Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Presidential Debate #4: The Last Debate

I zipped this off with 10 minutes left at work. This is it for the debate series. It's also Elena's going away party. Sad.


Loddy Doddy I love to party
Cause alot of trouble and bother everybody
6 6 6, nobody likes it when I kick it like this
Loddy Doddy, it's the democratic party
McCain done come and fuck everybody
6 6 6, nobody likes it when I kick it like this

HIt it!
I want to rock right now. (holdup.)
Hit it!
Got my man barack right now
20 more days and it's time to get down
And he's ill/ he's internationally known
And he's known to rock the microphone
Cause McCain is stoopid, and you know he rages
And his voters can't seem to engage us
And Barack's got the promises and maybe the answers
And his Veep's got some hair enhancers
Ahead in the polls, Ten points he rolls
And McCain's numbers aint done nothing but fall
I like the way that shit's come loose
Sarah Palin's done shot up another moose

Loddy Doddy I love to party
Cause alot of trouble and bother everybody
6 6 6, nobody likes it when I kick it like this
Loddy Doddy, it's the democratic party
McCain done come and fuck everybody
6 6 6, nobody likes it when I kick it like this

Hit it!
So it's time for the third debate
And everyone knows that McCain's too late
But I gotta give you a little fair warning
Since the other party's got a shit storm coming
They're gonna play the real dirty blame game
They all say Baracks' just all about celeb fame
And they'll talk about Ayers
And they'll talk about Wright
And they'll talk about ACORN
But it's all the same they're trying to put a little fright.
But it's all the same
I see McCain calling it a night.

Loddy Doddy I love to party
Cause alot of trouble and bother everybody
6 6 6, nobody likes it when I kick it like this
Loddy Doddy, it's the democratic party
McCain done come and fuck everybody
6 6 6, nobody likes it when I kick it like this


Debate food report

Bunch o' bottles of beer
Bruschettas of tomato and basil by Elena
Broiled potatoes by Elena
Grilled padrone peppers!
And Sean's special Dutch bitterballen!!! Look he has a recipe and photos from my kitchen.
Oh and Elena's apple crumble dessert

Drunk factor: meh...

The bitterballen were so much more interesting than the actual debate. Expecting more guests at the debate party/farewell Elena bash, Sean arrived promptly at 5:30 with a bowl of meat mix (I hereby dub the bowl Gigantor). And while we struggled with keeping the deepfry at a constant 370 degrees fahrenheit, the bitterballen came out all crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Awesome. So much thanks to Sean for bringing over Gigantor and making us bitterballen.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Presidential Debate #3: Town Hall and the Hawaii vs. Arizona Burger Battle

It's time for this week's edition of my debating rap. Debate is 6PM on Tuesday. We're watching it at our place...We might barbecue too. I might make burgers (since Andrea's presence has shocked me out of my burger making leave of absence). Come on by if you want.

Check check... One two. Check check.

So. I'm not as prolific as my man Jay Z.
But I gotta keep it going cause McCain is crazy.
And I know I'm running out of time
Trying to sell a busted rhyme
But this time this time
Got my tequila and some lime
If McCain is Megatron Obama's Optimus Prime
So last week I had my snacks and drinks
And Palin had her fur minks
In four weeks I'll have Cor-vaw-see-yay
I'll say "Prost!" The glass clinks
So the old grandpa he's starting to freak
Tossin out his message going all negative
Need his metamucil now it's his laxative
And again the Keating five's a gift continuing to give
Because the shits hit the fan for him
And his message was always all wack and dim
And he can't spout any change
And his chances are slim
Running on empty he don't got no sanity
Maybe he'd have done better had he chosen Tim Pawlenty
But I'm not bemoaning this turn of the events
Only place safe for him is Fox with Sean Hannity
Michigan is gone and now he defends the red states
And on tuesday a town hall number two of the debates
At 6PM Tuesday night one-oh-five on Younger Way
We're gonna hit it on the DVR doesn't matter if you're lates
Now I'm not so sure about the next moderatuh
It's NBC the original G Tom Brokaw
In the tank with John McCain, G's a democrat hatuh
But the polls they say it's time MacDaddy seeyou latuh.

Uhuh. Uhuh.


Debate food report

big bottle of wine
lots of bottles of beer
Afsaneh's rice
Salad with bunch o walnuts, cranberries and swiss chard
No drinking games. Just drink.

The Hawaii vs. Arizona Burger Battle

Recipes are below. The Hawaiian pineapple teriyaki was pretty good. I'm not sure which burger won. Some people liked the versatility of the dry-rubbed burger (it went well over the Iranian rice dish that we also had-- but a burger with rice and no bun is not an American burger in my books). Yet another person claimed that the Hawaiian pineapple teriyaki sauce went very well over the Arizona burger but that's just too easy. While non-exceptionalism is okay, we like our burgers to challenge us by themselves.

I needed:
2 pounds of grassfed chuck, divided into two batches
formed into sliders, about 4 ounces each

Hawaii: Pineapple teriyaki soy marinade

  • 1 (14 ounce) can pineapple chunks, with no sugar added juice
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 3 dashes sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper (probably closer to 1 1/2)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

1. Mix all in saucepan
2. Simmer for five minutes
3. Blend with immersion blender

Arizona: Southwestern Spice Rub
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 8 dried chilies -- stemmed and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1. Cook cumin and coriander seeds in a small skillet over low heat, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes.
2. Combine seeds, chilies, and remaining ingredients in a blender; process until mixture resembles coarse powder.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Presidential Debate #2: The Veeps

Here's this week's stupid rap.


It's debating time again on Thursday night at six. So we know what that means-- I have to make another installment of the debatin raps. Today we do the old skool flava at the IHOP on Younger Way.

(cue the two turntables, got the microphone going)
It's on. You don't stop.
We-got-VPs-on-the-telly. Yall think you can defeat me?
Well its on. Let's rock now, you don't stop. Keep on. You don't stop.

I got I got I got I got snacks and drinks
She got some fur minks
Five kids on ice rinks
I don't gotta stop and think.
Doncha think? I'll get back to ya
What? That aint no answa
Gotta check with her old senate poppa
Sucka MCs don't get much higha
Hockey mom and hockey skates
Hocka-loogy this-uh high stakes
Hock my watch I think I'll do
The economy is poo.
We got debatin we ain't kiddin
Cuz she's chillin like a villin.
Thursday IHOP on Younger Way
You know USA aint A-OK
My man Joe Biden on the stump
Smilin like an old fool
He'll run his mouth off and kick the Palin bump
Say "You're fired" like the Trump
So six o clock no time for hatin
Rearin his head it's Mr. Putin
We gotta pop it like a palin
Now it's high time for debatin

It's on. You don't stop.
We-got-VPs-on-the-telly. Yall think you can defeat me?
Well its on. Let's rock now, you don't stop. Keep on. You don't stop.


Food report

Big bottle of wine
Lots of bottles of beer
Bunch o' Trader Joe's pizzas (tarte flambes)
Chips and salsa
Debate Night Bingo but I was told there was a better one here.

Drunk factor: high

Friday, September 26, 2008

Presidential Debate #1

I figure with the debates coming up, and with my crispy new television, we have great reasons to imbibe and eat.

Verbatim from the email sent 9/25/08...


I just wanted to share my little rap because I think I'm proud of my rapping abilities. Jay-Z is going down.

(cue the human beatbox in the background, two turntables and a microphone)

Not waitin for debatin
If it aint happin there be sumtin
It's for real, we're not playin
Maybe some hatin for McCaiiii----- tin

Yo. You can't just suspend a campaign
Like the RNC for a little rain
Down in NoLa hurricain
I guess it got heat off Sarah Paaiiiiiiii---lin

So six o clock this comin Friday
My man O to the B to the A-M-A
Mack Daddy'n DC, that's just crappay
Economic ca-tas-tro-phay
We'll be watchin the debatin
This comin Friday I'm just sayin
If it happins let it happin
Come on over we'll be watchin



Debate food report

big bottle of wine
many bottles of beer
drinking game
cheese and crackers
chips and salsa

drunk factor: high

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I wanted to do kalbi, but I don't presume to have a real Korean recipe, so I did some research online, mostly here on this thread on ChowHound, and took bits and pieces from different places. But who's going to find Korean pear in Santa Cruz, California?

3 pounds of beef short rib cut thinly (I believe the term is "flanken" if you want to speak butcher)
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup good soy sauce (I didn't have any good soy sauce so I brought out the brute-force extra-strength Filipino soy sauce)
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3-4 scallions chopped
1/4 cup sesame seeds
black pepper (to taste)

and of course... 1/2 can to 1 can of Coca-Cola (to taste)... better if it's the Mexican coke in bottle so that it has real sugar rather than corn syrup.

The phosophoric acid in the Coca-Cola helps to tenderize the beef. This was all left to marinate for at least 8 hours.

