Dowager Countess Brie Burgers

Dill and herbs on a toasted a hamburger with slices of brie.

If Dowager Countess Violet could have eaten a hamburger on Downtown Abbey, this definitely would have been it. Brie, fresh herbs and a toasted bun are so lovely together, you’ll be afraid to add ketchup. In fact, don’t. Just trust me on this one and try my geek-chic cheeseburger recipe. And rather than fries, I’m going to recommend some yummy, posh veggies for you, too.

You can finish this whole dinner in thirty minutes or so. (Don’t tell Mrs. Patmore we fed her family hamburgers, and in only a half hour!)

Where I got the idea

After years of watching Downton Abbey (thank you again, Julian Fellowes! Seriously, hashtag-Julian-Fellowes-right-now) I did not once, not ever think to myself, ‘Hey, this show needs some fancy hamburgers.’ Obviously, the show was great without hamburgers. Though, the many scenes with Dowager Countess Violet, (Aunt Violet to Mary, Edith and Sybil), and Isobel Crawley (Matthew’s mother) did leave me very curious about what they snacked on when they played cards or did puzzles and gossiped together in all those hilarious scenes. And then, we had the unbelievably fabulous family dinners with everyone in spectacular gowns, and the men in incredible suits. Even the servants looking on, watching the Crawleys dine, they looked very good. And that wasn’t just because of the talented casting directors…

downton abbey last supper3
I also sat down for a few hours and made this once, while laughing hysterically. #fangirlproblems

Downton Abbey created a luxurious, refreshing vibe, right in our living rooms for years. And we never forgot we were also looking at a very close, wonderfully warm family seated around the well-appointed table. All that came together so magically.

Downton Abbey didn’t need hamburgers. But if they did need hamburgers on the show, then they’d need these herb brie burgers.

And, as a huge fan of the show, when I first made hamburgers using some odds and ends of dill and brie I had in the refrigerator, loved them, and wanted to find a good name for my posh cheeseburgers that captured the sophisticated, yet yummy homey flavor… my mind leaped to the Dowager Countess. The fanciest, most poshest dame I know.

All the herbs and ingredients I used, along with my Downton Abbey book of rules.

Also, in a way, Russian fare also inspired this recipe. My sister has adopted her husband’s habit of having dill around with nearly every dish, and his family is from Russia. The flavor of dill paired with salmon, chicken, any kind of meat, is something I’m obsessing over these days. That’s why it was in my refrigerator and I thought to use it in the first place. So, it was an experiment with a last minute cheeseburger craving when I only had brie on hand, gone right. And, hey, there were some Russian connections in Downton Abbey with Violet too… maybe it’s the secret recipe her paramour Prince Kuragin shared that she kept alive all these years. She first experienced it while racing away in a sleigh with Igor, through a frozen romantic wintry night, nomming on herbalicious cheesy brie burgers as they embraced…

Anyway, back to awesome-posh-cheeseburger reality.

Since this recipe is faaaar, faaaaaar too fancy to pair with french fries, I have a second easy recipe for a side of green beans and shiitake mushrooms to go with it. Pair that with tri-colored quinoa (I like to toast mine in the pot for 2-4 minutes in olive oil, first) or rice.

What you need for the burgers (Makes 4 burgers)

  • 1 lb. of ground beef for hamburgers
  • Fresh bunch of dill
  • Fresh bunch of thyme
  • Marjoram (optional)
  • Poultry seasoning (or Ms. Dash vegetable seasoning. Anything that’s a mix of thyme, garlic, rosemary, etc.)
  • Your favorite hamburger buns. The fancier, the better.
  • Sea salt
  • Cracked pepper
Sea salt, marjoram, black pepper and poultry seasoning holding down a book with picture of butler Mr. Bates
This book “Downton Abbey: Rules for Household Staff” is super cute. And essential for any DA downstairs cosplay, I’m sure.

Tip: If you want to make the green beans, too. Put them in a pot of water (1 cup of water) first, before you start the burgers. They’ll take about 10 mins longer to cook.

For the burgers: first, put the ground beef in the pan, on medium-low heat. Separate into four pieces. Flatten with a spatula to ½ inch thick so they’re nice and juicy once they cook and don’t dry out.

