It’s no secret. Kids love little things, things that are their size, things that are cute. If you’ve ever used a bento box for your child’s lunch, or become addicted to these accessories, you know exactly what I mean. There was a period whenever we served Finn something miniature he would take one look at it and exclaim, “THAT JUST MY SIZE!” in his high-pitched-slightly-startled-little-boy voice. And he would gobble it up.
Some of you readers might know from elsewhere that Finn and I have developed something of an obsession with the Big City Slider, the newest promotional venture of maniancal but oh-so-convincing adman Billy Mays. Basically, it’s a nonstick pan that allows you to make at once, 5 sliders or fried eggs or crabcakes or, as Finn claims, “Any kind of CIRCLE FOOD in JUST ONE MINUTE!” It is quite a nifty and totally unnecessary gadget. Yeah, it’s stupid. But I still want one.
This ad, (which I should note, Finn saw independently of me on Nick, Jr., and then made me watch because it is just “really, really cool thing on TV”), merged in my head with the ad on the side of a bus a few days prior for Mini Meals at McDonald’s (& no, I will not link that one), and got me remembering an old standby that I hadn’t made in a while for Seared Steak Tartare Burgers with Caesar Salad. The original recipe was in Food & Wine.
These are adorable little mini burgers, highly seasoned, eaten over a freshly dressed caesar salad with croutons, or in our house, grilled slices of Italian bread. They’re really cute, and delicious. Ella ate three. Finn ate two 1/2. Kory & I ate one each. They have a lot of ingredients, but are not too difficult once you get everything organized. Also, if you don’t have time to make the full, fresh Caesar dressing, I’ve provided a quick recipe for an alternative that you can make on any busy weeknight. Also, these freeze really well, either before or after cooking, so if your kids don’t hog the pog, you might even have leftovers for lunch.
Seared Steak Tartare Burgers on Caesar Salad
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ pound baguette, crust removed, bread cut into ½ inch dice (1 cup)
1 large egg
10 anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 small garlic clove
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper
¼ red onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
¾ teaspoon hot sauce
1 pound ground lean top round or sirloin
2 teaspoons canola oil
½ pound romaine lettuce, torn into bite size pieces (8 cups)
1. Melt the butter in a large skillet. When the foam subsides, add the diced baguette in an even layer. Cook over moderate heat until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Stir and cook until evenly browned and crisp, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate. NOTE: I very rarely make these croutons, and substitue instead slices of Italian bread, brushed with olive oil and grilled, then topped with a crunchy salt.
2. Cook the egg in boiling water for 2 ½ minutes; drain, then scoop the egg out of the shell into a blender. Add 6 of the anchovies, the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, 1 teaspoon of mustard and 1 teaspoon of the Worcestershire sauce. Slowly add the olive oil and blend at medium-low speed until it is incorporated and the mixture is creamy. Pour the dressing into a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. (Or into a small jar that you can save it in. The recipe says you can save this for 2 days.)
3. In a food processor, finely chop the 4 remaining anchovies with the onion, capers, parsley, and horseradish. (If you don’t have a food processor, it’s possible to chop it finely on a cutting board.) Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of mustard, 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, the hot sauce and ground beef and mix well. Form the meat into 12 patties and season them with salt and pepper. (They are much better small—plus they cook faster.)
4.Heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil in a large heavy skillet. Add 6 of the burgers and cook over high heat for about 1 minute on each side for rare, and about 30 seconds longer on each side for medium rare. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining 1 teaspoon of canola oil and 6 burgers. NOTE: I cook these often without oil on a non-stick stovetop grill. I’ve also done them, very carefully, on an outdoor grill.
5. In a large bowl, combine the romaine lettuce with ½ cup of the dressing and the croutons and toss to coat. Mound the salad on plates and set 3 burgers on each salad. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the salads and serve.
Quick Caesar Salad Dressing
In a mortar a pestle, grind a clove of garlic with coarse salt.
Add an anchovy or two, grind that up.
Add the juice of 1/2 a lemon, or Meyer lemon.
Slowly stir in olive oil to taste.
If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, get one. Or if you really can’t see the need, just chop the garlic and anchovy finely. But that’s a messier, smellier technique, and not quite so good for getting out the end-of-the-day aggression.