These were barbecued on a medium-hot grill, flipped often. The beef is cut really thin and is almost falling apart after marinating for 8 hours so it burns really easily, so you have to be on the ball with this. I think each cut took about 5 minutes to cook.

It wasn't like walking down the street in K-Town in NYC, but this wanna-kalbi was actually pretty good.

It's been a while since I blogged-- but not because I haven't cooked. I actually intended to blog more often than I did this month, taking time to take pictures, but it just didn't happen. I feel bad because I was also tagged to tag and I passed the tag on, but I haven't actually blogged much in July. Oh well. Onward!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Internet Memes and the Foodie Tag

I have been tagged! This is my first foodie blog meme, which is a whole lot more pleasant than other internet memes that have been circulating around. I mean being rickrolled is just not fun. I guess it's funny haha but really, rickrolling is not that funny. Especially when it seems to have leaped out of the internet. I picked up the phone at work and I heard Rick once. Some other forms of internet memes are great too. Like lolcats, which I can't get enough of. But foodie blog tag? Good stuff.

So thank you Natashya from Living in the Kitchen with Puppies for the tag. Sorry it took me so long to respond. So many things going on right now. But before I go on with this, I'd like to say that Natashya has a wonderful recipe for apricot ginger ice cream that I just made this weekend, and it came out wonderfully.

So here are the meme rules.

Tag Rules:
  • Link to the person who tagged you.
  • Post the rules on the blog.
  • Write six random things about yourself.
  • Tag six people at the end of your post.
  • Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

...and here are 6 random things about myself.

1) I like to dress up as food items during halloween. See? Here and here.
2) I like post-modernity in its food form, of which Garden Burger Meatless Riblets are the supreme example: it is a meatless meat that pretends to be a meat that pretends to be a meat. How great is that?
3) I enjoy deep fried Twinkies.
4) I own three bicycles and I want another.
5) My Aeropress espresso maker has displaced my Kitchenaid stand mixer as my favorite kitchen gadget.
6) Just once, I'd like to walk down the street and find myself stuck in a movie musical, with people doing Busby Berkeley choreographed arrangements while singing in unison.

I tag... well I tag some folks who've made some great stuff I've tried myself.

Dhanggit from Dhanggit's Kitchen
Maybelle's mom from Feeding Maybelle
Lisa from Jersey Girl Cooks
Tinker and Tugger from Tinker Culture
Janet from Gourmet Traveler
Peter from Kalofagas

If you are too busy or tired to play we will all fully understand. If not, I look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hoity-toity Mac and Cheese

This is a mac and cheese I last made while on a ski vacation a while back. While my friends were on the slopes, I stayed in our cabin and cooked up some mac and cheese and tomato soup, with tons of kitchen equipment that I put in a hiking pack and carried through the woods and into our place. (ok.. it wasn't really Rocky Balboa training in the Soviet Union to fight Ivan Drago kind of labor, but I did have to carry my cast iron pan, my immersion blender, and all my food supplies through the woods in thigh deep snow) Sadly, Kay's Cabins near South Lake Tahoe in Kirkwood, California closed shop.

Anyway, California is cold and cloudy right now, and that is enough context for comfort food, especially with the discomfiting smell of Northern California forest wildfires wafting into my house.

Mac and Cheese

1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 cup red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2 inch squares
1/2 pound penne pasta
1 1/2 cup half and half
1 1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 pound cambazola (or other mild blue cheese), cut into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup bacon, diced (optional for the non-veggie)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a pan, sauté the celery and the bell pepper in butter until just soft. Season with salt and pepper. Also, now is the time to fry up the bacon if you're using it.

Boil the pasta until al dente. While it is getting ready to boil, combine whipping cream, half and half and cheese until cheese is melted in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally. While the cheese is melting, beat the egg yolks in a separate, heat resistant bowl and set aside. After the cheese fully melts, stir in the celery seed and season with paprika, salt and pepper. Pour half of this mixture into the egg yolks, stirring constantly. And then return the egg yolk and cheese sauce mixture back in with the rest of the mixture.

After draining the pasta, mix the cheese sauce and the veggies (and bacon) in the same pan as the pasta. Transfer all of this into a baking pan. Top with parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the top of the dish is beginning to brown.

I like to drizzle a little truffle oil over the whole thing when it's done. And I suspect shaved truffle will do nicely, but I'll only do that if somebody is nice enough to give me some truffle. Someone? Anyone?

It's a hoity-toity mac and cheese and I'm not apologetic about this all.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thai-inspired Apricot Chicken with Coconut Rice

Apricots are here. Yay. I've never really made anything savory with apricots. Actually I don't usually use apricots--I prefer peaches and nectarines. So this apricot thingy is a first for me. This particular dish is inspired by one of my favorite Thai dishes, mango chicken. Apricots work pretty well as a mango substitute. They're similarly sweet, though apricots do not have the mango tanginess, so a little bit of citrus was needed for the sauce.

The sauce was a variation on sweet and sour. I suspect it would work just as well with fried fish rather than chicken. The banana leaf is not necessary, but steamed with the coconut rice, it gave the rice just a bit more fragrance.

All measurements approximate.

Stuff for apricot sauce:
6 apricots sliced and peeled (peeling is not necessary, but I wanted a more uniform texture)
1/2 cup cilantro chopped
4 tbsp soy sauce (I used half and half fine Japanese soy sauce and Filipino soy sauce, but any soy sauce would do)
3 tbsp ginger chopped
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sake (rice wine vinegar is okay)
1 tbsp sriracha hot sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
juice of 1/2 lime
zest of 1/2 lime

Stuff for chicken:
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced thinly into strips
1 cup white flour
5 tbsp clarified butter
1 red bell pepper sliced thinly

Stuff for coconut rice:
2 cups jasmine rice
1 1/2 cup water
1 can light coconut milk
1 tbsp salt
1 small banana leaf (4 inches by 2 inches)

Place all the sauce ingredients in a food processor and puree. The desired flavor is sweet, salty, sour and spicy all at once. If it's too spicy, squeeze some more lime in there and add a little sugar. More fish sauce counteracts sweetness (be careful!).

Prepare the rice in a rice cooker. Just toss in all the ingredients, placing the banana leaf into the pot last. If you do not have a rice cooker, use a pot with a heavy lid. You might want to oil the bottom of the pan lightly so that the rice doesn't stick. It should cook for about 15-20 minutes.

In a flat container, drag the chicken strips around the white flour until all of them are covered. Fry them over medium-hot in clarified butter until golden brown on both sides. This should take about 5-10 minutes per chicken strip. You don't have to use clarified butter, but doing so reduces risk of burning the butter so I prefer the clarified stuff. Once the chicken is fried, remove from heat.

In another pan, (or the pan you used to cook the chicken with the butter cleaned out), place the fried chicken strips along with the bell pepper slices. Pour the apricot sauce in with the chicken and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the bell pepper is soft.

Serve over the coconut rice.

This was my entry to the Leftover Queen's July Royal Foodie Joust. This as well as other bloggers' recipes can be found here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

June 14 is National Strawberry Shortcake Day

June 14 is my mother's birthday. But I didn't get to celebrate with her because she's 3,000 miles away. Instead, I gave her a phonecall and I visited Santa Cruz's Swanton Berry Farm to get myself some of their strawberry shortcake.

Just a short drive of a few miles north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1, right on the Pacific coast, is Swanton Ranch. I initially wanted to bike up and eat my shortcake there but the thought of the ride back to Santa Cruz after pigging out on strawberry shortcake deterred me from doing just that. I chose the easier route of hopping in the car and going there.

Swanton Berry Farm is a 100% union shop (their farmstand shop is all about Cesar Chavez). All the farm workers are part of the United Farm Workers. All their produce is also organic and the berry varieties they offer are better tasting, lower yielding berries. They do great work, and their strawberries are beautiful.

Aside from the fresh berries, they do u-pick and they make great jams. But today's not about jam-- Swanton sells strawberry shortcake in ready-to-go plastic tubs in their chiller. I got a couple to take home.

The shortcake was perfect. The cake itself wasn't excruciatingly sweet. It was just right. The berries didn't taste like anything was added to them to boost their flavor. They were fresh yo.

Swanton Berry Farms: union labor + organic strawberries = delicious strawberry shortcake

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

June 13 is Kitchen Klutzes of America Day (or "How not to make binatog by burning your house down")

I'm a little early for this celebration, but I feel that celebrating it is apt. June 13 is Kitchen Klutzes of America Day.


1) Go to FoodBuzz Featured Publisher dinner at Gochi Japanese Tapas in Cupertino. Enjoy wonderful and inventive tapas Japanese-style. Try the pizza (on a very light cracker-like crust), the onigiri yaki (with salmon mayonnaise), the fried chicken with eggplant and the delicious unagi fried rice. Meet a few great folks from FoodBuzz (thanks folks!).