Burgers sprinkled with dill, thyme and other herbs, cooking in the pan

You can add the herbs while they’re cooking. Break apart some leaves of dill and add 3-4 pinches of dill on each burger. To add the thyme, take a sprig, hold it upright over the meat, and use your fingernails to strip the little buds from the stem. Pluck the remaining buds off the top and drop them in too. If tiny bits of stem end up on the burgers, that’s fine. They’ll cook down. Add sea salt, cracked pepper, marjoram (optional), and the poultry seasoning.

By the way, if you don’t have all the seasonings I mentioned, don’t worry. I have a strong feeling you could do this recipe with just the salt, pepper, thyme and dill. Beef generally doesn’t need a ton of help to be flavorful.

Reading about Anna's posture in the Downton Abbey handbook...
Hrm, humm… a little reading while I wait for the burgers. I’m kinda sad I’ve been walking the wrong way all this time, though.

Flip the burgers over once you’ve seasoned them and season the other side of each one. Leave to cook about 25-30 minutes. Closer to 30 mins if you like well done burgers. A friend once told me that hamburgers are always tastier when they’re medium-well, so I shoot for that.

You’re done! Wait, you’re not done… once you turn off the heat for those burgers, get a good sniff of them. They smell so, so, sooo very good.

Finished burgers

Toast the buns, slice the brie (a 1/8 wedge of the wheel of cheese sliced into squares works), then add the brie to the bottom bun. Toasted buns are a little sweeter. And putting the brie up against toasted bread on the bottom and the burger on the top helps to melt it just a little.

Now, at this point, you’ll be tempted to add ketchup, mustard… all your usuals. I strongly urge you not to do it. Take at least one bite without the ketchup to really see how amazing these flavors come together. The brie, the toasted bun and the herbs somehow make this just sweet and savory enough without ketchup.

Green beans and Shiitake mushrooms with herb  butter sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • Poultry seasoning (or Ms. Dash vegetable seasoning)
  • Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Bunch green beans
  • 1 Package of shiitake mushrooms (sliced)

Sounds complicated. Totally is not complicated.

Rinse the green beans and mushrooms. You are supposed to snap the ends off of fresh green beans, but you can see from the pictures that I didn’t bother. (The Dowager Countess isn’t actually coming to my house for dinner, so I think I’ll squeak by without it.) I just slice the ends off with a knife once I’m eating them. But you do need to slice the mushrooms.

Adding 1 cup of water to a pot of green beans and mushrooms.
The best part about this photo is you can’t tell how messy my kitchen is…

Put the green beans and mushrooms into a pot with 1 cup of water. Set to medium heat and leave to cook about 25-30 minutes. Don’t season them. I know, it’s scary… but you really don’t need to. All the seasonings are going into the sauce. I like the veggies best when they’re cooked but also brightly green colored and slightly crispy. Again, you can see from the photos that I overcooked… sigh. Still tasted great, though! It’s all about your preference.

When the green beans and shiitake mushrooms are done cooking, turn off the heat and remove them from the pot with tongs. You’ll look like a pro if you place them, bunch by bunch, on a plate. It’s pretty easy to build from the middle of the plate and pile the green beans on with the tongs. They end up lying lengthwise and straight, all facing the same way.

Return to the pot and pour out about half the water that’s left over after cooking the vegetables. You want to keep about 1 tablespoon of liquid in the pot. Put the heat on very low. Add the butter and the poultry seasoning and thyme (hold each stem at the tip and strip down with your fingernails to remove). Leave to simmer about 4 minutes. Be careful that the liquid doesn’t steam away.

Green beans and shiitake mushrooms, lightly mixed with herb butter sauce.
YUM!!!1!

Once you’re done, take the pot to your plate of green beans and mushrooms and pour the sauce over the vegetables. Use a spatula to scrape as much liquid and herbs as you can out of the pot. Use the tongs to gently pick up and move the green beans and mushrooms around in the sauce to combine.

Finish off this meal with rice or tri-colored quinoa. I’ve tried this dish with both, and the nutty, earthy quinoa flavor is much nicer. It brings all the flavors on the plate together. And now, I hear Lady Mary’s bell ringing back in the kitchen. I’d better hurry and go take a plate up to her too!

The full meal: steamed green beans and shiitake mushrooms in butter sauce, herb brie burgers and rice. A little cucumber seltzer to drink on the side.
This meal is good with wine, but I’m also obsessed with Pret A Manger’s cucumber seltzer water… it was sooo light, fizzy, fancy and just good with this.

If you enjoy this recipe, let me know! This was really a fun one to come up with. Mrs. Patmore would be so proud.

I also hope the Dowager Countess approves. It’s not easy to impress her!

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