My lust for raw hamburger started more years ago than I care to remember. I clearly recall the very moment when I first encountered its luscious flavor and texture, but most other facts about the occasion are pretty fuzzy.
I can picture standing at a professional gas stove with a young woman whose name has evaporated from memory. On the stove before us was an enormous cast iron skillet filled with hamburger and chunks of onion. We watched and stirred as the mixture sizzled. My cohort in the kitchen gave me a mischievous look and asked if I liked raw hamburger. I didn’t know, as I’d never tried it. She scooped a spoonful of hamburger and onion from the skillet, tutoring me on the perfect mixture of crispy, seared hamburger, raw hamburger and onion. To the mix she added a dash of salt, but sprinkled black pepper with a heavy hand. When I saw her penchant for pepper, I knew we were culinary cohorts. As she savored the spoonful, an irrepressible smile took hold of her face, and her eyes shimmered.
I grabbed a spoon of my own and nearly swooned at the mix of flavors and textures. The seared portion of the hamburger was hot and crunchy. The raw portion was cool and creamy. The onions and pepper added a bite, while the salt intensified the flavors and brought everything together.
Over the years I developed quite a habit of nibbling at hamburger in the skillet. If I was browning for tacos, spaghetti sauce or some other generic casserole, a little of the measured portion of hamburger never made it to the final dish. Sadly, though, with more and more news stories about food contamination, I’ve curbed my habit and indulge in raw hamburger less frequently. I’d like to blame the many microbiologists I work with for filling my head with microscopic fears.
Then Blanc Burgers + Bottles arrived on the dining scene in Kansas City. The very first time I glimpsed the menu, my eyes landed on the au poivre burger, I ordered it, and haven’t deviated in my many meals at Blanc since. A hamburger crusted in black pepper, served with watercress, green peppercorn sauce and grilled onions on a brioche bun–could there be anything more perfect?
On one particular visit a couple of years ago, my foodie guardian angel whispered “rare” in my ear as I ordered my usual. I hesitated momentarily and then asked the server if I could have my burger prepared rare, to which he replied “of course”. As I waited for my rare au poivre, I considered the wisdom of my decision and then concluded that if there ever was a safe place to eat nearly raw hamburger, it was at Blanc. I was confident of their quality and kitchen standards.
By now I’ve eaten more rare au poivre burgers at Blanc than I can count. Combined with the truffle fries slathered in Blanc’s luscious aioli, this is one of my favorite meals in Kansas City. It’s comfort food that takes me back to that day when I leaned over a cast iron skillet, indulging in my first taste of succulent raw hamburger.
© Sherry Burns and sushipoet.wordpress.com, 2012.