Yaki Onigiri, much better than my own attempt

2) Go home and try to make binatog. Binatog is a Filipino snack made from hominy, sugar, coconut and milk, served sort of like a corn parfait.

3) Turn on the wrong burner on an electric stove and not notice that a different burner from the one you intended is glowing red.

4) Smell the noxious fumes from burning dish towel.

5) Panic.

In addition to not leaving a dish towel directly on a burner (gas or electric), do not leave microfiber dish towels on hot stainless steel pot lid, or else they will smolder and ruin your pretty, stainless steel pot lid.

By the way: the binatog attempt failed because ignorant as I was about how to prepare hominy, I did not boil my dried corn in lime-water to remove the corn germ. I will try again this weekend.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

June 6 is National Doughnut Day: Beignets New Orleans-style

Beignets from scratch

Spending my last afternoon of vacation just sitting on my ass, I decided that I could be more productive with my ass-sitting by injecting my ass-sitting activities with some ass-growing assistance. In a fortuitous twist of fate, I heard it through the grapevine that June the 6th is National Doughnut Day. And so for the sake of ass-sitting/ass-growing multitasking (and perhaps fueled at a subconscious level by my hosting of two Canadians at my house the previous night), I decided to celebrate this great day by making donuts.

But which donuts to make? I've always loved how airy Krispy Kreme donuts are, and I knew that they make yeast-raised donuts, as opposed to the cake donuts common at Dunkin Donuts (which are painfully absent in California). But for today, I decided beignets were right. Donuts need not have holes after all.

My trusty Joy of Cooking by Rombauch and Becker, et al. had a recipe for beignets that called for butter and four eggs. Additionally, I found several recipes online, most notably this one at the New Orleans Cuisine Blog. These were two very different approaches to the beignet-- the Rombauchs' recipe would no doubt be cakier and denser. And the NOLA Cuisine Blog recipe would be fluffier. I chose the latter-- I like the fluff. My only change was an increase in the required sugar because I like my donut dough on the sweeter side.

And just in case those flopped, I also got a box of the famous New Orleans Cafe du Monde beignet mix as an emergency backup.

I invited Elsa and Sean over so that I could have companions in my celebration, and so that I could have people around to keep me from eating all the donuts myself and passing out in the kitchen, waking up in the morning on the floor with powdered sugar all over me.

1 packet active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 1/2 - 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 Cup Shortening
About 2 -3 inches of vegetable oil in a saucepan
Loads of powdered sugar

I won't reproduce the instructions anymore as they can be found in the blog post I refer to above. It seemed in the end that my donut dough didn't flop. And I found myself with a boxful of Cafe du Mond beignet mix unopened. I decided to make those anyway so that I could compare the homemade to the mix. The ones I made from scratch were definitely fluffier and plumper. But they also tasted yeasty. Maybe if I switched to a different yeast I could lose the sour undertones produced by the yeast, and I'll have to look into that in the future. The cakemix donuts were also tasty and did not have the yeasty flavor. They were also less sweet. I don't know which ones I prefer. My from-scratch beignets I feel more warmth towards because I pored over them, urging the yeast to bubble and froth, but the New Orleans French Market Cafe Du Monde beignets made me want to have crawdads and okra. So in the end, it's a toss-up.

All told, I think I ate about a dozen donuts in the past twelve hours. I have powdered sugar all over my clothes and all over my kitchen and I'm still sitting on my ass.

Cake-mix beignets

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

National Burger Month Day 31: Sirloin Burger with Seared Foie Gras and Shiitake Stirfry

Is this really it? Thirty-one days of burger-influenced gluttony are finally over. I am both saddened and elated to be done with this thing. I think I will not do a month-long food celebration for a long time, no matter how wonderful the food I wish to celebrate is. On the other hand, the past month has been a good time. It's really funny how community formed around little round patties of chopped stuff, even if people didn't particularly like little round patties of chopped stuff.

For my last burger of the month, I wanted to do the most indulgent burger I could do. I figured that I would try to replicate Daniel Boulud's extravagant burgers, but from the outset, these were impossibilities. Boulud makes a burger with Kobe wagyu beef, braised shortribs, truffle and foie gras. I cannot get wagyu beef easily, and I do not want to spend $75 for 2 ounces of black truffle. So instead of doing an exact replica, I tried to incorporate whatever I could.

My burgers were made with grass-fed organic sirloin that I milled myself. These were seasoned simply with salt and pepper and grilled to medium. I topped each burger with foie gras, which I seared on a griddle to get the juices running. On top of this, I placed some sliced shiitake mushrooms which I stir-fried in truffle oil (which were my closest substitutes for real truffles). Finally, I shaved some gruyere over the whole works.

The mushrooms and foie gras definitely gave the burgers added depth and richness. The burgers, unfortunately, were underseasoned (I could've sworn I salted the bejeezus out of them). But in the end, the flavors worked pretty well together.

I think that with these foie gras burgers I came full-circle with this whole burger challenge. I started with those delicious James Beard burgers that I thought were the very essence of burger. I didn't know I'd blog the whole thing the way I had. Along the way, we departed from our predefined calendar and with the help of enterprising grill-partners, turned out some pretty wacky burgers. This evening's burgers were very much like those first ones I made, but dressed up some. The sirloin was as simple as those first, James Beard burgers were. The foie gras and the shiitake did not take away from the essential meat.

I don't think I can look at burgers the same way again-- certainly not after 31 days of minced meat (with some potatoes and tofu thrown in). But finally I can now cook something else for dinner.

Yesterday, I went to the nearest In-n-Out Burger joint. My guests wanted to try them out as they didn't have In-n-Out in New York. So I obliged, despite saying that I wouldn't touch burgers again for the foreseeable future, having just done thirty-one days of them. I ordered what I used to order at In-n-Out: a cheeseburger animal style with fries well done. Back before my burger endeavor, I used to think that In-n-Outs were terrific burgers. But yesterday I was astonished at how mediocre they are. In-n-Out is just another fast food burger.

National Burger Month Day 30: A day for leftovers; A duo of decidedly non-kosher lamb burgers

To those people (one or two at most, I am sure) who are even keeping up (out of sheer boredom I am sure) with my observance of National Burger Month, I apologize for being remiss in my blog updates. The parental units are visiting burger headquarters and all sort of work has gone into schlepping around town entertaining the guests. Through this all, I remained dedicated to the last two days of National Burger Month and I did really end with a bang. This post is a little catching up with the month update.

NBM Day 30 was supposed to be part of my trifecta of triumphant burgers for closing out the celebration (day 1 was my döner burger). I planned to make a Filipino Crispy Pata burger. Crispy Pata is a Filipino dish where they poach a pork shank for a while, and then deep fry it, hence adding the crispy to its name. I had elaborate plans for procuring a pork shank, boiling it, then chopping it up into bits before forming patties for the deep fryer. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a pork shank in time, and with the impending parental visit, had barely enough time to clean the house, and no time to make day two of my trifecta of triumphant burgers for closing out the celebration. All I had were leftovers.

Stupid me, I didn't label my minced meat. I didn't know if I was making a pork burger or a lamb burger, and my nose is not sensitive enough to tell apart one batch of uncooked meat from another. So to solve my identification problem, I just made the pork sleep with the lamb-- the perfect unkosher combination caught in a bout of interspecies melding. I topped the frankenburgers with more leftover stuff-- spinach, tomatoes and goat cheese. The results wasn't bad at all. I made a duo of frankenburgers, one in a traditional bun and the other in a pita.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

National Burger Month Day 29: Döner Kebab Burger

On Adalbertsr. 10, in Kreuzberg, Berlin is Hasir's Restaurant. According to my Döner Kebab trading cards, Hasir is "Das Geburtshaus der Dönertasche!" So the story goes that Hasir, a Turkish immigrant in Berlin invented the döner kebab in 1971. Everyone liked it, and now it's the most popular sandwich in Germany. They had similarly prepared meats in Turkey prior to 1970, for sure. Berlin, after all, does not have a monopoly on meat on a spit. And neither does Turkey. There are other versions of this preparation-- gyros, shawarmas, etc. But the particular sandwich as prepared by Mr. Hasir was a thing of beauty. I cannot put into words how wonderful a sandwich he made. I lie awake at night dreaming of eating one of these things again.

Anyway, I decided, for National Burger Month, to attempt to assemble my own döner kebab and turn it into a burger. The night was fraught with challenges. My largest obstacle was the reality of not owning an upright rotisserie grill. So making my kebabs on a regular bbq grill was a little bit of a compromise. I must get a "Set it and forget it" rotisserie oven for future döner kebab construction.

Stuff for döner:
1 lb lamb sirloin
1/2 lb ground lamb
1 large onion
salt and pepper

Stuff for harissa (sauce):
1 large tomato
2 tbsp crushed chili flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp caraway seed
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp salt

cute lil döners

The night before grilling, I took the lamb sirloin and sliced it up into 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch thick slices. I also tossed the onion in a food processor and pureed the living daylights out of it until I got onion juice. The lamb strips I marinated in the onion puree overnight and tossed in about 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper.

