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A Scandinavian Hamburger Story: Danish Hakkebof with Soft Onions

10/28/2011 11:21 am ET | Updated Dec 28, 2011

The history of the hamburger is still a matter of much dispute. There are several different versions of historical origins, and I honestly have no idea which is the correct one. But, one of the legends is that the hamburger was invented by a Danish butcher's apprentice in the U.S. around the turn of the 19th century.

Whether or not that is the true story of the origin of the hamburger is probably best left unsaid, but since it is undeniably fitting in the context of this recipe -- let's all agree to pretend that it is, okay?

What is absolutely true, is that a Danish food writer visited the U.S. in the mid 40s and immediately fell in love with the country's emerging fast-food culture. He brought his new found love for burgers back to old Denmark, and started spreading its gospel to anyone that would listen. Married couple Oscar and Anni Pettersson jumped on the idea of a burger joint in Copenhagen and opened Oscars Bøf Bar (Oscars Beef Bar) in late May, 1949, in the amusement park Bakken (which by the way is the oldest amusement park in the world), on the outskirts of Copenhagen. And the Beef Sandwich -- as the Danish version of the American hamburger was called -- was an almost instant success.

Today Oscars Bøf Bar is still going strong as an active institution in Danish culinary life, now run by the third generation of the Pettersson family at the same place as always, in Bakken.

Hakkebøf Med Bløde Løg (Chopped beef with soft onions) is what you might call the "dinner version" of the beef sandwich. In this dish, the bun is removed and replaced by potatoes, gravy, pickled accessories and lots and lots of soft onions. A great fall dish!

Danish Hakkebøf with Soft Onions
Serves: 4

1 1/2 Ib ground beef from the butcher's
salt & pepper
2 large onions
1/2 cup water

Sauce
2 tablespoons of organic butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups of really good beef stock
salt & pepper
a dash of food coloring

Instructions
- Take the meat out of the fridge about 15 minutes before you want to start cooking. Shape it onto four round hamburgers and season with salt and pepper. Fry them in butter in a large pan for about 5 minutes on each side.
- Peel and slice the onions. Put in a medium-heat pan with a little bit of butter, and fry for a minute. Add water and simmer until the water has evaporated.
- Melt butter slowly in a casserole. Add the flour and use a whisk to mix it for a minute or two.
- Slowly add the stock in portions, and keep whisking while you pour it in. Season with salt and pepper, and add just a dash of coloring to get the right dark brown color.
- Serve the hakkebøf with soft golden onions on top, together with boiled or roast potatoes, brown sauce and pickled cucumber or beets.

More from Kalle Bergman

Photos by Mads Damgaard