Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer means chocolate ice cream with chocolate chunks and mint chocolate swirl

Damn. It's summertime already and it's time to break out the ice cream maker. In my two year relationship with my ice cream maker, I haven't ever made a non-fruit based ice cream. I've done strawberry and blueberry variations (strawberry cardamom is dynamite) and i've done peach and apricot ice creams (apricot ginger!). And I've done a pretty good mojito ice cream. That was pretty much like making a cocktail, but it was mostly fruit. And I can't believe I haven't ever done chocolate. I think mostly it was my fear of failing at the most basic of ice creams that kept me from making chocolate. Man, I love chocolate.

So this is a chocolate ice cream with chocolate chunks and a mint chocolate swirl. The recipe is a pretty basic ice cream recipe. I took a cue from Alton Brown's recipe-- my experience with his work has been pretty good. I think his secret is just that he keeps everything no nonsense. In his version, he uses a mix of half and half and heavy cream. I skipped the heavy cream on my take (not because I think it's too heavy, I do... but because I was absent-minded and forgot about it).

summer summer summer time!

I'm not going to reprint Brown's recipe here. Just follow his, which I think is an excellent chocolate ice cream recipe. I will say that I used really good quality cocoa. In this case, it was Scharffenberger unsweetened cocoa. I also used pretty good chocolate for my chunk mix-- a 71% Valrhona.

For the swirl part of this ice cream, I took two tablespoons of dark chocolate spread (kind of like Nutella without the hazelnut) and two teaspoons of mint extract and microwaved it for 15 seconds, mixing right after.

Right when your ice cream is almost all set (about 20 minutes into churning in the ice cream maker), toss in about 1/4 cup of rough chopped chocolate and drizzle in the mint chocolate swirl. Try to get the drizzling into the center of the mix. I miscalculated a little bit and started throwing the extra stuff into the ice cream maker before the ice cream was consistently frozen enough. Once you disturb the mix with foreign objects like chocolate bits, the temperature of the custard rises and the ice cream starts to melt. I had to quickly finish my additions or ruin the whole bunch. Unfortunately, I didn't get enough of my mint chocolate swirl in there. Perhaps next time I'll try mixing the chocolate-mint sauce first, and then toss in the solid ingredients. Next time, next time...

But the final result was delicious. I'm about to take it to a barbecue.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Gifts: The Bacon Press and the Sloppy Joe

A little late with this blog. A little late with everything.

Last weekend was a good old time. It was graduation weekend and several of my friends came back to Santa Cruz to a) graduate, or b) celebrate with people who graduated. There were plenty of parties to go to. One of which featured the world premiere of Lindsey and my tribute to Lady Gaga at the karaoke at Coasters. That one was dedicated to our dear friend Becky, who walked the next day.


I also ran into Jim and Jessica at Jessica's reading for A New Cadence Poetry Series, which Jim facilitates. Jessica didn't read poetry. She read one of her excellent stories because this was the first installment of A New Cadence Poetry Series's A New Cadence Poetry Series Summer of Fiction. Later on, during the weekend, I met up with them at their place because our dear friend Alexis was back in town for Chris's graduation. They also gave me this:

It's a bacon press. I never knew these existed. The bacon press is a hefty piece of cast iron, with a wooden handle. Apparently, they're supposed to be placed on top of bacon on a skillet so that the bacon doesn't shrivel up while it fries. Jessica said they found it at a thrift store and thought of me when they bought it. Thanks, Jim and Jessica! Once I clean the rust up, it will be put to good use, helping me enjoy my bacon. Jim also suggested that perhaps I should start a publishing company called Bacon Press, and this can be my imprint.

And one more gift. I had a slow start to my Saturday. Had a late breakfast at 11:30. It wasn't that extravagant, so by 5PM I was pretty darn hungry. Hopped in my car and drove to my new favorite burger place in Santa Cruz, burger. Since burger. has opened, they've gotten better and better. Last night I found out that their beer license was granted and their taps are on and they have a pretty good selection of beers on tap. I predict that this place will be my favorite place this summer. And they have a few more things in store that have yet to come online-- a jukebox, movie nights, games... How exciting. Can it be that for the first time in forever, a restaurant will actually survive on the corner of Mission and Bay?

So I was sitting at the bar, having my usual Dude Burger (bacon, cheese and avocado), with garlic fries and a mint chocolate chip milkshake, when the guy behind the bar approaches and sets a plate in front of me. "I want you to try this," he said. "It's a sloppy joe."