In the meantime, I made the harissa sauce. I just took everything in the stuff list and mixed it all up in a food processor. Instead of the fresh tomato, I used some canned plum tomato that was sitting in the fridge.

Finally-- the lamb was taken from its onion bath and mixed in with some ground lamb. I made two batches. One batch I threaded onto skewers (so that I could see if I was capable of making real döner kebabs) and another batch I chopped up into smaller bits and mixed with even more ground lamb to form into patties. These were then placed onto the grill. To replicate the rotisserie oven effect, I sat over the grill and hummed like a machine while I continuously turned the skewered meat around. And for the most part, we had some pretty cute looking miniature döners. John suggested that I take out a tiny knife when it cooks and slice little tiny döner strips. and put them into little tiny flat bread. But I digress. This humming and turning worked for about five minutes. And then we had an emergency. I had just put my burger on the grill and noticed that the grill no longer spewed fire. Tongues of orange flames no longer licked the bottoms of my hunks of meat. After 28 days of working overtime for my burgers, my grill ran out of propane gas.


Dejected but undeterred, I awakened my oven and stove from their slumber and like worker ants, they reported to duty and did their tasks. I finished the burger and the kebabs in the oven, searing the burger first on a hot cast iron skillet before sticking it in the heat.

oh, my pretty burger

The burger I topped with a little harissa sauce and a little yogurt and sandwiched in between two pieces of mini pita bread-- a huge compromise for a döner since the döner pitas are thicker. Another big compromise was that my yogurt wasn't herby yogurt. I should've made a garlic yogurt sauce. In the end, though, this was an amazing, amazing burger. And the döner I will make again as a matter of principle. I must have my döners.

What an epic, earthshattering burger.

National Burger Month Day 28: Wimpy Burgers at the Red

Becky came back to Santa Cruz for a week. It was so good to have her back, even if only for a week. On her final night, went to Santa Cruz's Red, the preeminent meet market in town for Orange and Marin County university students who want to pretend they are at a real big city lounge. Oh if only they knew...

The Red has great cocktails. On this night I started with a wonderful negroni in a frosted aluminum cup and ended with a rye whiskey manhattan. I also had some of their awesome, awesome sliders. The Red offers two main kinds of sliders-- the Wimpy Platter and the Lil Mac Platter. Both are really good sliders. The Lil Mac is their dressed up slider, comes with three little burgers, each with its own sauce. There's a bacon & gorgonzola burger; a pesto & swiss cheese burger; and a bbq smoked cheddar burger. I decided to go with the Wimpy Platter, which was a set of three sliders that are miniature replicas of their fullsized Bluto Burger. Wimpy is topped with onion marmalade and russian dressing.

The Red: Inebriate university students and wannabe dwellers from the OC and really good burgers.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

National Burger Month Day 27: Garlicky Pork Burgers

(fade in)

We're in a living room. A bespectacled guy is shimmying around with a steering wheel in his hands. The television is on, and Super Mario Kart is whirring in the Wii. We hear a squeaky little voice.

Pork: Hey!
Me: Wha? Oh you. Hi, Pork.
Pork: So...
Me: Um.
Pork: So, you've been ignoring me.
Me: Ignore? You? I just had pork. Last week.
Pork: That's a week too long.
Me: As I recall I extolled your wonders.
Pork: Yes, but that was barbecue. You drowned me in sauce.
Me: And?
Pork: And you might as well have marinated me in soy sauce and called me bulgogi.
Me: But that's beef.
Pork: Never mind. You didn't allow my natural flavors to shine without drenching me in brown stuff.
Me: It was a little red... But anyway, your point?
Pork: I deserve to be in the spotlight. Really in the spotlight.
Me: How do you propose we do that?
Pork: There's this fellow from New York. He's written a few books. I think his name is Bittman. Mark. He says just a little bit of minced garlic and a little bit of fennel seed would make me even more hip. None of that country bumpkin barbecue sauce stuff.
Me: Bittman huh?
Pork: Yes.
Me: How again?
Pork: You take about half a pound of succulent little ground me, mix in about a teaspoon of minced garlic, and then mix in about a teaspoon of fennel seed. Then just grill me over medium-high heat for about five minutes per side. Really easy. I like the tropics, you know.
Me: That sounds delicious.

(five minutes pass)

Pork: (exasperated) Well?
Me: Huh? Oh sure. Yeah. I'm such a pushover. (under my breath: Jeez!)

Only the sound of the television this time, and Super Mario Kart is whirring in the Wii.

(fade to black)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Chihuahua on Cheeseburgers

Originally uploaded by albino_octopus
This has been blogged about elsewhere, but I must do so as well, if only to kick off the FINAL FIVE DAYS of National Burger Month.

I present Chihuahua on Cheeseburgers, by William Hundley. It is part of a collection of photos of stuff with cheeseburgers. Brilliant!

National Burger Month Day 26: Spicy Potato Burger

I had some vegetarians over so that stunt I pulled with soaking tofu in beef fat wouldn't fly with my non-carnivorous friends.

This was a simple Indian-inspired potato burger, based on a recipe for potato patties in The Joy of Cooking. My adjustments included more fragrant spices, as their burger was pretty bland. I don't understand why they would call theirs samosas when their samosas were definitely lacking in the Indian spices department.

Stuff for six potato burgers:
2 baking potatoes, peeled and boiled
1 onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup peas (if they're not frozen, make sure they're boiled nicely already)
1 tbsp mustard seed
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp coriander
salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes for about 10-15 minutes. When they are tender enough, mash them up. While the potatoes are boiling, toast the mustard seeds on the olive oil until they start a-poppin. Before you lose all your mustard seeds from their flying about, toss in the garlic and the onions. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent. These can then be mixed into the mashed potato. Same goes for the cilantro and the green peas. Toss in the coriander and garam masala, and flavor with salt and pepper. Finally, form into patties. These are actually ready to eat now, but I actually grilled them for a little bit to give them shape and body.

That's it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Lychees and Almond Cream in Puff Pastry with Raspberry and Lime Syrups

This is my entry to The Leftover Queen's Royal Food Joust. Other entries can be found at the forums. This is my first entry into a food blog event. Anxious to make something other than hamburgers I was excited to do something different from what I've been cooking all month. It was fun to make em.

There are a couple of components. Here's the stuff:
1 can lychees in juice, drained (we're really just going to use 9-12 lychees in this recipe)
1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Stuff for the raspberry syrup:
1/4 cup fresh raspberries
1/4 cup frozen mixed berries
1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp water
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch

Stuff for lime syrup:
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp water
1 tbsp cornstarch

Stuff for almond cream:
1 cup roasted almonds
1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup sugar
5 tbsp corn syrup
1/2 to 1 cup milk
1/2 tsp almond extract

To do:
First do the almond cream. Except for the milk, put all the ingredients for the almond cream in a food processor. Let it run for a minute or so. Once you have a paste-like mixture-- it's actually now a marzipan -- you can start drizzling in the milk to lighten the consistency, while still processing. The final mixture should be creamy and smooth, yet still thick (I would say, about as thick as mascarpone cheese). Set aside.

Now, work on the syrups. For each of the syrup, mix 3 tbsp water with 1 tbsp cornstarch in a small bowl. For the raspberry, place the fresh and frozen berries, 1/4 cup water and sugar in a small saucepan, over medium heat. Once it begins to boil, stir in the cornstarch mixture until the sauce is no longer runny. Do the same for the lime, beginning with the lime juice, 1/4 cup water and sugar. Once that boils, stir in the cornstarch mixture so that the sauce thickens. Run the raspberry sauce through a sieve to separate the seeds and other solids.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Now that the key components are finished, pour the almond cream mixture into a pastry bag and fill each individual lychee with the cream. The puff pastry sheet should be cut into 3 inch by 3 inch squares. Place one lychee in each pastry sheet square, folding opposite corners together to make little dumplings. Arrange dumplings on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Before the pan is placed in the oven, brush each dumpling with the beaten egg and poke each dumpling to make little vent holes.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown. To plate, drizzle with syrups. I like to keep the syrup on the plate so the diner can control the tartness of the lime and the sweetness of the raspberry.

Here they are! This recipe makes about 9 stuffed lychee pastries.

That's it! Total prep and cook time was about 1 hour.

National Burger Month Day 25: Reproducing a Spicy Beef Kabob in a Chicken Burger

I use this marinade often for whenever I want to do kabobs on the grill. It works really well with chunks of sirloin over a charcoal fire. It also works very well in a chicken burger.

I guess this is a middle eastern inspired marinade. The burger itself is made from boneless, skinless chicken thigh, which I pulsed in a food processor a few times to get to the right level of chunkiness.

