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The German Meat Patties That Preceded The Classic Hamburger

frikadellen with pickled cabbage and dip
frikadellen with pickled cabbage and dip - AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock

The jury's still out on who cooked up the first American hamburger. At least five different stories are floating around to date, including a hotly contested one that claims the dish was born from a low sausage supply at an 1885 county fair in Erie, New York. One thing's for sure: A version of the hamburger existed in Germany long before the dish was synonymous with Fourth of July cookouts. In fact, the word "hamburger" gets its name from the German town of Hamburg, where, as early as the 19th century, people ate patties made from chopped and seasoned beef.

Another name for those patties is frikadellen (also known as fleischklops or buletten, depending on which part of the country you're in), a dish that's still enjoyed in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Indonesia, and beyond. While variations abound, a classic German version might be billed as a flattened meatball. Despite its familiar shape, however, it's not served alongside French fries or any of the other trappings of a typical hamburger.

Read more: 15 Tips For Making The Best Meatloaf

What The Frikadellen?

frikadellen over peas and carrots
frikadellen over peas and carrots - Angelika Heine/Shutterstock

When comparing a frikadellen with an American burger, the first thing you'll notice is its lack of a bun. However, it would be wrong to say that frikadellen is breadless; it features a Kaiser roll or hunk of stale bread that's soaked in water or milk and mixed into the meat. Much like a meatball, the bread helps the dish from drying out during the cooking process.

Also like meatballs, a traditional German recipe for frikadellen might call for a mix of ground beef and pork, chopped onion and parsley, an egg, and spices like paprika. In contrast, an American hamburger recipe might only include ground beef, salt, and pepper.

The versatile dish can easily turn into a meal, but you're just as likely to see it listed as an appetizer. In this case, the patties might be miniature and paired with mustard or a dipping sauce.

How To Serve

Bowl of German potato salad
Bowl of German potato salad - MariaKovaleva/Shutterstock

While German frikadellen is served without a bun, it's rarely alone on a plate. It's often joined by mashed potatoes or a punchy German potato salad dressed with mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, and onion. Come to think of it, it's no wonder fries and burgers are such a natural pairing.

On the non-starchy side, green peas, carrots, and string beans are also common companions to frikadellen. Others might serve the dish with a green salad, pickles, or creamed cabbage.

Of course, nothing is stopping you from treating the meatball-patty hybrid like a classic burger by serving it between two toasted buns alongside a pile of French fries. If you go this route, we implore you to 86 the ketchup and American cheese and opt instead for the finest mustard in your fridge — or, better yet, a little homemade mayonnaise — plus whatever crisp vegetables or pickles you have on hand.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.