Not Just Any Hamburger—Phyllis Kirigin’s French Hamburger!


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In honor of the anniversary of Julia Child’s birthday August 15, I present the French hamburger:

Is a hamburger by any other name still a hamburger?  Not if it’s bifteck haché.  Move over for a moment, All-American hamburger, and make way for this knockout straight from the Cordon Bleu.  Fresh thyme, bacon and minced onions are mixed in to provide a subtle complexity, both herbaceous and smoky but never overpowering the flavor of beef.  At least this is the way I make it.

It’s an adaptation of Julia Child’s ground beef with onions and herbs and her hamburgers with cream sauce carefully explained on my dog-eared and food stained pages 301 and 302 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I.  The patties can be served with a sauce or not.  This is my “or not” version so you’ll need hamburger buns.

The quality of the beef is very important.   Go for Black Angus 85% lean.

Ingredients for 6 burgers:

  • 2 T butter
  • ¾ cup finely minced onion
  • 3 oz. finely chopped bacon (smoked Applewood or Black Forest recommended)
  • 1 ½ lbs. ground beef
  • 1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 t ground thyme or ½ t minced fresh thyme
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T butter for sautéing patties
  • 6 slices Gruyere cheese (optional)


  1. In a large frying pan, cook the onions slowly in the butter until slightly wilted.  Add bacon and cook until onions are very tender and bacon cooked through.  Remove, leaving bacon fat in pan, and let cool.
  2. In a mixing bowl, add beef, seasonings, onions, bacon and egg.  Mix lightly but thoroughly with your hands.  Taste for seasoning.  Form into six patties.
  3. Add butter to the bacon fat in same frying pan over moderately high heat.  When the butter foam begins to subside, sear the patties.  Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness.
  4. Now, to Frenchify these babies a bit more, melt a slice of Gruyere on top of each.    Place on lightly toasted hamburger buns and add condiments of your choice.  Personally I like soft buns that you can bite into and not have the toppings squish out the sides.

Enjoy your meal! (You know how Julia would have put it.) Julia Child 1912 – 2004

My cooking is constantly informed by her culinary gems:

Asked what her favorite meal was, she might mention duck or leg of lamb, but would almost always add, “I love good, fresh food cooked by someone who knows what he’s doing.”

The secret of Julia Child’s longevity:  red meat and gin.

Food is terribly important. And if you don’t know how to cook, it’s tragic.

You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.

If you’re afraid of butter, and many people are, just use cream.

The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.

French hamburger photographed by  Bill Brady



Phyllis KiriginContributor: Phyllis Kirigin

Phyllis Kirigin is a resident of Croton-on-Hudson and is an avid cook and food blogger. She loves all things culinary, focusing on using fresh ingredients and promoting local farmers and artisans. She can be reached at [email protected]

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