Tuesday, June 7, 2011

French Onion (Soup) Burgers

In the spirit of BBQ Season, I am working on some more burger recipes. Oddly enough, the inspiration for this burger came while I was thinking about how unfortunate it was that I severely disliked the French onion soup I tried (for the first time ever) at a chain restaurant because it was so incredibly salty. I do plan to make the soup myself with a highly rated recipe from a Food Network chef, but for now, I am working on the burger.

I do have to tell you that there is a fair amount of prep work involved in this recipe, as just like with French onion soup, the onions are caramelized and the wine is cooked down. You could actually do that part of the recipe, or even up to forming the patties, ahead of time though. Don't be alarmed at what might seem like a lot of onion when you start out. It will cook down considerably, and caramelizing them brings out an amazingly rich and sweet flavor--that raw onion "bite" will absolutely disappear. While we are talking about caramelizing the onions, a few things to keep in mind: resist the urge to stir too frequently, add more oil or turn the heat way down, and do not worry about burning--you want those yummy bits of brown goodness stuck to the bottom of your pan!

This is a very large frying pan, but you will see later how much the onions cook down.

If you look up French onion soup recipes, you will see sherry (a fortified wine), white wine, red wine, cognac and some other spirits used. Use what you like and/or what you have on hand. Just promise me you will steer clear of the cooking wines and use something you would also drink. It's not necessary to spend a lot of money on a bottle of wine. My favorite red wine (a Merlot) is right around $8 a bottle, and as far as complexity and depth of flavor, it blows all of the expensive wines I have tried well away. And bonus, even if you purchase a bottle just for this recipe, you will still have 5/6 of it left to drink later! And if you absolutely want to skip the wine, just double the stock.

I use an organic Swiss cheese (usually, what we call Swiss cheese is Emmental/Emmentaler), but you could use non-organic, which is significantly cheaper, or get a little fancier (and traditional) and use Gruyere, or even a Fontina or Beaufort.

Now, I wouldn't exactly call this health food, and it's a bit of a splurge in the pocketbook department compared to some of my usual meals. I use extra lean ground beef that is either organic or locally raised, I use olive oil instead of butter or margarine, and I serve them on 100% whole wheat (and high fructose corn syrup-free) sandwich thins. I choose those foods purposefully, there are certainly cheaper options if you prefer. Today I will serve the burgers with grilled asparagus and fresh pineapple, which will help to up the overall healthful-factor of the entire meal a bit, plus both were on sale, and I had a coupon for the fresh pineapple from coupons.com, so it keeps the overall meal cost under $15. There are many nutritional benefits to be reaped from beef--iron, Vitamins B-6 and B-12 and high amounts of many minerals/nutrients such as zinc, selenium, niacin and several others. There is saturated fat (bad) in beef, but there is also monounsaturated fat (good). Again, I am no dietitian, but I doubt that the good fat in the beef cancels out the bad, and so it is something we enjoy in moderation. You could absolutely use ground chicken or turkey, but I wanted to stick true to the flavors of French onion soup and go with the beef in this one.

French Onion (Soup) Burgers

1 1/2 lbs lean or extra lean ground beef
1/2 Tbsp olive oil plus some for drizzling
1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup (4 fluid oz) dry white or red wine,
1/2 cup beef stock or homemade vegetable stock
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked black pepper
6 slices Swiss or Gruyere cheese

Step 1: Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium (ish) heat. Add onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Stirring only occasionally, cook until onions are soft and brown, around 25-35 minutes, depending on your stove top.

I cooked them for approximately another 5-10 minutes beyond this point.

Step 2: Add wine and stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until only half of the liquid remains, about 5 minutes, again, depending on your stove top. Discard bay leaves, remove from heat and let cool.

Step 3: Place ground beef in a large mixing bowl. Add Worcestershire sauce, a little salt and pepper and cooled onion mixture. Mix with your hands until just combined, do not overwork. Form into 6 patties and cook as desired. You know my order of preference is charcoal grill, gas grill and then broiler, but you could also use the stove top.

Step 4: Right before burgers are done and removed from cooking surface, top each with a slice of cheese and let it melt.

Step 5: Separate the tops and bottoms of your buns, drizzle all with a little olive oil, sprinkle with just a little salt and fresh cracked black pepper if desired, then place on the grill/under the broiler until they are toasted to a nice golden brown color. To really get the full effect of the French onion soup flavors in this burger, do not top with anything, just put it on the bun and enjoy!


Local Ground beef: $2.68/lb, used 1 1/2 lbs = $4.02
Red onion: $.75/lb, one medium-sized was 7 oz = $.33
Red wine: $8/750-ml bottle (25.36 oz), used just under 1/6 of the bottle = $1.33
Garlic: One head is $.25, 3 cloves is 1/4 of the head = $.06
Swiss Cheese (organic): $3.99/8 oz pkg, used 4.5 oz (.56 of pkg) = $2.23

Total Cost: $7.97
Six Servings: $1.33 per serving

Add Buns:

Arnold 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins: $2.28/pkg of 8, used 6 = $1.71

Total Cost: $9.68
Six Servings: $1.61


  1. mmmm............... I made some amazing burgers as well this week - such a blank slate- I will for sure give these a try :D thanks for sharing!

  2. I agree--so many possibilities! I haven't had a beef burger on the grill for well over a year (much, much longer on a charcoal grill), so this was a real treat!