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You are probably thinking, where’s the bun? But there is no bun here. These are hamburgers, more or less, but they’re so much more. First of all, they’re ridiculously flavorful — a savory seasoned patty of beef with a crisp crust and a buttery, beefy sauce to go with it. Second of all, they’re easy. And economical. They’re beef patties in the French style (sans bun) brought to you by Julia Child and they’re a brilliant way to use ground beef that feels a little more elevated than your basic burger.

First things first, you’re going to gently cook some onions in butter until they’re soft, but not browned. Take your time and give yourself about ten minutes to cook them slowly.

Once they’ve cooled a bit, you’ll add them into a bowl where you’ll mix up your patties. You’ll also want some ground beef, salt, pepper, thyme, an egg, and some softened butter. Why butter? Because Julia Child says so, that’s why. (She actually says that the best hamburgers are made from the leanest beef you can get and suggests having it ground for you or grinding it yourself. This way you end up with the best flavor, but can add some fat back in, like butter or even beef marrow.)

Julia then asks you to beat the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. You’ll then form that mixture into thick patties, about 3/4-inch thick and chill them until you’re ready to cook.

Once you’re ready to get these patties onto the stove, you’ll dredge them lightly in flour…

… and then brown them in a hot mixture of butter and oil. That’s all you have to do for the patties but here’s what makes them special: the flavorful mixture of butter, tender onions, and herbs in the patty; the unctuous quality the butter gives to the meat; and the lovely crust that forms on the exterior of the patty.

There is also, of course, a sauce to go with them.

Once the patties are done, you’ll make a quick pan sauce in the same skillet, which is just a matter of cooking down some beef stock or wine or even water, and then swirling in some butter once the liquid has become syrupy. That’s it. You spoon that over the hamburgers and it’s heavenly.

I could close with my own words about why you need to make these, but I think I’ll let Julia do it instead. She says:

Shock is the reaction of some Americans we have encountered who learn that real French people living in France eat hamburgers. They do eat them, and when sauced with any of the suggestions in the following recipes, the French hamburger is an excellent and relatively economical main course for an informal party.

Serves 6

10m prep time

10m cook time

Rated 4.7 out of 5
Rated by 154 reviewers

Allergens: Milk, Eggs

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For the onions:
  • 3/4 cup yellow onion, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
For the patties:
  • 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup flour, spread on a plate
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil
For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup beef stock, beef bouillon, dry white wine, dry white vermouth, red wine, or 1/4 cup water
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons green herbs, minced (such as parsley, chives, tarragon, or chervil)
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the 2 tablespoons butter and onions and cook slowly until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. To the mixing bowl, add the beef, 2 tablespoons softened butter, salt, pepper, thyme, and egg. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until well mixed.
  3. Form mixture into patties 3/4 inch thick and cover and chill until ready to use.
  4. When ready to cook, lightly roll patties in flour spread on a plate, shaking off excess.
  5. In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat the 1 tablespoon butter and oil. When it begins to foam and subside, sauté the patties to desired temperature, about 2-3 minutes or more per side depending on doneness.
  6. Transfer patties to a plate and keep warm while you work on the sauce:
  7. Drain fat from skillet. Add liquid (stock, wine, etc) and let boil, scraping up bits from bottom of pan as it reduces. Cook down to almost a syrup consistency, then turn off heat, and add butter by 1/2 tablespoons. Swirl pan to melt butter, then stir in herbs.
  8. Spoon sauce over hamburger patties and serve. Enjoy!

Recipe from Julia Child's Mastering The Art Of French Cooking.