with the kinds of things that add even more umami to a surface that's been crusted with a whole lotta seasoned sear. An inexpensive alternative to a strip or ribeye to be sure; but just because you're eating cheap beef doesn't mean you have to eat mediocre beef.
I love a good steak. As good as bacon is, if I had to give a single reason that would keep yours truly from going vegetarian, it'd probably be a well-marbled, medium rare slab of steer. Thing is, in my house I'm the only one that really does a steak. Frustrating? Yeah maybe a bit; as it usually means that I'm made to do multiple main dishes for dinner. Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't love to cook, but we've all had those evenings where we just gotta "get it on the table".
One way I can serve up some beef and still have everyone in quorum is with a hamburger "steak". Essentially we're talking about seasoning lean ground beef and putting a good-looking sear on it. Think of it as that Sunday dinner steak in convenient weeknight form.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
In a microwave-safe mixing bowl, mix together the dehydrated onion, Worcestershire, Dijon mustard, and liquid smoke. Microwave for no more than 30 seconds; you really just want to initiate the uptake of the liquid ingredients into the onion. Let the mixture rest for 10-15 minutes.
When 10 - 15 minutes has elapsed, crumble the ground beef into the seasoned onion mixture, and gently mix with your mitts until integrated. Divide the mixture into fourths, and gently press the meat mixture into patties (uniformity in thickness is really all you're looking for; they can be butt-ugly).
Combine the salt and pepper and liberally apply to each side of the patties. Move the patties to the freezer (uncovered) for 10-15 minutes, and in the meantime heat up a cast iron skillet over high heat until it's around 450 - 500F (it'll wanna start to smoke). When it's time to cook, place the patties in the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-high (accounting for the infamous cast-iron carryover). Sear for 3-5 minutes on each side or until you've achieved your desired level of doneness. Note that because you've integrated all that brown-colored seasoning, that something like medium rare may not be properly represented in cross-section; so if you have control issues, use your meat thermometer.
- A decent hamburger steak starts with quality beef. I usually don't get real preachy about this sort of thing as not everyone can keep a quarter steer in their deep-freeze, and not all y'all live less than an hour's drive from where your critter was raised. And I suppose not everyone can live twenty minutes away from where their beef is being processed either; but if I was to get persnickety about one thing, it'd be that you should go with a single source of product whenever possible. Translated: there should only ever be a total of four hooves that ever carried what you're eating over the prairie. In my opinion, meat from a single source brings things like food safety and accountability along for the ride; and while it's not a 100% lock, there's most certainly a reason that hipster hamburger joints and so many how-to's that label themselves as having the "ultimate burger" start with grinding whole cuts of beef.
- If the dehydrated onion were left to its own devices to re-hydrate, dinner would take fuh-evah. A quick spin in the microwave kick-starts the situation; and by the time you're done peeling Yukon Golds for your mash, a good portion of the Worcestershire, mustard, and liquid smoke will be sucked up into the onion.
- We all know fat and water don't mix, and this is no exception. I like to put my formed, seasoned beef patties in the freezer for about five to ten minutes and pull 'em out right before they're scheduled to hit the griddle. This not only makes them easier to handle, but it also dries out the surface of the patty quickly while helping to hold an already stubborn amalgamation together. In the end, it means mo'better sear for you.
- Essential to the outcome of this main dish is that sear. You can grill, but given the liquid nature of the seasoning, and the lack of fillers here (save the meatloaf for another day), these steaks have a tendency to fall thru the grill if you're not super-careful while handling your meat. The real solution is a flat piece of iron or steel. A 12 inch cast iron skillet will never treat you wrong, and when I require a little more surface area if I'm cooking for a crowd, I'll pull out my Sizzle-Q which is essentially a mini version of those fantastic steel cooktops that so many roadside diners pride themselves on having.
- You'll need your cooking surface rocket-hot for a good sear, so unless you're one that likes to scrub the grease off the walls and fumigate after dinner, do what I do and take your searing exploits outside to your gas grill. We're cooking on a weeknight here, and cleanup shouldn't take longer than what it does to cook dinner in the first place.
Speaking as a dude (that's usually pretty hungry come 6:15pm), these hamburger steaks work great. The beef is seasoned perfectly; and the only reason I'd reach for a condiment is to mix things up between every second bite (Sriracha + ketchup, anyone?). You can throw down about any side dish or even a hearty soup next to this main, and it's gonna work out. The only way you can screw this up is to not get your iron hot enough for the sear. That mahogany-brown crust on the outside totally completes the umami-packed seasoning on the inside. Don't neglect it.
Speaking as a dad, while I'm not at all opposed to casseroles or skillet dishes, the dinner template in our house is usually one of options; we're talking about a main dish that anchors a side, a vegetable choice (or two), as well as some sort of fruit. The driving force behind these choices is one of variety; kind of in he same vein as the school lunch program philosophy, I figure by providing more choices and letting my kids participate in those choices that I'll have a higher likelihood of their being less picky eaters down the road.