THE CHEESEBURGER

You see all kinds of “burgers” these days. As a teenager, I worked at McDonald’s in 1966. Their menu back then was pretty similar to what In N Out’s menu is today…burgers, fries, sodas, and shakes. That’s was it! The fish sandwich was introduced in 1965.

I love burgers. I could live off of them if need be. But I have always been very vehement as to what goes into my burger. I truly believe that mixing anything into your ground beef makes it either meat loaf or Salisbury steak…but not a burger. Burger accompaniments go on the outside. And with that said, have at it! Honestly, I’m not a fan of adding any fruit (other than tomatoes) or even other protein (other than bacon). Any cheese will do, but sliced American is really the best choice…it melts better and just belongs on a burger.

The last burger I made (the one in the photo) was destined to be a tower of impossibility. In other words, good luck stuffing it into your mouth. This one made for a ridiculous picture…then a knife and fork! But it contains the rudimentary, and some of us say, required condiments: American cheese, sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, dill pickle slices, iceberg lettuce, and a burger sauce…in this case, it was an In N Out dressing clone. Yum! It is also flat grilled with a nice dark brown crust and cooked to medium (there was some pink inside). And, seasoned with Kosher salt and black pepper. That’s an 8 ounce 85/15 patty. Juicy and flavorful, as long as you don’t overcook it. The bun? It’s a home made griddle-browned brioche bun.

That’s my take on the Cheeseburger. K.I.S.S. method all the way!

LOCO MOCO

On the big island of Hawaii in 1949, some high school kids requested this dish from a local roadside diner and named it Loco Moco. “Loco” because one of the kids nickname was Loco (crazy), and “Moco” because it rhymed with Loco, not considering it means “mucous” in Spanish! Regardless of the mental connotation, it is widely considering Hawaii’s favorite diner dish and can be found in many versions at most locally owned roadside diners.

I lived on Oahu in the early 70’s, and this was my favorite version of Loco Moco.

Ingredients:

For the patties:

  • 1 pound of 80/20 ground beef
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

For the gravy:

  • 1/2 cup of diced onions
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 3-4 cups cooked white rice
  • 4 eggs, cooked sunny side up
  • Chopped chives or green onions

Directions:

  • Place the ground beef in a mixing bowl and add 1/2 cup diced onions, 1 tsp Worcestershire, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, salt and pepper. With your hands, everything together completely. Form into 4 (4 ounces) patties, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • Place a saucepan over medium low heat and add 2 tsp canola oil. Add the diced onions and cook, stirring, for about 4-5 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and the minced garlic and stir another 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the stocks and bring to a simmer. Add the soy sauce, onion powder, and garlic powder. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Stir the cornstarch with 2 tbsp cold water in a small bowl then stir into the simmering gravy. Allow to simmer until thickened. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm until ready to use.
  • Cook the ground beef patties in a large skillet until deeply browned on both sides.
  • To serve, place some cooked white rice on a plate. Place a patty on the rice then spoon over the brown gravy. Add a cooked sunny side up egg. Garnish with chopped chives and serve.
  • Sometimes, this plate is served with a small side of macaroni salad.

FRIED MAC AND CHEESE

Never thought I would succumb to this “fair food” type item…but, I thought I would give it a try. Let’s face it, Arancini (fried cheesy risotto balls) have been around for a long time, and this is similar!

The Cheesecake Factory has a great menu that includes a lot of appetizers, and this is one of them.

I opted to adjust the breading from just regular bread crumbs to a mix of panko crumbs and crushed cheese puffs. It was a good move.

They were surprising lighter than expected…just make sure you are able to deep fry them at the right temperature. They really didn’t absorb a lot of oil.

Of course, one of the keys to great tasting Fried Mac and Cheese is the Mac and Cheese itself. My recipe below includes a Mac and Cheese recipe that works really well. Just allow it to cool completely, as in leftover Mac and Cheese, before making them.

