Burger meals for grown-ups


POSTED: Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ground beef is the ultimate American recession food, since it's cheap even it's when not on sale. And it's convenient for picky gourmets, too, since it's usually the only meat you can find in the supermarket that's organic.

What to do with ground beef is another matter. For most Americans it's a no-brainer: The most common destination is hamburgers on a bun, of which we eat an average of three a week. Or at least some people do.

The other options that come to mind—chili, meatloaf, tacos, sloppy Joes and casseroles employing canned soup—all seem to fall into the general category of what I call kid food.

This presents a conundrum for childless adults who tire of the American flavor palette of salty, sweet, greasy and cheesy. Many a package of ground beef has slowly turned gray before I desperately made it into potstickers or meatballs.

There is, in fact, a world of ground beef out there that extends beyond our hamburger-hungry shores. If you are Chinese, a number of dishes will come immediately to mind, such as the classic mapo dofu (tofu and ground meat in a spicy bean sauce) or Szechuan eggplant, though both dishes more often use ground pork. Japanese use ground beef in the bastardized potato croquettes known as korokke, and sometimes in the filling for gyoza.






        Try one of the recipes on this page with a new local product being offered at several Foodland locations: Hawaii Ranchers ground beef.


The beef comes from grass-fed cattle raised on open pastures without hormones or antibiotics.


Sample the beef and meet ranchers from noon to 2 p.m. today at the market's Beretania location, and on Saturday at its Market City store.


Foodland Farms in Aina Haina also carries the beef, provided exclusively to the supermarket chain by the Hawaii Cattle Producers Cooperative Association. The co-op represents 46 ranchers throughout the state.


“;It's a natural product, tasty and 100 percent local,”; said John Schilf, Foodland's director of meat. “;We want to have more locally produced meat products at Foodland, so we're starting with popular ground beef.”;


The ground beef is priced at $4.99 per pound for chuck, $5.49 for round and $5.99 for sirloin.


In the past year, Hawaii Cattle Producers has also marketed Hawaiian Red Veal products at R. Field Wine Co. at Foodland, the Kapiolani Community College Farmers' Market and at various restaurants.


Hamburger is, after all, just chopped beef, known as “;mince”; or “;minced beef”; in the rest of the English-speaking world. It dates back at least to the Moguls, who would tenderize tough meat by riding with it under their saddles, then eating the mashed results raw. Such is the anecdotal origin, anyway, of the delicacy steak tartare.

In Lancashire, England, minced beef is the foundation of rag pudding, a meat pie wrapped in suet pastry and then boiled or steamed. The Dutch slavink is a patty of ground beef and pork wrapped in bacon and fried. Both are regional specialties.

Home cooks can find recipes online for many international dishes that use ground beef. In South Asia there is keema, ground meat with peas or potatoes in a spicy sauce. The equivalent in Latin America, made with tomatoes and a completely different palate of spices, is called picadillo; the Filipino version includes potatoes or chayote.

Meatballs are another widespread phenomenon, either in soup (as in the Mexican albondigas), stew (North African meatball tagine) or sauce (the classic Swedish). Filled pastries or dumplings are also a staple, like empanadas (Latin America), samboosak (Middle East), samosas (South Asia) or the Central Asian manti.

In East Asia, pork and chicken are the meats more often ground, as in the spicy Thai meat salad known as laab. But that doesn't mean you can't get good results in any ground meat dish by substituting cheap, convenient ground beef.

You don't necessarily have to buy the best ground beef, either. The labeling can be confusing, but “;ground beef”; and “;ground hamburger”; are both made of assorted meat trimmings, often from hundreds or thousands of cows. They can have seasonings added, but no water or fillers. The only difference between them is that ground hamburger can have added beef fat.

By law, neither can contain more than 30 percent total fat by weight. These days, it's hard to find ground beef that contains more than 10 to 20 percent fat anyway, since that's what the public seems to prefer.

Meat from specific parts of the cow is also sold ground, which is why you'll see ground chuck (from the shoulders), ground round (the rump) and ground sirloin (lower back), which are all more expensive and leaner, and of consistently higher quality, than the all-inclusive ground beef.