Marinade stuff:
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix the ingredients together and marinate the chicken bits for at least one hour. Once marinated, you will need a tablespoon or so of corn flour to mix into the drained and patted chicken so that you can properly form the meat into round patties. It's important to get enough corn flour in there for the chicken to keep its shape or it will fall apart.

My first mistake was trying the patties on the grill first. It was a definite disaster as bits of chicken pattie fell into the flames. I quickly shifted gears and transfered what was left onto a hot griddle, where the chicken patties cooked for about 6 minutes per side. Burgers were topped with spinach, some sliced red bell peppers and garlic and herb goat cheese, and were terrific.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Chocolate Covered Bacon?!

Chocolate is my favorite food. Bacon is my second favorite food. Marini's, a candy institution in Santa Cruz, California, makes chocolate covered bacon. I've lived here in this little provincial backwater for several years already and I only discovered Marini's chocolate covered bacon last Friday when a coworker asked me if I liked bacon. Are you kidding me? Of course I like bacon-- shouldn't even be questioned. He told me that Marini's had chocolate covered bacon. Thinking of this in the abstract, I wondered why there were no riots stampeding towards Marini's for these suckas. I left work early just so I could walk across the street and buy a few strips.

Admittedly, chocolate covered bacon is a novelty candy-- like tequila lollipops with worm inside. It's probably just there at Marini's, targeted to touristy crowds who want proof that the town of Santa Cruz is pretty wacky. The candy is not really mindblowing. I was expecting my entire world to implode after eating bacon and chocolate together. Marini's milk chocolate is not my favorite, and the bacon they used was not really too tasty. If it had more salty-smoky bacony flavor, perhaps the bacon would be prominent enough to offset the sweetness of the Marini's milk chocolate. It also was devoid of the wonderful bacony crunch. In the end, I issue a standard "meh." I'll stick to the deep-fried Twinkies.

National Burger Month Day 24: Chili Cheeseburger

Andrea is gone, but National Burger Month must go on!

Usually, chili cheeseburgers are these messy things. You can order them at fast food restaurants and they usually just give you their regular hamburgers with gooey chili dripping on top. I wanted to make one too, but instead of just my regular burgers with chili on top, I wanted the chili to permeate the very beings of these burgers.

I made the chili first. This was a quick and generic chili so it's probably not going to be a backyard classic anytime. It's a start though, so maybe I'll work with it more in the future to really make it jump.

1/4 cup chili powder
1/4 cup chipotle chili powder
1/4 pound of ground chuck (optional)
some olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
1 can of black beans
1 cup of canned whole plum tomatoes with juice (about 16 oz.)
some red wine vinegar
3 cups water
some lime juice
salt and pepper

Toasted the chili powders first on a cast iron skillet. Put the stuff aside. I made two batches of chili-- one for vegetarians and one for carnivores. In the carnivore batch I sauteed the ground chuck until brown then put it aside. Sauteed the onion, garlic and jalapeños in olive oil until they were soft-- about 8 minutes. Tossed in the toasted chili powders, the canned tomatoes, beans, the vinegar and the water. I also did this on the meat side. After all of this stuff was in the pan, I just let it simmer for about half an hour, seasoning with salt, pepper and lime juice I saw fit.

After the liquid reduced enough for me to recognize it as chili, I pulled some of the vegetarian chili out and soaked my hamburger patties in it for about 30 more minutes. And this I proceeded to grill when all was done.

Burgers were topped with even more chili (the con carne went on my burger), some shredded cheddar, sour cream, and most importantly, Frito corn chips. My chili needs work. It was hot, but unrefined. I mean it was delicious, but I feel like I got punched in the mouth. The burgers themselves were great, but the chili recipe needs to be polished some to inject it with the nuances of a good chili. I must consult my Texan contacts. I guess it's a start, but I'll have to revisit this sometime.

National Burger Month Day 23: Leftovers and Rosemary

I had some leftovers from the beach bonfire. It was a pretty busy day but I still managed to zip home for lunch to whip something up quickly.

I took a sprig of rosemary and speared it into a burger patty from the previous night. I usually do this for lamb shoulder, this whole spearing things with rosemary (the lamb also has whole cloves of garlic stuck into it). The lamb is pretty good with goat cheese on top so I figured the goat cheese would go wonderfully with the leftovers and rosemary burger. For good measure, I also tossed on some leftover pancetta. Quick lunch, good lunch.

Burger and a burned bun.

Friday, May 23, 2008

National Burger Month Day 22: Burgers at a Beach Bonfire

Andrea is leaving National Burger Month Headquarters in two days to leave us for less-burgerful climes in Switzerland. We're trying to pack in as many Santa Cruz things for her to do, which invariably meant that a beach bonfire needed to happen. Burgers like bonfires too so we took them along. They had a blast.

Santa Cruz at dusk

Our humble fire. The hippies in the next fire pit were kicked off the beach by the beach patrol. They had a much larger fire that spilled out of the pit and onto the sand. I don't know if they were kicked off for the fire or for their hippieness and their celebration of the earth vibrations.

Our burgers tonight were straightforward, traditional burgers: just some chuck with garlic salt and pepper, a little melted provolone and seared pancetta on top. Very nice.

A wayward chicken-basil sausage was lost to the coals because Andrea was overzealous in protecting her burgers.

Happy customers, everyone, including the guy who only ate chicken-basil sausages.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

National Burger Month Day 21: Hoisin Beef and Broccoli Burger

I wanted to try doing the rice buns again so I figured another Asian-inspired burger was in the works. We've done Japanese and Korean inspired burgers before. This time we tried Chinese. Sort of. The rice buns were done onigiri yaki style-- I figured that after our sticky experience the last time we used rice, we had better toast the rice this time. I'll give detailed ingredients this time, but will only describe the onigiri yaki process. The rest should be quick and easy.

Stuff for burger:
1/2 lb ground chuck
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
Salt and pepper

Stuff for marinade:
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp dry sherry (Chinese rice wine preferred)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp corn starch
1 tsp canola oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 tsp ginger, grated

Stuff for broccoli:
1 head of broccoli, florets sliced
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp corn starch
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1 tbsp sherry
Some oil for stir frying

Stuff for onigiri yaki:
2 cups short grain rice, steamed
4 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sake
some canola oil

Salt and pepper the ground chuck. Mix into the meat the scallions. This should make about two burgers. In a bowl, mix the marinade ingredients. Marinate the burgers for about 1 hour. While the burgers are marinating, you can prepare your onigiri yaki.

Mix the soy and the sake. Form patties out of the rice. Brush one side lightly with oil and lay it on a preheated heavy skillet (medium temperature). While the oiled side browns, brush some oil on the exposed side of the rice. Then brush some of the soy sauce mixture on top of the rice buns. Once the bottom turns slightly golden, flip the rice buns. Brush some more soy sauce on the now golden top of the rice buns. The bottom should now caramelize. When this happens, flip the burger one more time and wait for that side to caramelize too. And once that side turns brown, you have an onigiri yaki.

As the stir frying takes less than a minute, you can actually start grilling the burgers on medium-high heat for about 4-5 minutes per side. While that goes on, you can stir fry the broccoli. But first, mix the corn starch, sherry and soy sauce. My stir fry tips: The pan should already be very hot-- a lot of Chinese stir frying is really fast. It's all about the high temperature cooking for like a minute. Just toss the broccoli, stir stir stir (with the sauce too), then you're done.

The burgers were pretty good. If I were to do this again, I'd marinate these suckas for a little longer. The onigiri yaki buns were delicious by themselves and I was tempted to just eat them without the burgers. They went well with the broc and burger. Unlike bread though, the rice was pretty damn heavy. The perfectly cooked rice buns hold together fine. But if you dry them out too much (perhaps a result of too hot a pan), they crumble very easily. Good burger. A variation could perhaps be made with black bean sauce instead of hoisin.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

National Burger Month Day 20: Hamburgegger

Many years ago, I used to hang out at my friend Jordi's house in New Brunswick, NJ. In the summers, I would ride my bike over there, we'd watch a bunch of indie movies, and then Jordi would pull out the ShopRite frozen hamburger patties and fix us all some hamburgeggers. I don't remember if they had french fries... those belonged in the Fat Cat sandwiches they sell at the Rutgers University grease trucks, which consisted of two cheeseburgers, lettuce, tomatoes and fries in a roll. But those two things-- the hamburgegger and those fat sandwiches (I personally didn't order the Fat Cat often. My choice was the Fat Elvis, which was gyro, french fries, mozzarella sticks, lettuce, tomatoes, white sauce and hot sauce in a roll)--will forever be imprinted in my head.