Ingredients:

For the Mac and Cheese:

  • 6 ounces of elbow macaroni
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded fontina or mozzarella cheese
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cubed

For the cheese balls:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1 cup Cheetohs cheese puffs
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • Creamy marinara and Ranch dressing for serving
  • Chopped parsley

Directions:

  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  • To a large saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and allow to melt. Add the flour and stir for 1 minute Whisk in the milk and bring to a simmer. Add the cheeses and allow to melt completely, stirring. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the cook pasta and fold together completely. Pour into a flat baking dish, place in the refrigerator, and cool at least 2 hours. If cooling overnight, let cool then cover with plastic wrap.
  • Place the cheese puffs and panko crumbs into a food process and pulse until crumbled completely.
  • For the cold mac and cheese into 2 inch balls, pressing together so they don’t fall apart.
  • Set up a 3 bowl breading station. Place flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne in a bowl. Place eggs and 2 tbsp milk in another and beat well. Place breading mixture into the third. Bread the balls by dusting in the flour, shaking off excess. Drip in the egg wash. Then into the bread, rolling and patting until well coated.
  • Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a fryer or saucepan to 350 degrees. When the oil is hot, fry the balls until golden brown and crispy, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels,
  • To serve, plate some cream marinara sauce on a plate, place 3 balls on the marinara. Serve with Ranch on the side and garnish with chopped parsley.

McDONALD’S SAUSAGE McGRIDDLES

The other day I saw a guy do this on YouTube and just had to give it a try.

They’re easy to make, though require little silicone rings to cook the pancakes and eggs in…at least, to make it uniform. Also, apparently McD’s has figured out how to infuse the little pancakes with maple syrup by using crystallized maple. Substituting a drizzle of real maple syrup when serving does the job.

This recipe for the buttermilk pancakes was enough for about 8 pancakes (4 McGriddles), though we only made 2 McGriddles and saved the batter for tomorrow. Use your favorite ground breakfast sausage but I always recommend Jimmy Dean.

Ingredients:

For the buttermilk pancakes:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted plus more for the griddle and the eggs

For the McGriddles:

  • 3 ounces of ground breakfast sausage, divided into 2 patties
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 slices of American Cheese
  • Real maple syrup

Directions:

  • Make the buttermilk pancake mix by combining the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. In another small bowl, beat together the egg, buttermilk, melted butter, and 1 tbsp maple syrup. Stir the buttermilk mix into the dry ingredients using a fork until well combined. Don’t whisk as a few small lumps is alright.
  • Heat a griddle over medium low heat. When hot, brush the griddle with butter then place the silicone rings. Spoon in about 1 1/2-2 tbsp of pancake batter into each and let cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Remove the ring and flip the pancakes. Cook another 1 minute or so until golden brown. Remove from the griddle and keep warm in the oven on a plate. Repeat with the remaining pancakes.
  • Cook the sausage patties on the same griddle until well browned on both sides. Drain on a paper towel then keep warm while you cook the eggs.
  • Place two silicone rings in a non-stick skillet and add about 1 tsp of butter to the each ring. Crack an egg into each and break the yolk, stirring it a little. Let the egg cook until set then remove the right. Flip the egg for about 20 seconds to finish cooking.
  • To assemble the McGriddles, place one of the pancakes on a plate. Add the sliced cheese, then the cooked sausage patty, then the egg and the top. Drizzle with a little maple syrup and serve immediately.

CRISPY SPICY FRIED CHICKEN SANDWICH

Sure, Crispy Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwiches have been around forever. But the past few years has seen a strange obsession with this fast food icon. The deal is, the Crispy Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich went from a drive-thru sensation to an upscale dining item. They’re everywhere now! And there are hundreds of variations. This one is pretty basic: a boneless chicken thigh marinated in a spicy buttermilk, then dredged in a spicy seasoned flour and deep fried. One of the things I did not do is drench the cooked thigh in hot sauce before putting it on the bun. I think that’s a bit counterintuitive, ie, making your nice crispy chicken thigh soggy, not to mention the soggy bun result. That’s just me, I guess. No matter how you like your crispy spicy fried chicken sandwich, they’re here to stay I think!