Do they know the way to my heart or what?

Already I was kind of full from the burger and garlic fries extravaganza in front of me, but the sloppy joe was a new menu item and I had to give it a taste. I haven't had a sloppy joe since my time at P.S. 152 in Woodside, Queens. I remember that it was kind of a comfort food. Burger.'s sloppy joe was zesty. I think I tasted a little roasted red bell pepper in there, so it wasn't just a mess of meat in tomato sauce. If I hadn't already eaten 1/3 pounds of grass fed beef from Humboldt County, I would've scarfed the sloppy joe down and licked the plate. Oh man, that was good.

I then proceeded to walk around for the next four hours in food coma bliss.

Like whoah. What a great week for gifts.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

National Doughnut Day 2010

Last Friday, 4 June was National Doughnut Day. Apparently, it's been practiced since the 1930s. It was started by the Salvation Army to honor a bunch of people who sent some donuts to American soldiers in World War I. And according to this article, some Canadians are envious of this American holiday.

To be honest, I was unaware of it (!!) when I woke up in the morning. But I did go to the Ferrel's Donuts for a little pre-work snack. They make a pretty good chocolate old fashioned and a pretty good glazed buttermilk.

That evening, spurred on by newly acquired knowledge of National Doughnut Day, I got a bunch of people together for some deep fried dough. This is the third year I celebrated NDD. In 2008, I made two kinds of beignets: one from scratch, and another from a Cafe du Monde mix. In 2009, Bettina made doughnuts using her grandmother's recipe, and I made some potato donuts from the Joy of Cooking. This year, I decided to go back to the beignets.

Beignets with hearts

After having two Ferrel's donuts in the morning and a bunch of beignets in the evening, I needed to go for a long bike ride on Saturday.

This was the first half of my bike ride. And then my phone ran out of batteries, so the GPS couldn't track the rest of the ride. We went up about 50-100 more feet in altitude, and about 2 hours longer in time.

Here's an approximate map of our route (taken from an earlier ride).

View Wilder Loop in a larger map

Of course, all of that work went down the drain after doing a little drinky drinky pre-Pride celebration later that evening at the 529 Madhouse. Oh well.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

National Burger Month 05/31/2010: Sourdough Grilled Cheese Sandwich Burger with Bacon and Tomato

Yes. It is the final day of National Burger Month. Once again, I cannot wait to not have to come up with a burger-like thingie every night, after having eaten burgers or burger-like thingies for much of the month. Oh, but we had some good times. I liked breaking out the classics again, like the Juicy Lucy. And I liked playing dress-up with food that would otherwise not be in burger form, pretending to be burgers for an evening.... Steamed halibut burger, I shall miss you dearly. Spam Musubi burger, au revoir. As Julio Iglesias once sang, "To all the grills I've loved before... they travel in and out my door..."

I wanted to finish out the month with something kind of traditional, but with a twist. My favorite burger blog, A Hamburger Today, first published their Hamburger Fatty Melt a couple of years ago. Their version was just two grilled cheese sandwiches sandwiching a burger patty. They stuck it pretty traditional: white bread, Kraft singles and a burger. They have since updated their creation with the introduction of the Bacon Burger Fatty Melt. That's a nice burger. The Bacon Fatty Melt is a tribute to excess. I think they went with multiple layers there. They stack as follows:
  • Bacon-stuffed grilled cheese sandwich as bun top
  • Cheese
  • Bacon
  • Four-ounce beef patty
  • Bacon-stuffed grilled cheese sandwich as interstitial bun (a nod to the Big Mac)
  • Bacon
  • Cheeese
  • Four-ounce beef patty
  • Bacon-stuffed grilled cheese sandwich as bun bottom
Nice. But not really my style. I went with a little more subtlety on my version.

My stack goes:
  • Sourdough grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar cheese, mayo and tomato
  • Four-ounce beef patty with 1/2 tsp minced shallot, salt, pepper, and a few drops of Tabasco
  • Sourdough grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar cheese

It's not that I have something against Kraft singles. I find them useful for specific applications. And I'm not a food snob since I am not averse to white bread. But I think sourdough went so well with good extra sharp New York Cheddar. And they do make a good sourdough here in the SF Bay Area. The burger itself, with the shallot (inspired by the steak tartare burger), was so fragrant, so moist. I also cut rounds out of grilled cheese sandwiches so the bread to burger ration wasn't wack.