So earlier today, my sister reminded me that it's not only National Burger Month, it's also National Egg Month. To celebrate, we synthesized both events. And I pay tribute to the hamburgegger and those fat sandwiches.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

National Burger Month Day 19: Barbecue Pork Burger with Cornbread

Trader Joe's saves the day. We had a burger emergency last night. I was planning to make corn bread from scratch but as I took my baking goods out of the cupboards last night, I discovered that my all-purpose flour and my cornmeal were infested by mealworms! (shock and dismay!) We bake somewhat frequently in the house, so how the mealworms got in there, I don't know. Admittedly, the cornmeal and the all-purpose flour were the only bags of grain in the cupboard not in a glass jar or not in a giant ziploc bag. We ended up trashing most of the contents in our baking cupboard out of gross-out-by-association paranoia and I have resolved to purchase more glass canisters with which to store flour, cornmeal, etc. Unfortunately, this meant that my cornbread plans had to change. I hopped in my car and made a beeline for Trader Joe's. They didn't have cornmeal so my first concession to ready-to-cook boxed mixes happened tonight. TJ's makes a cornbread mix, and it was pretty good. And the baking time was just enough for us to make the rest of the dinner.

BBQ Pork Burger Bunned in Cornbread

I started with a BBQ sauce that was inspired by Elise Bauer's Pulled Pork Sandwich recipe. My plan called for a similar sauce for marinating ground pork.

In rough amounts, for 3 burgers:
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle pepper (canned), minced
2 tsp chipotle chili powder
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp mustard
2/3 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp worcestershire sauce

The burgers themselves are made from ground pork (about 3/4 pounds), with salt and pepper tossed in. After forming them into patties, rub them with the barbecue sauce (and if you want to set some aside to pour onto the burgers after they grill, do so before you rub and marinate). Leave the burgers marinating in the sauce for about 30-45 minutes. We grilled the burgers on a medium-hot grill for about 4 1/2 minutes per side.

The resulting burgers were tasty. Since ground pork isn't as lean as beef, these things were juicier. The barbecue sauce was terrific. The cornbread, while not made from scratch, was also a perfect pairing (of course it would be, this was bbq pork). I loved it and I would have eaten more had I not stuffed myself before dinner with my new addiction, Dark Chocolate Covered Joe-Joes cookies from Trader Joe's. John respectfully abstained from the pork because he is training to be an ascetic.

Said Andrea to her burger, "So sweet, so spicy, so porky."

Monday, May 19, 2008

National Burger Month Day 18: Andrea's Happyoca Strhubarb Breakfast Burger

Several days ago, we were brainstorming about how to bring National Burger Month to breakfast. Plenty of suggestions flew-- sausage, waffles, sweet, savory, whatever. On Sunday, we had a bunch of folks over and this is what we served.

This is Andrea's Happyoca Strhubarb Breakfast Burger. That's a name-by-committee-name, with plenty of input from the breakfasters. In short, it is a "burger" of tapioca pudding with strawberry and rhubarb, topped by kiwi and more strawberry, with a "mayo" of maple syrup-infused whipped mascarpone and cream, bunned in french toast.

Everything was cobbled together on the fly, so we have no detailed ingredients list. But here's a vague rundown. A few ribs of rhubarb were chopped and boiled until soft with a bit of sugar. These are set aside while the tapioca is prepared in a saucepan-- we used both the pearls and the starch to ensure the clumpiness of the "pattie." The tapioca was further enhanced by fresh vanilla bean and cardamom. The set aside rhubarb and some chopped strawberries were then mixed into the pudding, then poured into pattie-molds and refrigerated to set.

While this happyoca business was happening, the french toast was also getting busy. I can give more detailed instructions this time as the french toast action happens at our house fairly frequently. We always start with cinnamon swirl bread.

For 12 pieces of french toast:
8 eggs
1 1/3 cup heavy cream
4 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp vanilla extract
a pinch or two or three of salt

Soak the bread, then fry on a buttered griddle.

Finally, the whipped cream with mascarpone and maple. We just whipped some heavy cream, stirred in a little bit of mascarpone, but not too much as we wanted to keep the stuff fluffy. And then we drizzled about a teaspoon or so of maple syrup. That's it.

As anyone might imagine, the breakfast was delicious. It all came together wonderfully.

And if people don't count this as a real burger, we went out to the Saturn Cafe in the evening and had burgers in quirky Santa Cruz style. So we had an insurance burger for dinner if this breakfast one was too loose a play on burger.

National Burger Month Day 17: Classic Lamb Burger

Saturday night was leftover night. After 16 days of burgers, I had to clear some of my pantry. I guess I could've done more with the burger, but I was hungry and couldn't spend much time thinking of dressing this up more. I had lamb in the fridge, and so inspired by a roast leg of lamb I used to do, I just did the burger in that style. Very simple.

I took minced garlic (lots), garlic salt, pepper, dried rosemary and a few drips of red wine, and rubbed the burger in it. That's it. It was simple and tasty.

And then I turned on the TV (car's broken, I'm gimpy, can't get out of the house), and found that the Food Network had one of their boring Food Network Challenges shows on. Why is everything on the Food Network just about challenges these days? I miss real cooking shows. Anyway, this time they weren't doing just any old challenge. They were doing the Build-a-Better-Burger Challenge. And as if I hadn't gotten enough burger for the month, I just sat there, a rapt viewer of burgers.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

National Burger Month Day 16: Salmon Burger with Hollandaise

I almost had a panic attack tonight due to some unforeseen circumstances that could've kept me from having my burger for the day. Some people know of my current state of gimpiness, hobbling around on crutches. What a bummer too--yesterday was Bike-to-Work Day in most of the SF Bay Area and I wasn't able to bike-to-work because of my gimpiness. Well, today, before I had a chance to do my shopping, my car broke down, leaving me with the scary prospect of not being able to celebrate National Burger Month because of my present immobility. Luckily for me, housemate Andrea decided to bike to the market to get us tonight's ingredients.

So we made salmon burgers. Andrea actually bought salmon steaks, which were fine. Except removing the bones took a little bit of work and I spent the evening with salmon smelling fingertips. So while I was busy pulling pinbones out, Andrea was making the hollandaise sauce. Mmm hollandaise sauce.

The burgers:
1/2 pound of salmon, preferably fillets, cut into cubes
1/4 cup scallions, chopped finely
1 egg
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp parsley, chopped finely
salt and pepper to taste

hollandaise sauce (sorry no recipe-- Andrea is super secretive about this, but I'm sure you can find hollandaise using that wonderful foodie search tool you can find in the sidebar on the right)

Stuff the salmon into a food processor and pulse a couple of times until you have a pink mass, but not a mushy pink mass. You need to see smaller chunks of salmon but not salmon puree. Then mix all the rest of the ingredients in there. Form into patties. Grill the salmon burgers for about 2-3 minutes per side or until brown on each side. We topped with bits of chives.

The result was a delicious burger. Hollandaise and salmon, of course, go together like ice cream and my tummy (or coffee and my head) and this did not disappoint. The butteriness of the hollandaise went very well with the slightly citrusy, slightly oniony burgers. My cat, Winifred, watched us plaintively from a few feet away. But Winifred, we were thinking of you. Onions and cats do not go together safely, unlike delicious hollandaise and salmon.

Friday, May 16, 2008

National Burger Month Day 15: Surf and Turf Burger

I wanted to do something with shrimp without actually making a shrimp burger so I figured making a little surf and turf in a sandwich would be interesting. I remember doing a surf and turf with scallops in a red wine reduction once, and we considered topping the burgers with something similar, but ultimately we turned to one of my favorite tapas.

A couple of weeks ago, a few of us went to a wonderful little place in San Francisco called Esperpento. We ordered some of their gambas al ajillo. While gambas are pretty standard fare as far as tapas go, the ones we ordered then were really good. So tonight I tried to pull off my own version of gambas and found that they were really easy to make.

Gambas al Ajillo:
1/2 lb medium prawns, shelled and cleaned
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tbsp chili pepper flakes
smoked paprika to taste
salt to taste

Heat the oil on medium in a skillet. Once the pan is warm, but not too hot, toss the garlic and pepper flakes into the pan and stir fry, being careful not to burn the garlic. Once the pan is hot, throw the shrimp into the mix, followed by the paprika. I used about 1 1/2 tbsp paprika. Once the shrimps begin to turn pink, after about a minute or two, toss in the parsley. Shrimp gets really stringy and dry when overcooked, so remove the pan from the heat once the shrimp turn pink, but not entirely opaque.

The burger is the standard chuck, pepper and salt affair that we've turned to on many an evening during National Burger Month. Once the burgers are grilled to the desired doneness and are bunned, simply lay a few shrimp over the burgers.

We found that equal proportions shrimp to burger worked the best. Too little shrimp and the burger gets too burgery; we lose the shrimpiness. Too much shrimp and we forget we're celebrating burger month. And now, we'd like to call Shrimp to the podium.

Shrimp: Ahem. The winner of the Best Supporting Ingredient Award for this evening goes to Garlic! Garlic, come on up here and claim you award!
Garlic: Woooooo! Woooohooo!! I can't believe this! (sigh) I'd like to thank pepper for her support. But really, Olive Oil, I couldn't have done it without you. Olive Oil, this is for you. I had a great time working with you! And Shrimp, thank you too for giving me this chance to shine.
Shrimp: No really, you were there for me. You were there for me.
Garlic: They love me! They really, really love me!