Ingredients:

Buttermilk marinade:

  • 1 cup of buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s Louisiana Hot sauce
  • 2 boneless chicken thighs, fat trimmed

Garlic Tarragon Aioli:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • Pinch of black pepper

Seasoned flour:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprtika
  • Canola or peanut oil for frying
  • 2 brioche burger buns
  • mayonnaise
  • 1 cup shredded iceberg
  • 2 slices tomatoes
  • Dill pickle slices

Directions:

  • Mix together the buttermilk with Frank’s hot sauce in a bowl. Add the chicken thighs to the buttermilk and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Heat oil to 350 degrees in a medium saucepan or skillet, at least 2 inches deep.
  • Set up a 2 bowl breading station. One for the buttermilk, one for the seasoned flour. Take a chicken thigh out of the buttermilk and dredge in the seasoned flour. Carefully place the breaded thigh in the oil and fry about 2-3 minutes on one side, then turn and repeat on the other side until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Place on a plate in the oven to keep warm while you cook the other thigh or thighs if making more.
  • To build the sandwich, lightly butter the buns then griddle to a golden brown on a flat griddle.
  • Spread some mayonnaise on the bottom bun then place 3-4 pickle slices. Add a cooked thigh. Top the thigh with shredded lettuce then a tomato slice. Spread the garlic tarragon aioli on the top bun and top the sandwich. Serve immediately.

CRISPY SPICY PORK TENDERLOIN SANDWICH

We’ve seen the Crispy Spicy Chicken Sandwich all over the internet. Every casual chain and fast food restaurant has one…some good, some bad, some just plain bad! Without getting into the myriad reasons why these crispy sandwiches just don’t make it sometimes, let’s get into the pork version.

Simply put, this Crispy Pork Tenderloin Sandwich is much more flavorful and way more juicy than a deep fried, breaded chicken breast. Yes, some of the chicken ones use boneless thighs, saving it from total banality. So, remember “the other white meat”? What happened to that saying from 20 years ago? Well, the “other white meat” is alive and well here in this beautiful little crispy pork sandwich.

You can make it as spicy as you want. I added some Frank’s hot sauce and cayenne to the buttermilk marinade for a little zip. However, if you want it spicier, simply add what seems like an unusual amount of cayenne pepper…that is how the Spicy Chicken version rolls. In my recipe here, I also included a Garlic Dijon Aioli that is also another canvas for adding heat. By the way, it really should be marinated in the buttermilk overnight, so plan ahead.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound section of pork tenderloin, trimmed of excess fat and silver skin
  • 2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp Frank’s hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • Canola oil for frying

For the Garlic Dijon Aioli

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

For the sandwich build:

  • 2 brioche hamburger buns
  • 1 cup finely shredded iceberg
  • Mayonnaise
  • Garlic Dijon aioli
  • Sliced tomatoes

Directions:

  • Slice the tenderloin into 2 medallions. Turn them on end and pound to about 1/4 inch. Mix the buttermilk, Frank’s hot sauce, and cayenne in a bowl large enough to hold the pound tenderloin patties. Place the pork in the bowl and coat with the buttermilk. Cover the bowl with plastic and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Set up a breading station with flour, the egg mixture, and the panko crumbs in 3 slat bowls. Flour the pork lightly shaking off the excess. Then dip in the egg mixture then into the panko crumbs, pressing the breading in a coating thoroughly.
  • In a medium to large skillet, add enough canola oil to give you about 1/2 inch of oil. Heat the oil to 325 degrees. When the oil is hot, fry the breaded tenderloin to golden brown on both sides until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Drain on paper towels.
  • Lightly butter and griddle the buns to golden brown.
  • Spread mayonnaise on the bottom bun. Then place on the pork patty and top it with shredded lettuce then a slice of tomato. Spread the garlic dijon aioli on the top bun and place it on top.

