Here is Papa’s favorite recipe for pan-fried hamburgers, as reported by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, author of A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family, who unearthed the recipe while looking through Hemingway’s personal archives recently donated to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.  She recreated the burger and wrote about it in The Paris Review.

Ingredients

  • 1 Pound ground lean beef
  • 2 Cloves, minced garlic
  • 2 Little green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 Teaspoon India relish
  • 2 Tablespoons capers
  • 1 Teaspoon Spice Islands sage
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Spice Islands Beau Monde Seasoning
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Spice Islands Mei Yen Powder
  • 1 Egg beaten in a cup with a fork
  • 1/3 Cup dry red or white wine
  • 1 Tablespoon cooking oil

Mei Yen Powder

  • Nine parts salt
  • Nine parts sugar
  • Two parts MSG

Preparation

Step 1:

Break up the meat with a fork and scatter the garlic, onion and dry seasonings over it, then mix them into 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. 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.

Step 2:

Add the relish, capers, everything else including wine and let the meat sit, quietly marinating, for another ten minutes if possible. Now make your fat, juicy patties with your hands. The patties should be an inch thick, and soft in texture but not runny.

Step 3:

Break up the meat with a fork and scatter the garlic, onion and dry seasonings over it, then mix them into 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.

Step 4: Mei Yen Powder

Tan writes: “If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of Mei Yen Powder,” she writes, “use 2/3 tsp of the dry recipe (above) mixed with 1/8 tsp of soy sauce.”