Thank you Shrimp. Thank you Garlic. You guys were great.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Welcome Foodie BlogRollers!

I've had a lot of fun clicking around the Foodie BlogRoll and have been losing a lot of work hours just sneaking peeks all over (making sure to hide the Firefox window underneath Excel sheets full of numbers), adding to my kitchen todo lists. So I'm glad to be a part of it.

A note on the burgers:
I don't hope to do just burgers here. It's just that it's National Burger Month and I felt I HAD to celebrate it. I have an irrational love of all things burger. See my halloween costume last year and my iPod case, which I made by myself. Two weeks straight of burgers is a lot of fun, and I have two more weeks of burgers in my head but I can't wait to step out of the burger fold after this month ("thank you" says my workout trainer).

Hooray for burgers!

National Burger Month Day 14: The Jucy Lucy

I can't believe we did 14 days of burgers, straight. They've not all been the classic American hamburger (teriyaki chicken burgers with rice buns?!) so to celebrate the 2 week mark of our National Burger Month observance, we went back to all-American... including the cheese.

Jucy Lucy, Juicy Loosey, J-Luce... I don't know what the original spelling was or who came up with it first. Apparently, this is a burger that calls Minneapolis its home. A recipe for this burger can be found over at A Hamburger Today so I won't reproduce it here. I should one day take a trip to Minneapolis and see what all the hub-bub is about in person.

The Jucy Lucy was a wonder to behold. As mentioned by others who cite the fluid viscosity of the cheese that fills these burgers, only American cheese singles can work. Cheddar would turn into oily chunks but American cheese becomes a beautiful velvety syrup as it steams and bubbles in its envelope of grassfed organic beef. And this brings us to the other important components in the Jucy Lucy. We used the standard chuck but added in some worcestershire sauce and garlic salt, which gave the burgers even more character. If it were gooeyness alone that made a burger and we didn't have the worcester and the garlic salt, this would be a fine burger. But flavor separates the great burgers from the fine burgers. Left to its own flavorful merits, American cheese is sorely lacking, so three cheers for worcester and garlic salt! The goo made the mess and brought the fun. The worcester and garlic sauce pushed us over the top.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

National Burger Month Day 13: Inside-Out Lamb Cheeseburger

After the huge productions that the last few burgers became, tonight's burger was an almost effortless project. At least in appearance, it was the most traditional-looking burger I've had in a while. I made an inside-out lamb cheeseburger, mostly inspired by the Bittman article in the New York Times. This is also a variation of the burger we did on Day 8.

1/3 pounds of ground lamb
1 tsp dried mint flakes
a slice or two of smoked mozzarella

I seasoned the ground lamb with salt, pepper and mint flakes, then formed two patties. Next, I took the two patties and sandwiched the cheese between them, pressing everything together into a mega-pattie of wonder. This was then grilled to my desired doneness, which in this case, was a nice medium-- enough for the cheese to melt, while keeping the moist juiciness of the cute lamb. Baaaa. I think it took all of five minutes to prep and less than ten minutes to cook.

Good burger. Simple burger--one of my favorite burgers, and one that I turn to at least a couple of times a barbecue-season.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

National Burger Month Day 12: Undermining the Tofu Burger

Tonight's burger was the most challenging burger we've made yet. After yesterday's bulgogi burger, I felt the need to leave the beef alone for a little bit. I suggested to the team that perhaps we could try our hand at tofu. But I also think all of us kind of realized how boring a prospect tofu in a burger would be. Personally, I've never met a tofu burger that I truly liked. Even in my days as a closeted carnivorous vegetarian (back when I hid from my friends the fact that I occasionally ate burgers and that I wasn't at all ovo-lacto) I never had a good tofu burger. I think it was Andrea who suggested we put bacon on our tofu burgers. Haha, funny, we thought. But then I remembered that Top Chef recently had an episode about tofu soaked in rendered beef fat. And the chefs who came up with that stuff won that challenge. So we decided that the only tofu burgers that we could possibly do for National Burger Month needed to soak in rendered beef fat, be fried on bacon grease, and be topped by strips of bacon.

And so was born the tofu burger, marinated in rendered beef fat, topped with a thai green curry, soy fried snow peas, and crisp bacon. It was inspired by and adapted from the Top Chef recipe by Dale and Richard.

The burger:
20 oz super-firm tofu, cut into 1 inch chunks
1.5 cups beef fat, rendered
2 tbsp scallions, chopped
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1 tbsp cilantro
2 tbsp green curry sauce
1 tbsp chipotle pepper, minced
5 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp sesame oil
1 egg
1 cup panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

The crust:
2 tbsp coriander
1/2 cup sliced almonds

I rendered the beef fat first. I didn't do the labor intensive boil-the-fat-and-reboil-and-reboil method for rendering. I just simmered it in a pan until I got a bunch of greasy oil. I coated the tofu chunks in this oil and let them be for about half an hour, as I prepped everything else.

Threw the tofu, egg, chipotle pepper, ginger, scallion, cilantro, canola and sesame oils in a food processor and pulsed until the mixture was a smooth slurry. After this, the breadcrumbs were mixed in with the tofu.

Formed the tofu into patties, which were then dragged in a bowl full of the crust mixture. They were then ready to fry. But before this happened, we had to do the bacon, which we fried on a griddle, making sure to leave enough bacon grease to fry the burgers in.

As a side dish, I prepared some snow peas, which I stir fried briefly with some garlic and soy sauce.

Burgers were fried for about 4 minutes per side and laid onto toasted english muffins. Once ready, we spooned some green curry sauce (store bought) onto the burgers and then topped them with a piece of bacon and a pod of snow peas.

Not a beef burger.

The burgers were actually pretty good, though I wouldn't call them a homerun. I wanted more. I wanted the beef to show through the tofu. I wanted to take a bite and realize that this was tofu the way it was meant to be: full of flavor and full of depth. Looking back, I think I should've pulverize the tofu more before marinating it. But really, the burgers were extremely tasty. The green curry was delicious and the coriander lent the burgers a sweet, smoky taste. The snow peas were fragrant and crispy. The real star, and the key ingredient, was the bacon. It went so well with the curry sauce and the curry infused in the burger.

Overall, I think this was a good effort, but not a spectacular burger for National Burger Month. I wanted to be able to say "I can't believe this is tofu." If that were my only goal, then we only had middling results. But my real goal was to undermine the idea of tofu burger. And I think we succeeded in doing this. Go team.

I realized that I would've been much happier as a vegetarian a few years ago if I ate more bacon.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

National Burger Month Day 11: Bulgogi Burger with Kimchi

Kind of exhausted from Andrea's party, the creative part of my brain wasn't really operating at full-strength. We had tons of food leftover, and yet we still had to come up with something for National Burger Month. I was half-tempted to rehash the previous night's burger, which really wasn't a bad idea. I loved those jamaican jerk burgers. But then two things happened. I remembered that really delicious kalbi that Wink had brought to the party, and Sarah left a comment on my Facebook wall saying that I should make a kimchi burger sometime. And everything came together.

I marinated the burger patties (ground chuck, seasoned with salt and pepper) for about half an hour in a bulgogi marinade, then grilled the burgers. They were served on top of a piece of red leaf lettuce, and topped by a generous heap of the pickle of the gods, kimchi.

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp canola oil
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 scallions, finely chopped

These burgers were so good! Andrea was skeptical of the kimchi at first but it was perfect on the bulgogi marinated burger. Of course, Koreans have been eating kimchi and bulgogi for ages so there's no reason why this wouldn't have been delicious. Add one more burger to the to-repeat list.

National Burger Month Day 10: Jamaican Jerk Burgers with Orange-Chipotle Mayonnaise

We had a two-weeks-before-going-away-party last night for Andrea and hoped to get lots of grill action in. Of course, burgers were part of the plan--we've sort of cultivated a reputation for burgering in these parts by now so for sure we couldn't disappoint our guests.

Day 10 on my official National Burger Month calendar lists the Jamaican Jerk Burger from Epicurious. While we haven't been good with keeping the calendar, today was special enough a day to dictate a fancy-pants burger. And really, a burger in a jamaican jerk wet rub sounded just too tantalizing to pass over.

Two Jamaican jerk beef patties and a Jamaican jerk chicken patty for John, who remains involved in his anti-beef burger campaign.

The recipe was easy enough to follow. There was a marinade of soy sauce, oil, scallions, thyme, garlic, and jalapeño peppers. If this were a real Jamaican jerk sauce, I would've used scotch bonnet peppers instead of the jalapeños. But after my last experience with habaneros (close cousin to the scotch bonnets) which involved burning fingers and lips for five days, I decided to go the wimpy route.