CRISPY CHICKEN BACON CLUB SANDWICH

Around the 1980’s, we had the Monterey Chicken Sandwich (adding Swiss cheese to a grilled chicken sandwich). Now, Spicy Crispy Chicken sandwiches are the rage. We love them. However, not all of us like some of the fire-breathing, super spicy recipes that abound on the internet. Give me a little heat, and that’s it.
And, this is it: a Crispy Chicken Bacon Club Sandwich with a whisper of heat by way of Frank’s Louisiana Hot sauce (thick Buffalo Wing Sauce) in the buttermilk. Wait! Don’t run away thinking you need a deep fryer…you don’t. This chicken breast is made like a chicken schnitzel cutlet, fried yes, but pounded very thin, Panko-breaded, and sautéed in a little oil in a non-stick skillet. Whew…that was a mouthful! And, it is built on a soft sandwich roll with plenty of cool, crispy shredded iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and an easy-to-make garlic parmesan aioli. If any of this sounds good, then read on. It makes 2 sandwiches.

Ingredients:

  • One 12 ounce boneless chicken breast, butterflied in half
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 soft sandwich rolls
  • 2 tbsp buttermilk
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 tbsp Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup Panko crumbs
  • 1/4 tsp granulated laric
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 egg, beaten with 2 tbsp Frank’s Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • Canola oil
  • Garlic Parmesan Aioli (recipe below)
  • 4 slices cooked bacon
  • 4 thin slices Swiss cheese
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Shredded iceberg lettuce

Garlic Parmesan Cream sauce:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • Pinch of Kosher salt

Directions:

  • Place all of the Garlic Parmesan Aioli in a small food processor and process until smooth. Place in a small bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Set up 3 flat bowls for breading. In the first bowl, place 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 tsp granulated garlic, 1/4 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp paprika, and a pinch of Kosher salt and mix well. In the second bowl, place 1 egg beaten with 2 tbsp Frank’s hot sauce, and 2 tbsp buttermilk. In the third bowl, place 1 cup of panko crumbs and 1/4 tsp Kosher salt and mix well.
  • Pound the chicken breast halves to 3/8 inch thick. Dredge each one in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess. Dip in the egg mixture and let the excess drip off. Then coat the breast with the panko crumbs. Place the breasts on a dry plate and get ready to fry them.
  • In a medium skillet, heat about 1/4 inch of canola oil. When the oil has reached 350 degrees, fry the breasts until golden brown on each side and the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Drain on a wire rack over a sheet pan and build the sandwich immediately.
  • To build the sandwich, grill the sandwich rolls until golden brown on a flat griddle.
  • On the bottom bun, spread on some mayonnaise. Add the crispy chicken breast. Top with Swiss cheese if desired. Add cooked bacon then add sliced tomatoes. Add the shredded iceberg. Spread the garlic parmesan aioli on the top bun and place on the sandwich.

The Ten-Ounce Burger

So, why the 10-ounce burger? Well…it promised to be a great food photo opportunity, and it was. I wanted to do a McD’s “Quarter Pounder” on steroids!

The build for something this big is critical, as the patty is so big, a lot of superfluous toppings would make it totally unmanageable from a dining point of view. I wanted to be able to eat it!

I worked at McD’s for a time back in the mid 60’s. I made 1000’s of burgers there. This is the order of ingredients and how to make this thing.

After griddling the buns, nice Brioche buns not too big here, lay both sides on a work surface. You will build only on the top bun…in this order:

  • The top bun
  • A couple squirts of ketchup
  • A couple of squirts of yellow mustard
  • 3 sliced dill pickles
  • A few slivered white onions
  • A slice of American cheese
  • Put nothing on the bottom bun.

After griddling the burger patty, lay a slice of American cheese on it. Now place the patty on the top bun with the cheese. You should now have all the condiments on the upside down top bun and a slice of cheese on both sides of the patty.

Place the bottom bun of the burger. Invert…and voila…a monster McD burger. I did give it a few seconds in the microwave to melt the cheese a bit for the photo. In the restaurants, the cheese melts while the wrapped burger sits in the bag!

Pair with twice fried french fries slathered with a fresh made 1000 Island dressing (recipe below), a nice icy cold Root Beer, and a knife and fork, and you’re ready to go. Yes, I feel ashamed. I did eat it with a knife and fork! And, could only get through about half of it.

The thick, 10-ounce 80/20 burger patty was cooked to about 155F, slightly pink inside. It was salt and peppered on both sides.

