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).

Monday, May 05, 2008

National Burger Month Day 5: Cinco de Mayo Burger

As weird as it is for a couple of non-Mexicans to put together a bunch of stuff that some American magazine calls Mexican in order to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, we went ahead and did so anyway-- especially since the source of this great idea was Good Housekeeping Better Homes and Gardens magazine, the ultimate arbiter of culture. (I have this picture in my mind of the tourguide at the Alamo from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, talking about tor-tee-yas) At least we didn't call our stuff "Mexican ketchup" as Good Housekeeping did theirs. We actually didn't use their recipe, instead improvising for most of the way.

Formula: Burger + Salsa + Tequila = Fun

A pound of ground chuck
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon tequila

1 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped avocado
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon minced jalapeño
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons tequila (or to taste)

Cazadores Reposado

Cinco de Mayo Burgers!!!!

I had my burger untouched by cheese. Andrea had hers with a soft, white cheese that she melted on the burger two minutes before it was done.

At first bite, I wasn't quite sure what to make of this concoction. The burger had a smoky, chili-pepper taste and had a pretty nice kick. The salsa was great. The Cazadores had a very clean taste so it didn't overpower the other tastes in the salsa. The salsa was delicious and I wouldn't mind having it again, even without the burger. In the end, after I got through the little cognitive puzzle of putting together tequila, salsa and burger, I realized I had a winner in hand (and mouth). The burger was a bundle of complex goodness.

"Meat-related article"


Scout sent me this link because it is a "meat-related article" on Wikipedia. She suggests that more meat-related stubs on Wikipedia need help (particularly from me). I would probably not mind taking care of meat-related stubs, but I have to ask why they are meat-related stubs in the first place. Who turned all the meat-related wholes into meat-related stubs?

SPAM Rice Burgers?

My friend Akiko told me about a restaurant in Japan called Freshness Burger. They apparently have SPAM burgers on rice buns! This is great. I was thinking of ways to make buns out of rice for certain National Burger Month endeavors and this confirms that it is indeed possible to make a rice bun.

But take note of the details! Not only does the Freshness Burger SPAM Rice Burger feature genuine SPAM, it also has a fried egg! Oh how wonderful.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

National Burger Month Day 4: The Cap-razy Burger

The original schedule called for Town Burgers today, but we already had them on Friday so this morning, I suggested that a burger made like a caprese salad would be delicious. Andrea took the idea and ran away with it. We had some leftover pesto and a few fixings for a traditional caprese salad so the burgers tonight practically made themselves.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Ground Chuck
Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella

We took about a pound of ground chuck and mixed in about one and a half teaspoons of pesto, some salt and a little pepper. The patties were grilled the way we like them-- medium-high heat, about four minutes on each side, for medium done-ness. A few slices of fresh mozzarella were layed on the burgers after they were flipped.

The buns were brushed with a little extra virgin olive oil and balsamico and toasted on the grill. Burgers were topped with a large basil leaf and a slice of beefsteak tomato.

This was a wonderful burger. The burger itself was a little garlicky, thanks to the pesto mixed into the chuck. The mozzarella wasn't too heavy, and the tomato and basil were delicious. I was skeptical of the balsamic vinegar in the sandwich, but in the end, it was perfect. it gave the whole package just the right kind of kick. Good burger. I'll have to make this one again.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

National Burger Month Day 3: Pimento Cheese Burger

First we slather these suckas with some cheese pimento spread.

Found it here:

Ingredients for the pimento cheese:
24 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 (4 ounce) jar diced pimentos, drained
1 teaspoon dried, rubbed sage
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 tablespoons scallions, chopped
Pinch of sugar (or more to taste)
1/3 cup mayonnaise

I didn't have any scallions but substituted a sweet maui onion in their place. I also didn't have a 4 oz. jar of pimentos, relying instead on a 2 oz. jar. I just chucked the whole mess in a food processor and I processed.

The burger was your basic chuck, salt and pepper affair, grilled for four minutes on each side.

And then we lay the burgers on.

Overall, these cheese pimento burgers represented a refreshing change from our condiment-free burgers of the two previous nights. The cheese spread was creamy, a bit slippery even. We had to take care not to let the burgers fly out as we took our bites. I think in the future I would use a sharp cheese rather than an extra-sharp. And I might have liked more pimentos, since my 2 oz. jar was insufficient to infuse the yellow goodness with more heat. But I can't really complain. The burger was good, though not phenomenal.

National Burger Month Day 2: A Variation on the Town Burger

I was supposed to do the Ultimate Burger today, but I didn't have any sirloin handy. So I mixed up my calendar a bit and did the Town Burger. This recipe is a variation on a recipe found at Town, a restaurant in the Chambers Hotel in New York. In the end, this was a big bastardization of burgers. I didn't use prepackaged patties, opting instead for the James Beard burgers I had prepared the day before. And I grilled them, rather than pan frying them over olive oil. I don't think these are the burgers that chef Geoffrey Zakarian envisioned, but it was good enough.

Found the recipe here:

1 to 2 tbsp olive oil (to season grill or skillet)
4 8-ounce prepackaged organic prime ground beef patties
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp salted butter
1 tbsp chopped parsley
4 english muffins, preferably Wolferman's
4 thick slices of beefsteak tomato

It's really not much more remarkable than the previous day's burger (perhaps because I used the same stuff). But the added dimension brought by topping the burger with a dab of salted butter and chopped parsley did make the overall work richer in taste. I wouldn't use english muffins again though. They ended up rather soggy, despite pairing nicely with the butter.

More to come later: Day 3 of National Burger Month.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

National Burger Month Day 1: James Beard's Favorite Burger

I went home for lunch today and prepped my grill. I also got my hands greasy, forming meat into patties. And thus starts my annual observance of National Burger Month.

Like a dragon at rest, the grill lies, ready to awaken and unleash its fire.

It just needs to be started.

James Beard is sometimes called the "Father of American Gastronomy." This is his favorite burger.

More information here

Ingredients are:
2 pounds ground beef
3 tablespoons finely grated onion
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns, toasted.

Meat is on the grill.

Others lie in wait, hopeful for even the smallest nibble. Alas, they do not know that they are out of luck.

And then come the buns.

The burger.

It was the purest essence of burger.

The two most notable parts of this burger were the onion and the cream. The taste of onion was subtle-- the burger had an unmistakably onion flavor, but because the onion was finely grated, I got the sense that the onion was just lingering around, as if disembodied into a vaporous presence. The cream lent the whole burger a velvety texture. This was a successful burger-- one that did not need condiments to dress it up. No ketchup, mustard and cheese were necessary to make it exciting.

Tune in tomorrow for Day 2.