Dai-Shikago Binbo Seikatsu Manyuaru (in which I make “French Hamburgers”)

One of my favorite Japanese manga is “Dai-Tokyo Binbo Seikatsu Manyuaru,” or “A Guide to Living Cheap in Greater Tokyo.” The hero is shown living a life of deliberate poverty among the old-fashioned shitamachi – the old “low city” of working-class Tokyo neighborhoods that still maintain a traditional Japanese life-style. We see him enjoying a simple bowl of ramen, or getting paid with a watermelon  for working at the local temple. In that same spirit (and cognizant of the rising cost of food), I have pledged to “cook cheap” as much as possible. I started recently with an old favorite that we hadn’t had in a long while: Bitoque, or, French Hamburgers. They couldn’t be simpler, yet they’re something special to make with ground beef:


1 slice home-style white bread, or equivalent amount of baguette

1/3 cup milk

1 lb ground chuck

flour for dredging

salt and pepper to taste

1 T unsalted butter

1 T vegetable oil

4 T sour cream

4 T beef consomme (NOT beef broth)

Pull the bread into pea-sized bits and add the milk. Mix to soften all the bread, then add in the ground chuck and mix lightly to distribute all the bread throughout the beef. Form into 4 patties. Place the flour in a soup bowl and add the salt and pepper to season it.. Mix well. Dredge each patty and shake to remove excess flour.

Heat on high a heavy skillet large enough to hold all the patties, then add the butter and oil and mix together. Reduce heat to medium, add the patties and turn to brown on both sides. Cook the patties to desired done-ness, (be careful not to burn the butter-oil – reduce heat if you see that happening), then remove to a plate and cover with foil while you make the sauce. Add to the skillet the sour cream and the consomme. Stir to combine, scraping all the crusty bits and juices from the bottom of the skillet (add in any juice from the reserved cooked patties, too). Heat gently, stirring, until the sauce has thickened. Serve the Bitoque patties with some sauce dribbled over each one.

Delicious! I usually make double the sauce, so I can use it on the french fries that I always serve with this. Save the rest of the can of consomme to use in soups or to add to roasts or fricasees.

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