21 Club Hamburger

The humble hamburger deserves a place on any "20th Century American Classics" menu, being a 20th century invention (according to most sources), and an icon of American culture worldwide, thanks to those awful imitations of the real thing being sold by the billions every day. New York's famous "21" Club introduced what must be the world's most expensive hamburger in 1975, which they served "nude" (without bun or bread), and which devotees immediately pronounced "the best burger in the world." When it was removed from their menu in 1996 it sold for $21.40 at lunch and a whopping $24 at dinner. Here is a classy version of an American classic, adapted from "The "21" Cookbook" by Michael Lomonoco:


  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 pounds ground top sirloin
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons butter


  1. Combine the celery and chicken broth in a small saucepan over very low heat and poach the celery for 20 minutes.
  2. Drain the celery and cool.
  3. Combine the celery with the remaining ingredients except the butter, mixing well with your hands. Gently shape into 4 large patties, being careful not to compact the meat any more than necessary.
  4. Heat the butter in a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat until the butter is amber in color. Brown the burgers for 6 minutes on each side, then place the skillet in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 6 to 8 minutes for medium rare, a few additional minutes for better done.

Yield: 4 servings

Note: Due to the possibility of E. coli contamination, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends cooking all meat well done.