Dog's day burgers
It’s past noon when I sit down to this day’s writing.
On my desktop are a blank food column, a speech I’m to give in Waterloo next month and a chapter that has its flesh and bones, but still lacks the breath that will bring it to life.
I begin with the chapter, knowing I’ll only be able to turn to the other items after erasing fresh doubt I’m equal to the novel I’ve promised my agent.
Writing is like that — just when you think you’ve learned something, the next thing you try to write will remind you you’re dust.
Yet, from a place of quiet, something will usually stir. A scene, recently as thin as the paper it’s written on, suddenly expands with a new pair of lungs.
And then, it happens.
At the moment of inspiration, when words suddenly line up and agree to be set down, when the unknowable becomes known and you feel the crackle that must have been present at the beginning of Creation, the dog next door begins to bark.
Now, when in my right mind, when I am not driven to despair by the yapping of a mutt, I like dogs — on principle, anyway.
They’re loyal. Sometimes intelligent. Heroic. They’re emotional, even empathic beings.
Dogs run into burning houses to save their people. They sniff out drugs and bombs and have more marketable skills than a lot of humans.
Dogs play fetch, bring slippers, are companions and comedians. They understand language, have complex social lives and come when they’re called.
I have never understood how, then, in some places in the world, dogs are thought of merely as stir fry or stew fodder.
Then I became neighbours with Next Door Dog.
I suspect the first dog to ever tip into a soup pot was one that barked all day.
It barked, perhaps, like Next Door Dog, at the grass and the sky, at leaves and ducks and clouds.
It barked at the wind and barked at the rain.
Barked out of boredom and barked because it could.
It barked and it barked when no one came home.
It barked because it barked and, unable to stop, it barked and did bark and did bark some more.
And yet, while my meat grinder is set up in the kitchen, Next Door Dog is not on my menu.
If a new “Missing Dog” poster goes up in my neighbourhood, you have my promise I had nothing to do with it.
Today’s food writing is a literary comeuppance, only, while into the grinder goes parts of a cow — a cow that never did me any kind of harm.
These burgers owe their taste and texture to careful-chosen ingredients, technique, proper refrigeration and cooking the burgers to medium rare.
Officially, we cannot recommend undercooking ground meat but, since we are buying from a trusted butcher, are starting with steaks that would have been cooked to the same doneness, grinding just before using and are closely following safe food handling practices, we’re boldly going forward.
You will need a meat grinder or should ask your butcher to prepare for you an 80 per cent meat to 20 per cent fat ratio of freshly ground ribeye and top sirloin. Keep cold and use the same day.
For four burgers, we bought 180 grams of ribeye and 450 grams of top sirloin steak.
Trim the steaks of fat and connective tissue, and discard the tissue.
Next, weigh the meat and fat to ensure you have thedesired ratio, then double grind, using a coarse grinding wheel, followed by a finer one, making sure to evenly distribute the fat with the meat.
Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Season the meat with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, handling the meat as little as possible so it doesn’t toughen.
Gently shape into thick patties and refrigerate.
Heat the oven to 375 F. Heat some oil in a cast-iron pan over a high heat.
Char burgers on both sides and transfer to the oven.
Cook them to medium-rare, then allow then to rest in the pan while toasting the buns.
Note: To test for doneness, stick a wire cake tester through the sides into the middle.
Touch the tester to your lips.
If it is barely warm, the burgers are rare.
If it is bathwater warm, they are medium rare.
Darcie Hossack is a food writer and author of Mennonites Don’t Dance. For past recipes, go online to nicefatgurdie.wordpress.com. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.