So there it was. Oh yes, I used mayo inside the grilled cheese. Some people are dogmatic about grilled cheese sandwiches. But this burger isn't about burger dogma. None of this month was, so I think changing up the grilled cheese part of the puzzle was apt. I think that tossing a slice of tomato and spreading some mayo on at least one of the pieces of bread makes the grilled cheese sandwich so much creamier and fuller.

This was definitely one of the highlights of the month. I think it could've been the best burger I made all month. It was simple. It wasn't too fancy. And it was comfort food on top of comfort food (literally). The resulting sandwich was so juicy, so tasty. I sat there, post-burger, thinking that I couldn't have ended burger month better.

K. I'm done with this month. I'm Audi 5000.

National Burger Month 05/30/2010: Sirloin Tartare Burger

Sirloin tartare burger. Anchovy is key.

Back in the kitchen again. I can't keep on eating out for my burgers, and I really need to close out National Burger Month with some that I cook at home.

A few days ago, I remarked that I love it when Mark Bittman does his thing with burgers. I am a Bittman fan, and I am trying to cook every single thing in his awesome, awesome work, How to Cook Everything, which I feel is the contemporary equivalent to Irma Rombauer, Marion Becker and Ethan Becker's Joy of Cooking. It is the cookbook to own if you need to own a single cookbook.

In a recent New York Times piece, Bittman writes his version of the steak tartare, in burger form. My burger tonight is a faithful recreation of Bittman's recipe.

I used grassfed sirloin for my burger. I think the best part of this was the anchovy. The anchovy gave the steak tartare burger so much more dimension. The capers were a nice touch, and the medium boiled egg to garnish was also okay. But the anchovy pushed this burger from good to superb. I cooked my burger to medium, but I kind of wish I cooked it medium rare so I could appreciate the quality beef even more.

Also, from now on minced shallot shall replace my traditional grated onion whenever I have this option. The shallot made the burger so much more fragrant.

Oh yes.

National Burger Month 05/29/2010: Hubert Keller's Burger Bar... or let's ghetto-ize the coloreds and people with babies in the back corner of the room, where they can sit next to the kitchen entrance, in dim lighting, so they cannot take nice pictures of their burgers for their food blogs.

Thanks to Leslie who offered to take me to a burger place in return for my transporting her to the airport. What a way to kick of the final three days of National Burger Month. Contrary to the seemingly negative air of my blog post title, Keller's Burger Bar, on the sixth floor of Macy's Union Square, was actually a pleasant place to be. They had a wonderful view of Union Square, assuming you are not ghetto-ized into a corner. And while I did feel like I was shoved into the back corner of the restaurant with what seemed (and perhaps it was just coincidence) like the other people of color, or people with babies who could potentially be rowdy, we did have our own personal TV monitors, so we could watch the unfortunate beginning of the Los Angeles Lakers Western Conference Final game, in which they eliminated the Suns. Might as well have watched the Chicago-Philly NHL Finals game. I should've listened to Leslie, who suggested I order a kobe beef burger so I could take my aggressions out on Kobe Bryant via the kobe beef.

The burgers were actually delicious. I had the American Classic Cheeseburger, while Leslie ordered the Peppercorn burger. I think hers was better because it was slightly more flavorful. To be fair, the American Classic Cheeseburger was a good burger. It was perfectly cooked medium. The meat was juicy and delicious. The greens were fresh, and the cheddar was cheddar. But it would've been just okay if it weren't for the truffle sauce I ordered extra as a side, with which I doused the sandwich. The truffle sauce was perfectly salty, perfectly earthy and gave my otherwise just okay burger a strong anchor and kicked the burger up to good.

American Classic Cheeseburger, cracked wide open

In hindsight, perhaps I would've better been served by ordering Hubert's Favorite buffalo burger.

Leslie's Peppercorn burger was delicious. It was nicely crusted with red, black and white peppercorns, and like the Classic American was cooked to a pretty medium. On the side was a little cup of Keller's mustard spiced sauce. I think compared to the Classic American burger, which tastes quite like a classic American burger, this Peppercorn burger was a little more exciting. Without getting too gimmicky, the burger offered something more than the basic burger. The mustard sauce was piquant but not overwhelming. This was a very good burger.

Peppercorn Burger at Keller's Burger Bar

We skipped the cute little dessert burgers because I was beginning to feel like that Monty Python skit with the big eater.

National Burger Month 05/28/2010: burger. crawfish.