Leaner meat has the advantage of less shrinkage and less waste, because you're not pouring off all the oil rendered when you cook it. But fat is also what makes beef flavorful. So unless you're making a dish in which the beef itself is the star attraction, ground chuck is probably the best compromise of cost and flavor. If the meat will sit in a flavorful sauce, plain old ground beef will probably do.

Cook over moderate heat, not high, to reduce shrinkage and prevent the meat from going tastelessly dry. Also, save any salting until the meat is in the pan to keep it from turning tough.

It's safest to use or freeze ground beef within two days of purchase, and cook patties to 160 degrees. Since it freezes well for up to three months, buy ground beef in the family pack when it's on sale, package it in meal-size portions, and you won't want for a varied international menu—even when company is coming.




Adapted from Padma Lakshmi, Food Network

1-1/2 cups basmati rice, washed and soaked 90 minutes
Saffron, a few strands
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter)
1 large onion, chopped
1-inch cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods
5 cloves
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon pressed or minced garlic
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, to taste
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup chicken stock

Cook the rice until half done. Drain water and set aside.

Mix saffron into milk and set aside.

Heat oil or ghee in deep, wide pan over medium heat. Add onion and fry until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add whole spices and wait until they sputter, then add beef, ginger and garlic. Fry 6 to 7 minutes, until beef is cooked and fragrant.

Mix in yogurt and cayenne and simmer 3 to 4 minutes. Turn off flame.

Preheat oven to 300. In oven-proof dish, layer one-third rice and cover with half the prepared meat. Sprinkle with half of saffron milk and half of lime juice, then repeat the layers, ending with final third of rice. Pour chicken stock over all and seal lid tight.

Bake about 20 minutes or until heated through. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving (using vegetable oil): 500 calories, 28 g total fat, 7 g saturated fat, 85 mg cholesterol, 350 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 28 g protein

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving (using ghee): 500 calories, 28 g total fat, 14 g saturated fat, 115 mg cholesterol, 350 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 28 g protein



Adapted from Bon Appetit

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
6 bay leaves
2 pounds ground beef
14-1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives (5-ounce jar)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 teaspoons capers

In large pot over medium-high, heat oil, then add onion, garlic and bay leaves. Cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

Add beef and stir until cooked, about 7 minutes.

Add all remaining ingredients and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper; remove bay leaves. Serve warm over white rice with black beans on side. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving (not including salt for seasoning): 720 calories, 41 g total fat, 12 g saturated fat, 150 mg cholesterol, 1,250 mg sodium, 37 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 23 g sugar, 49 g protein



Adapted from

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon chili sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 large green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, minced
1 pound ground beef
3 to 4 Japanese or Chinese eggplants, or 1 large American, diced
1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Stir together first 7 ingredients. Heat oil in large pan or wok until nearly smoking and quickly stir-fry shrimp until pink. Remove and set aside.

Stir-fry garlic, half of green onions and ginger until they begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add ground beef and cook until brown, about 3 minutes.

Mix in eggplant, pour in sauce and simmer, covered, 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cornstarch mixture and heat until slightly thickened, then add shrimp.

Top with reserved green onions and sesame oil before serving. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 450 calories, 23 g total fat, 6 g saturated fat, 150 mg cholesterol, 1300 mg sodium, 24 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 38 g protein



Adapted from Thai food sites online

1 pound ground sirloin (or pork, or chicken)
3 to 8 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 to 6 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons finely sliced shallots
3 tablespoons ground roasted rice powder*
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
1 to 2 tablespoons ground chili pepper, to taste (not packaged “;chili powder”;)
Chopped cilantro, ground peanuts for garnish
Assorted vegetables such as long beans, cabbage, spinach, basil, cucumbers, radish

Combine ground beef with lime juice, fish sauce and shallots. Stir-fry until no longer pink. Turn off heat, then mix well with rice powder, scallions, mint and chili. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Spoon onto a platter and garnish with cilantro and ground peanuts. Serve with rice and vegetables. Serves 4 to 6.

* Find packaged in Vietnamese or Thai markets, or make by roasting raw sticky rice in heavy pan until golden brown, then grind to fine consistency.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving (based on four servings; 4 tablespoons fish sauce and not including garnishes or rice and assorted vegetables): 200 calories, 6 g total fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 65 mg cholesterol, 1400 mg sodium, 12 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 26 g protein