After all…today, May 28th, is National Burger Day in the U.S.

McDonald’s French Fries, 1966 Style

In 1966, my first real job was at the McDonald’s in Canoga Park, California. I say THE McDonald’s because there was only one in Canoga Park, not 4 or 5 or 12 like they probably have now. The first duty in which I was “trained” was making French fries. My training consisted of a 30 second introduction to the position, “That’s the fryers, there’s the precooked fries in those baskets, here’s the timer button…when they’re done, dump them in the bin under those lights and sprinkle with salt”. That was about it. My first night at work (a Friday night that was super busy as usual), I got home exhausted, with my arms and hands dotted with hot oil burns up to my elbows! I eventually became an “opener” where I unlocked the store, cleaned the grill and the floor, filtered the fryer oil, and made the pre-cooked French fries. Yes, at that time, McDonald’s not only made their fries from scratch, they were cooked in pure beef tallow, not vegetable oil. Sometime in the mid to late 60’s, they transitioned to frozen French fries. In 1990, they finally succumbed to public (and legal) pressure, and started using vegetable oil! Ah, the good ol’ days…when men were men, women were women, and fried food was cooked the way it was meant to be cooked…in good, old-fashioned beef fat.

McDonald’s doesn’t cook their fries from scratch any longer…In N Out Burger does, but…In N Out does not double fry them! McDonald’s used to…and here’s how to do it like they did. By the way, no beef tallow here. I would probably try using that as well, but am sticking to canola or peanut oil.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh, russett potatoes
  • Canola or peanut oil
  • Sea salt

Directions:

  • If you are not using a home deep fryer, get yourself a dedicated, medium to large heavy sauce pan that will accommodate 2 inches of oil. Place a meat-style or candy thermometer clipped to the edge.
  • Peel the potatoes, leaving about 20% of the peel on them.
  • The potatoes: Cut them any way you prefer. I like making them about 1/2 inch thick. If you want to make them like traditional fish and chips places do, also cut them only about 3 inches long. Keep in mind, if you want thick steak fries, the cooking times will be longer. For this exercise, I also cut some McDonalds style, 1/4 inch.
  • Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl of cold water. Wash them thoroughly for about 30 seconds. Drain using a colander. Do this again until the water no longer turns murky. Removing the starch helps them not stick when frying and turning colors while they are drying.
  • Place the colander on the counter and let the potatoes dry and come to room temperature, about 1 hour. This will help with the final fry, room temp fries won’t bring down the oil temperature as much. Plus, wet food of any kind in a fryer is not good…it will steam the food instead of frying it, and, it will degrade your fryer oil.
  • Pre-heat your fryer oil to 325F. When the oil is hot, add some fries to the oil, don’t crowd them, and cook for 1 3/4 minutes if they are skinny, shoestring style fries (like McDonalds). If they are thicker, 1/2 inch, cook them for 2 1/2 minutes.
  • Lift them out of the oil with a slotted spoon or wire “spider”. Repeat until all of them are cooked. Place them in a colander and let them sit for at least 30 minutes.
  • When its time to eat, heat your fryer oil to 375F. When the oil is hot, add small hands full of fries and cook, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes or until they are slightly crispy and beginning to get golden brown.
  • Lift them out of the oil with a slotted spoon or wire “spider” and place them on a small sheet pan with a cooling rack in a warm oven until all the fries are done. Season with sea salt immediately if desired.
  • And that’s it. They should be a little crispy and golden brown on the outside, tender on the inside. McDonalds did it this way for years. Now, only fine-dining restaurants take the time to do it this way. A true Steak Fritte, for example, should only have fresh, double-fried potato fries. If you keep the oil fresh, filtered, and tightly covered, it’s not as hard as it appears to make these yourself.
  • You can pre-fry them the day before. And probably keep them in the reefer overnight. Just bring to room temperature before cooking, Truthfully, McDonalds, at least where I worked, did not refrigerate the pre-cooked fries, even letting them sit out overnight. Pretty sure food safety laws were different in 1966!
  • Note: Frozen French fries are, indeed, pre-cooked. Usually blanched in water first, then par fried in oil.