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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ernest Hemingway’s Favorite Hamburger Recipe

Earlier this year the food writer Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan stumbled across an article in the Boston Globe describing a trove of digitized documents from Ernest Hemingway’s home in Cuba that were recently donated to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, home of Hemingway’s personal archives. One line in the article caught her eye: “And the more mundane, like his instructions to the household staff, including how to prepare his hamburgers: ground beef, onions, garlic, India relish, and capers, cooked so the edges were crispy but the center red and juicy.”

She reported her experiences this week on the Paris Review Daily blog. 

Papa prefers this combination.

Ingredients --

1 lb. ground lean beef

2 cloves, minced garlic

2 little green onions, finely chopped

1 heaping teaspoon, India relish

2 tablespoons, capers

1 heaping teaspoon, Spice Islands sage

Spice Islands Beau Monde Seasoning -- ½ teaspoon

Spice Islands Mei Yen Powder -- ½ teaspoon **

1 egg, beaten in a cup with a fork

About one third cup dry red or white wine.

1 tablespoon cooking oil

What to do --

Break up the meat with a fork and scatter the garlic, onion and dry seasonings over it, then mix them into the meat with a fork or your fingers. Let the bowl of meat sit out of the icebox for ten or fifteen minutes while you set the table and make the salad. Add the relish, capers, everything else including wine and let the meat sit, quietly marinating, for another ten minutes if possible. Now make four fat, juicy patties with your hands. The patties should be an inch thick, and soft in texture but not runny. Have the oil in your frying-pan hot but not smoking when you drop in the patties and then turn the heat down and fry the burgers about four minutes. Take the pan off the burner and turn the heat high again. Flip the burgers over, put the pan back on the hot fire, then after one minute, turn the heat down again and cook another three minutes. Both sides of the burgers should be crispy brown and the middle pink and juicy.

** Spice Islands discontinued its production of Mei Yen Powder three years ago. If you don’t have any in your pantry, here’s how to recreate it:

9 parts salt

9 parts sugar

2 parts MSG

If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon Mei Yen Powder, use 2/3 tsp of the dry recipe (above) mixed with 1/8 tsp of soy sauce.


  1. "This burger's so good, it will blow your mind!" - Hemingway

  2. Anyone having to doctor up his meat that bad is buying crappy meat.

  3. Kevin, I have to agree. It's kinds like the French wearing mass quantities of perfume.