The Argentine Burger
After my Sophomore year in college, I lived for a summer with a friend in Buenos Aires, Argentina. We had a lot of fun in those 10 weeks (maybe too much fun actually).
While I don’t remember much Spanish unfortunately, I do remember a few things about Argentina: 1) Argentinians are beautiful. It’s something in the water. 2) They enjoy late dinners. If you even hint at hunger before 9PM, you will be mocked. 3) They had the most wonderful beef I’ve ever had in my life. I dream of it. They take really good care of their animals and people respect the animals. The quality is just unbelievable.
Sometimes I try to relive some eating experiences from Argentina and this burger was one of those tries. The key to it is the spicy chimichurri blend that goes on as a topping. In Argentina, this stuff is served with almost every meal. Something about the blend of spices can make good beef taste beefier.
1) To make the chimichurri, combine all your ingredients except the beef, cheese, and buns in a blender or food processor and whiz it up. If you don’t have a blender, you can very finely chop everything and stir it together with your vinegar and oil.
This will become stronger the longer it sits. It’s best in the one to two day range. After that it gets almost too strong.
2) If you’re grinding your meat yourself, cut it into chunks and pulse it a few times in the food processor, or you can get your butcher to grind it for you.
3) Form 1/4 pound patties from the ground beef and put a big thumb depression in the center of each patty. Season well with salt and pepper.
4) I cook mine in a cast iron pan over high heat with just a drizzle of oil. Once the pan is very hot, add the burgers and make sure they don’t touch. Sear them on each site for about 4-5 minutes per side for medium rare.
5) If you’re using cheese, grate the cheese and add it to each burger a minute before they’re done. If you have a lid, cover the pan for the best melting.
6) Toast the bun and serve each burger with a lot of chimichurri sauce!
Making the chimichurri
I won’t lie to you. This stuff has a kick to it. I wouldn’t recommend eating it alone and then going out on a Saturday night. You’ll have a hard time socializing with people that didn’t eat it. That’s why the entire country of Argentina eats it for every meal.
I should also mention that there are a ton of varieties for chimichurri. There are red versions, green versions, hot and mild versions. This version isn’t very hot but it has a lot of flavor to it. It’s pretty acidic which goes well with the red meat.
To make it, roughly chop everything and process it up. If you don’t have a food processor, you can mince everything and stir it together with the vinegar and oil. Remember, chimichurri existed before food processors.
Try to make this at least an hour before serving it. If you make it a day or two ahead, it’ll be even more flavorful. I made mine an hour before and it was about perfectly fine though.
I’m putting my foot down. You can’t call this burger The Argentine unless you use the best beef you can find. Don’t use frozen beef patties and tell your friends you are making some Argentine Burgers. If you use crappy beef, you have to call them normal burgers with Chimichurri. Also, the chimichurri will overpower the meat if it’s just some bland freezer beef.
If you really want to make these, find a nice cut of grass-fed, pastured chuck roast. It’ll set you back a few extra bucks, but it’s worth it.
The Grinder of Whole Foods
I’ve written before that most butchers will grind your meat for you so there really isn’t a reason to buy pre-ground stuff. Pick the cut you want and have it ground. The exception to this, apparently, is The Whole Foods at P Street and 14th in Washington, DC (By the way their website advertises a “custom cuts butcher”).
I’ve had meat ground there before, but on this day they refused. That was kind of disappointing to me. Whole Foods is expensive and I’m not sure why they can’t offer a fairly standard service to their customers.
Anyway, no big deal. I’ll do it myself.
I just brought my lovely cut of beef home and cubed it up. I cut off some of the larger pieces of fat to process first. That way they get chopped a bit finer.
I processed the fat for a few seconds in my food process and then threw in the rest of the meat. If you’re making a lot of burgers, you probably want to do one pound at a time.
Once it’s ground (or chopped actually), you can form nice quarter pound patties. Be light with the meat. Try not to pack it down too much. Also, to make sure the burgers plump up evenly (you don’t want them to look like a football when they’re done), put a deep thumb impression in the middle of each one. Season them pretty liberally with salt and pepper also.
The Cast Iron Method
If you have a grill, more power to ya. I, however, do not. It’s possible that not grilling beef is blasphemy in the eyes of an Argentinian, but I had no other options.
Cooking a burger on a hot cast iron pan is really easy though and produces really good results. Heat up your cast iron pan until it’s very hot and add just a tiny bit of oil (maybe 1 teaspoon). Then arrange your burgers around the pan, making sure that they don’t touch or overlap.
Don’t touch these! You want to make sure they develop a good sear on each side. After about 3-4 minutes, give them a flip. After 3 minutes on side two, add cheese if you’re using cheese. You should use cheese.
Grating the cheese helps it melt much faster.
If you have a lid that fits your pan, cover it up for another minute or two. The steam will help melt the cheese perfectly.
If you like a medium burger, total cooking time should be about 8 or 9 minutes, give or take a minute or two depending on the size of your burgers and the temperature of your pan.
Once they’re done, add the burger to a toasted bun and top with some chimichurri sauce. The toasted bun is pretty important. It holds up nicely to all the juices from the burger and the sauce.
This is a simple looking burger, but it’s deceptively flavorful. Each burger is really filling. The beef flavor is really nice and intense and the acidity of the chimichurri is perfect.
If you have time, you could also whip up a batch of homemade chips!