The other important component of this burger was the mayonnaise. I used store-bought mayo (no time to make homemade mayo this time, what with the party to prepare for), infused with a couple tablespoons of orange juice and a tablespoon or so of chopped chipotle peppers.

The burgers were marinated in the sauce for about 20 minutes before they were grilled. Buns were coated with the chipotle mayo. Finally, the burgers were topped with some greens and a tomato.

The party was fun. There were a bunch of Aikido people, a bunch of Psychology people, and a few no good troublemakers (my friends). There was meat piled on meat, piled on more meat, and a few vegetables on the side for the lone vegetarians who wished to celebrate National Burger Month anyway (well they celebrated Andrea, really). Highlights included grilled elk, barbecued spare ribs, Korean shortribs (kalbi), lots of mystery mixed drinks, and of course the burgers pictured above.

The burgers were highly satisfying. I'm glad I went jalapeño rather than scotch bonnet because the sauce was spicy without killing our taste buds. The mayo was smoky and sweet. Marinating the burgers in that sauce for 20 minutes kept them extremely tasty and tremendously juicy, which means that we now need to go to the store and buy more napkins.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

National Burger Month Day 9: Tombo Tuna Burger with Ginger Wasabi Mayonnaise

It was fortuitous that I called Andrea when I did because I was stuck at work, on crutches, with no ride home, and she was about to do the grocery shopping for tonight's installment of National Burger Month with John.

We already knew that fish was coming. About a week and half into burger month, we were already starting to moo at passing cars. Our original idea was an ahi tartare burger (grilled, to give it burger cred). Ahi tartare is a dish that seems to have become a throwaway standard at any San Francisco restaurant that describes itself as hip and fashionable-- 10 years ago. Any chef nowadays can pull an ahi tartare off as well as I can put cornflakes in a bowl in the morning. Ahi tartare, as overexposed as it is on restaurant menus even in backwater places like Santa Cruz, California, or even Edison, New Jersey (culinary capital of Edison, New Jersey), is sometimes just right. Ahi tartare has become comfort food.

So we did some research and decided to do an Asian inspired burger. We are in California after all. The sashimi quality ahi was twice the price of tombo (a.k.a., albacore) and since we were grilling these suckas, we just went for the tombo.

The burgers:
1 pound tuna cut in chunks and thrown into the food processor, then pulsed until burgery
1 tsp scallion chopped
1 tsp ginger ground
2 tsp soy sauce
a little pepper

The wasabi mayonnaise:
2 egg yolks
1/2 lime squeezed
1 tsp mustard (regular brown)
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp wasabi powder
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1-2 tsp sesame oil

To top:
avocado, sliced
black and white sesame seeds

We made two batches. One naked, and another dressed in sesame seeds. I prefer the sesame encrusted version. The burgers were seared on a griddle for about 40-45 seconds per side.

The burgers were delicious. The wasabi mayo was perfect-- not too strong, a little sweet, but still had a kick. Overall, the package was satisfying. Were I to do this again, I would add some more soy sauce and perhaps a little lime juice to the burger as the tuna just sucked up everything I mixed in there.

Friday, May 09, 2008

National Burger Month Day 8: Inside-out Cheeseburgers with Port and Onions

The inside-out cheeseburger with port and onions was born out of a desperation to get something done, knowing that a bunch of people were about to come running into the house expecting burgers. For some of them, this would be their first day of participating in National Burger Month observances, so we had to come up with something special, and fast.

We wanted to make tonight the tuna tartare night, but unfortunately, time kept us from going ahead with that plan. After conducting a quick inventory of what was in our fridge, we realized we still had some chuck left in there. I've done inside-out cheeseburgers in the past (see Mark Bittman's story on burgers in the NYTimes... registration required), and we had some muenster cheese, so this would be a quick solution. I also figured we could maybe mix in some port in the burger to give it a little more body. Crippled as I was, with an ailing right foot and gimping around on crutches, Andrea took over the kitchen and mixed some port with the chuck. I just spectated from my perch on the couch.

We also decided that we could meld in some of the onion-burger technique (which I will really carry out once I am able to free myself from the bonds of crutches sometime this month). So we sauteed some sweet onions with the burgers. Little chunks of muenster cheese were inserted inside the patties and since they were muenster, they would surely melt into a nice creamy goo and keep the insides moist.

Overall, the burgers were tasty. The port infusion was discernible but not overpowering, and went well with the sweet onions and the cheese. Since the cheese took up space in the middle, the burgers actually cooked more quickly than usual so they ended up drier. The next time I make an inside-out cheeseburger, I think I need to reduce the cooking time to make up for the reduced density of meat.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

National Burger Month Day 7: Cheeseburger at Crow's Nest

Wow. This was the first disappointment of National Burger Month. I just got back from the procedure they did on my foot at the doctor's and I wasn't in the mood to cook burgers so we decided to take the show on the road. Wednesday is Happy Hour all night at the Crow's Nest. It's not too bad of a place to go to on a Wednesday night. We used to go here all the time to catch the yatchs sail in and we enjoyed the half priced beers and appetizers. Tonight I ordered the standard cheeseburger, medium with fries on the side. The fries were good. The burger, I don't know. I guess we've been spoiling ourselves the past few days with really good, fresh, juicy burgers with top quality meats and the most interesting works. So I don't know if this is a result of having our expectations heightened by six straight days of good food or that the Crow's Nest burgers were just sub par. My guess is that it's a little of both. The burger was dry, I asked for medium. The meat was devoid of flavor and had a really rough unpolished texture. Now burgers are not always polished food, but this was simply and utterly devoid of burgery goodness. If there were an a priori essential burger, this particular specimen only succeeded in being a visual approximation of that essential burger. The substance was lost in translation. I guess we'll just have to make up for this travesty on Day 8.

A bad burger deserves a bad picture. Cellphone camera this time.

The Crow's Nest is a pretty strange place. The crowd is strange, yet mixed-- old folks and young folks, but mostly Santa Cruz folks. It was Santa Cruzy. John ran into a bunch of surf bro bras who wanted to do special handshakes with him. I was having a blast watching people dance the white man shuffle to the acoustic Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin that the house band was playing. The scenery was stellar. Santa Cruz at dusk is really pretty.

But in the end, the burgers were a flop. I would have had a better burger if I went to a fast food place, and those are kind words.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

National Burger Month Day 6: Chicken Teriyaki Rice Burger

After five days of beef, I could feel myself turning into a cow. So despite the fact that the calendar said today was White Manna Burger Day, not-beef would be today's rule. The calendar is quickly becoming less a calendar and more a list of burgers to make.

Today's two alternative options were Japanese inspired. The burgers would be soy-something or teriyaki-something. Since the grocery didn't have a good selection of fresh fish, chicken was the winner. And even before we could even start with the chickens, I felt a light soup would be a good pre-dinner treat.

I made a miso soup with a baby spinach salad and wasabi vinaigrette. We started with a good dashi broth, and some light yellow miso. To this, we added a block of tofu in each bowl, topped with the greens. The wasabi vinaigrette was simple to make: 1.5 teaspoons soy sauce, 1.5 teaspoons wasabi powder, 1.5 teaspoons sugar, 1.5 teaspoons sake and 2 tablespoons of chopped scallions.

The burger was inspired by this recipe.

Ingredients for burgers:
3 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into small bite-sized strips
8 tbsp. soy sauce
4 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. mirin
4 tbsp. sake
Some corn flour

I mixed together the soy sauce, sugar, mirin and sake, marinating the chicken in this for at least half an hour. When it is done, Andrea minced her chicken a little more finely (I didn't, saying I wanted larger chunks). The chicken was then scooped up and formed into little patties, which are then powdered with corn flour on both sides to help give them shape.

Ingredients for buns:
2 cups rice
4 cups water
strips of nori
black sesame seeds

The rice is steamed until soft and sticky. Using plastic wrap, we shaped the rice into little buns. A light sprinkling of black sesame seeds to top the buns gave them a little color and depth. Finally, the buns are wrapped with a piece of nori to keep them from falling apart.

The chicken is sauteed on a griddle for about 8 minutes per side (until a brown crust forms). After flipping the chicken, some of the marinade is poured onto the patties to give them more oomph.

When the chicken burgers are ready, they are topped with some more spinach, maybe some scallions, and a little leftover wasabi vinaigrette from the soup.

So the purists might say that this was not a burger. We did apply the definition of burger a little more loosely. But I do believe these were chicken burgers-- they're certainly more burger than some of the strange recipes I've found out there that took slabs of whatever meat, unchopped, placed in between pieces of bread and called burgers. A tofu burger is not a square of tofu in a hamburger bun, no.

The burgers were really delicious. The teriyaki sauce went very well with the rice buns. Chicken teriyaki and rice are made for each other-- just like me and burger. The only real problem was that the rice buns were a little bit sticky, which made turning doorknobs challenging after eating.

For our next rice-bun experiment, we will try making onigiri yaki (roasted rice balls).