I knew that this evening I was going to meet with Aileen and Suebee again. This time, we wanted to go to Boiling Crab. Apparently, Ria played Boiling Crab up so much for Suebee that we definitely had to go while she was in town. So good to catch up.

So knowing that I was going to do some crawfish extravaganza de amor that evening, I went ahead and checked out how burger. was for lunch. If you remember, I went to this place before and really, truly liked their burgers. It's the real deal and I have since updated my Yelp review and said they have the best burgers in Santa Cruz. On this day I had their special of the day, the Don Ho. The Don Ho was three sliders/mini-burgers over fries (your choice of sweet potato or regular potato), with pineapple and a "Hawaiian" aioli. The sauce and the pineapple made the burger pop with flavor. But the problem with cooking sliders is that cooks don't always adjust the fry time to accommodate the lower meat content. I know-- it's a challenge. I've tried. I've been to plenty of places that say they have sliders. And it' okay, it's forgiveable that most sliders I eat are dry. The only places I know that have successfully made sliders to my liking (which means, small and juicy) are the Red in Santa Cruz, and White Castle's. The Red cooks em to perfection, medium. White Castle's is sort of steamed on the griddle. So unless burger. fixes their slider timing, stick to their regular burgers, which are excellent.

The other highlight of my lunch at burger. was the company I involuntarily had. I sat down on the shared long bench next to these two UCSC undergrads. I love UCSC undergrads. They remind me of a time when I once looked upon the world with a twinkle of optimism in my eyes. Their unbridled idealism makes me feel warm and fuzzy, as I do when I look at a cute welsh corgi puppy. But this day, I sat next to someone who was recounting to her friend all the drama in one of the ethnic student associations on campus. I mean I didn't want to listen, but she wasn't all hush hush about all the gossip, so I was an involuntary listener. And I listen well. My friends like to talk to me because I listen well, so I did my best this time around. Apparently, there are four people involved here. The storyteller, Minami, Hikari and James. James is in Tokyo now. I think Minami is going out with James. Storyteller was skyping with James. Hikari comes in and says "James, I'm sorry I was hating on you. I think you're okay guy." Hikari leaves, and James tells Minami "I knew Hikari hated me!" So storyteller was all up in arms about how Minami might be all plastic because how can she be hating on somebody and coming to her for advice about her own relationship with the guy she hates when she knows that the storyteller is in between everybody? Anyway, it's good that she's the kind of person she is, to be able to navigate the rocky communications between Minami, Hikari and James.

That evening, we had four pounds of crawfish and two dungeness crabs between four people at Boiling Crab in San Jose. The wait was three hours, but it was well worth it. Thank goodness for the Target across the parking lot, for us to waste time in. My fingers smelled like crawfish well into the next day. I guess we could've gone to Crawdaddy a few miles away (and only 30 minutes wait), but the Whole Shabang at Boiling Crab is it. Plus, the servers had cool piercings.

This is the "before" shot. I would post an "after" shot but the after just looks like a pile of empty crawfish shells.

National Burger Month 05/27/2010: Burgertime

I have quite a few days to catch up on here... I've been slacking on my blogging, but definitely not on my burgers. The last week of May brought a few more drops of rain (perhaps Spring's last hurrah?) and a flurry of social activity. Alas, on a couple of days, nary a burger was consumed by me.

Thursday the 27th was one of them, making it two days in a row that no burgers were eaten by me. Wednesday night, we stopped at a sukiyaki/shabu shabu place in Japantown in SF called Shabusen. I'm typically wary of shabu shabu places because even though I love a good hot pot, there are too many bad hot pot places. We were split on whether to go to Mums Home of Shabu Shabu or this place. In the end, we chose Shabusen because despite Mums looking trendier and cooler, at least externally, Shabusen had sukiyaki, which I really do love. Shabusen's sukiyaki wasn't bad. I was confused by the rules they had: 90 minutes to eat an all-you-can eat dinner; if one person around the table ordered the all-you-can eat, then everybody has to order all-you-can-eat; you must address the person next to you as brougham; no sharing and no wasting food (I made one of these rules up... guess). But we finally figured out that we didn't have to order the all-you-can-eat because the regular dinner was all we could eat anyway. The scallops were fresh and delicious, and the meat was good. It was a bit pricy though.

No real burger content on the 27th. But there was this:

It's burgertime!

Thanks to the Santosi for my burgertimer. All the rest of the burgers for burgermonth were timed with the burgertimer.