Monday, February 15, 2010

A Journey of 1000 Miles Begins with a Single Burger

For whatever reason, one of my life dreams is to open a really good, really fun burger restaurant. The goal is to provide an inexpensive but awesome burger to people. I'd stay open late. I'd have live music. Most importantly, I'd have some seriously kick-ass burgers. I even have the best name for it... Beefy Muchachos! (It's no accident that my logo is an anthropomorphic jalapeno)

Actually... that's just about the only thing I have. I don't have any real cooking expertise (I mean... I'm good in the kitchen, but I certainly wouldn't say I'm any better than the above average hobbyist.) I don't have the capital. I don't have the business sense. I don't have a location. I don't have a menu.

Well... Some of these are long-term issues... The money and location and business sense will be things that may never become easier or more available, but I can be damned sure that if I ever do get those ducks in a row that I'd have the menu and expertise in my pocket.

I made a resolution that once every 2 weeks I'd try a new burger recipe, and I've made the Tofu Muchacha agree to be my test subject.

Oh... I probably should mention that while I've certainly eaten my share of burgers in my time, I've never actually made a burger from scratch before. Ridiculous, I know. Probably even more ridiculous considering my ambitions, but nobody ever told me I was sane.

Last night was the inaugural burger making adventure. (What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day with a possibly disgusting burger and The Wolfman?)

I'd seen a burger on Diner's, Drive-Ins, and Dives (on the Food Network) where this restaurant put the cheese inside the burger, and it oozed out. I loved this idea, and wanted to make my own version of it. Mine was the Inside-Out Bacon Cheeseburger.

My burger mixture included finely chopped onions, salt, pepper, and ground chuck. I cooked some bacon strips, finely chopped them, and then mixed the cooked bacon into the mixture as well. I sliced quarter-inch chunks of cheddar cheese and folded them into the center of my portioned out beef. Each patty was about a quarter-pound of beef. Then onto the griddle they went.

For a condiment/topping I made a quick mix of chopped hot banana peppers and roma tomato (drizzled with a little bit of honey).

They sure looked pretty:

Oh...those are sweet potato fries tossed with olive oil, Frank's Red Hot, salt and pepper.

Aaaand here are the critiques...

The Good:
-- The onions were really, really tasty. They added a great texture and really created a good depth to the flavor of the meat.
-- The relish was super tasty. It was a little over-powered by the burger, but that seemed to be more a function of the proportions of the whole thing.
-- The cheese inside worked really well. It kinda bled out some, but that's okay, because it created a kind of cheesy crust in the places where it exploded.
-- The bacon flavor was really nice. I'll talk more about the bacon in a moment.
-- The flavor of the sweet potato fries was really good. The kick the Frank's Red Hot provided was excellent.

The Bad:
-- Because of how thick the burgers were, and how the cheese on the inside melted pretty readily, it was hard to tell when the burgers were done completely. I ended up under-cooking them on the griddle (even though the outside was perfect). I ended up having to microwave them, which bummed me out.
-- The bacon texture didn't come through as much as I'd have liked. It's possible that in order for the texture to stand out enough, I'd have to pre-cook the bacon a lot more to make it super crispy beforehand... but I'm not sure how that'd work in regards to not overcooking it within the beef.
-- The burger was too thick in general. I watched that burger episode again on the Food Network, and I kinda see that those folks make 2 thin burgers, place the cheese in the middle, and then seal the edges. I'll try that the next time for sure.
-- As I mentioned, the relish was a little over-powered. I think that can be fixed by making the burger thinner. We'll see...
-- The bun. It was just a generic "honey" burger bun. I think it might have been better with sesame or poppyseed. Something a little more dynamic.

Overall I think we're looking at a B- for the first effort, which really isn't all that bad. If we're snowed in tonight, which I think we will be, I'm going to try a couple new things (this time with ground turkey...because that's what we have.) The idea of the burger still really appeals to me, but the execution needs work.

Oh... lastly... The sweet potato fries were super tasty, but I wasn't able to bake them and make them crispy on the outside. Does anyone know how to avoid frying them, but still getting them crispy on the outside?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

When the Dumbasses go Marching In

Okay... So the Saints won the Super Bowl. It's pretty much the best thing that's happened to me in regards to sports in well... just about ever. That and the Reds winning the 'Series in '90. That's not what I'm blogging about tonight, though.

So here I am at 11 at night, sitting on the couch, enjoying the post-Super Bowl glow for the first time in my life, and what comes next?


I jump a little. I turn and look through the windows at the very top of the front door. I can see the screen door slightly opening and closing. Look... call me a pussy, but any time there's a loud banging on the door at an odd hour, it makes me nervous. I've seen too many episodes of Criminal Minds, maybe, because I'm not too keen on home invasions and whatnot. Anyway, I don't get up right away. I figure if I don't answer, they'll go away.

They do not.


So now, I'm irritated and also vaguely terrified, because while I know SOMEONE is there, I have no idea WHO since I can't see them through the door.

I get up and walk around the couch to the door. I peek out the windows at the top, when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but 3 pre-teen dumb-asses with snow shovels.

My fear assuaged completely, and my ire raised more than anything, I unlock the door and the following exchange unfolds:

Them: Can we shovel your driveway for twenty dollars?

Me: Guys, what are you doing? It's eleven o'clock at night.

Them: No it isn't.

Me: Um... yeah it is. You've gotta go.

Them: It's eleven?

Me: Yeah. It's time for you to go.

Them: On the dot?

Me: (Pause) (Pause)... Does it matter?

Them: Yeah

Me: No. You have to go now. Go on.

Them: (As they walk away) We're just trying to make some money dude. Damn

Me: (Closing Door)

At this point I'm just completely blown away, but the next thing that crosses my mind is that they were making a direct line for my car, and I really start hoping they leave it alone. I still haven't been out there, so it's very possible that my car has been ransacked and the tires have been slashed.

I take some comfort in the knowledge that these 3 are probably too stupid to put two and two together and figure out that the car in the driveway is connected to the dude in the house.

I'm going to end the story there. Sometimes the rant writes itself.