LEISURE LETTER 14: HEMINGWAY'S HAMBURGER RECIPE
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum made available, 2,500 digital scans of Ernest Hemingway materials housed at Ernest Hemingway's former Cuban estate, the Finca Vigía. This material, which has never been seen outside of Cuba, includes letters, passports, telegrams, household accounts, bar bills, recipes and a notebook of hurricane observations among other items. It was digitized through the efforts of the U.S. Finca Vigía Foundation under an agreement with the Cuban Council of National Heritage.
It's a treasure trove of some insight into Hemingway's life. One piece in particular sticks out: his pan-fried burger recipe.
Some of Hemingway's ingredients, like India relish and Spice Islands mixtures, might not be located in the local grocery store, but with enough research online, one could make their very own Mei Yen seasoning. Adding soy sauce to the recipe is something that might come from Hemingway's past like in Havana’s Chinatown.
Hemingway's "What to do" section is entertaining on its own:
“Break up the meat with a fork and scatter the garlic, onion and dry seasonings over it, then mix them in the meat with a fork or your fingers. Let the bowl of meat sit out of the icebox for ten or fifteen minutes while you set the table and make the salad. Add the relish, capers, everything else including wine and let the meat sit, quietly marinating, for another ten minutes if possible. Now make four fat, juicy paties with your hands. The patties should be an inch thick, and soft in texture but not runny. Have the oil in your frying-pan hot but not smoking when you drop in the patties and then turn the heat down and fry the burgers about four minutes. Take the pan off the burner and turn the heat high again. Flip the burgers over, put the pan back on the hot fire, then after one minute, turn the heat down again and cook another three minutes. Both sides of the burgers should be crispy brown and the middle pink and juicy.”
Get cooking like Papa and throw our signature cocktail on the side.
Ingredients (see photo for Mary’s handwritten additions)
- 1 lb. ground lean beef
- 2 cloves, minced garlic
- 2 little green onions, finely chopped
- 1 heaping teaspoon, India relish
- 2 tablespoons, capers
- 1 heaping teaspoon, Spice Islands Sage
- ½ teaspoon Spice Islands Beau Monde Seasoning
- ½ teaspoon, Spice Islands Mei Yen Powder
- 1 egg, beaten in a cup with a fork
- About 1/3 cup dry red or white wine
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
There is no reason why a fried hamburger has to turn out gray, greasy, paper-thin and tasteless. You can add all sorts of goodies and flavors to the ground beef — minced mushrooms, cocktail sauce, minced garlic and onion, chopped (revised as grounded) almonds, a big dollop of Piccalilli, or whatever your eye lights on.
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