BIG KAHUNA BURGER

“I hear they got some tasty burgers!”

So said Jules Winnfield (Samuel Jackson’s character) from Pulp Fiction. Full disclaimer: I’m just guessing what is in that Big Kahuna Burger from watching the movie dozens of times. Truth be told, there is no Big Kahuna Burger, it’s a fictional L.A. Hawaiian burger joint dreamed up by Quentin Tarantino and actually mentioned in a couple of this movies (Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs). Also, if you research “Hawaiian Burger”, you’ll find that it has grilled pineapple and teriyaki sauce along with the ketchup and mayo seen in the movie. Not gonna happen here! No pineapple, no teriyaki sauce on my Big Kahuna Burger! This one is a double smash cheeseburger with ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise.

Here’s a recipe for 2 of my version of The Big Kahuna Burger from Pulp Fiction. The most basic of basic burger.

The fries are hand cut (3/8 inch) Russet potatoes. Par-boiled by placing in a saucepan of cold water, then bringing to a boil and cooking for 3 minutes. Drain thoroughly and place in the refrigerator to cool. Dry the fries completely. Then deep fry at 350 degrees for about 3 1/2 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound ground beef, divided into 4 (2 oz) balls
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 slices of American cheese
  • Mayonnaise
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • 2 small hamburger buns
  • Unsalted butter

Directions:

  • Heat a cast-iron griddle over medium high heat. Lightly butter both sides of the buns and lace on the griddle, letting them get golden brown. Remove to a cutting board. Spread mayonnaise on the bottom bun, mustard on the top bun.
  • After forming your ground beef into 4 (2 oz) balls, place on the griddle over medium high heat. Add a little canola oil. Place the ground beef balls on the griddle and smash with a sturdy spatula or meat press. Yes, we’re making smash burgers here.
  • Let them cook until you see some fat appearing on the surface, about 2 minutes. Then using that sturdy spatula, scrape the burger off the griddle and flip, allowing it to finish cooking, another minute. Add the sliced cheese to each slice then pile one patty on top of the other, cover with a large pan lid, and let the cheese melt for about 30 seconds.
  • Place each double stack on the buns, add ketchup to the top of the cheese, and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

THE CUBAN SANDWICH

When I set out to make a Cubano, the ubiquitous Cuban sandwich, I hesitated making my own Cuban bread. Well, I’m glad I decided to go ahead and plunge into bread-making.

I’m not a baker and haven’t had much luck baking in the past. As the saying goes, cooking is an art…baking is a science. And even though I alway tried to strictly adhere to the recipes…you know, precise measuring, temperatures, and baking times. I just didn’t have much luck.

Today, I went ahead with baking my own Cuban bread since I have never been able to find any in our area (Central California). I am happy to say that the bread turned out incredible! It was golden brown crusty on the outside and moist and fluffy on the inside. And provided the perfect vehicle for my Cuban sandwich.

Yes, you could just as well use a store-bought, crusty sandwich roll…but it wouldn’t be the same. I will include the Cuban bread recipe I used at the end. By the way…I did not have to knead it as I used my Kitchenaide mixer for everything. Please be aware that making the starter the day before is essential. In other words, if you decided to bake Cuban bread today, forget it unless you have made the starter the day before.

Ingredients:

For the Cuban sandwich:

  • One loaf of Cuban bread or Cuban bread rolls
  • Unsalted butter
  • Mayonnaise
  • Yellow mustard
  • Sliced deli ham
  • Roasted or pulled pork
  • Sliced dill pickles
  • Sliced Swiss cheese

For the Cuban bread starter:

  • 1/2 cup warm water (115 degrees)
  • 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup flour

For the Cuban bread dough:

  • 1 package attive dry yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water (115 degrees)
  • Starter from the day before
  • 3 tbsp lard or vegetable shortening, softened
  • 2 tsp fine sea salt
  • About 3 cups of flour
  • Water to spray the loaves

Directions:

For the starter:

  • Mix all the starter ingredients in a small bowl and place overnight in the refrigerator.

For the Cuban sandwich:

  • Cut the ends off the bread loaf or bread rolls. If using a loaf, cut it in half. Slice it across the middle.
  • If you don’t have a panini press (I do not), use a large flat cast-iron griddle. Heat the griddle on medium.
  • Lightly butter the cut side of the bread and place on the griddle to let it brown. Remove from the griddle.
  • Place the ham slices on the griddle just heat and brown a little.
  • Mix together equal parts mayonnaise and yellow mustard in a small bowl (do not use Dijon). Slather both cut sides of the bread with the mayonnaise and mustard.
  • Lay Swiss cheese slices on the bottom. Then folded slices of ham on the cheese. Place the roasted or pulled pork on the ham slices (make sure the pork is hot).
  • Lay the sliced pickles on the pork then top with the sliced Swiss cheese. Place the top on the bread. Lightly butter the top of the bread.
  • Place the sandwich, top side down, on the griddle then lay a sandwich press or another heavy skillet on the sandwich and press down. Let it cook until the top is golden brown. Lightly butter the bottom before flipping it over, pressing, and browning the bottom side.
  • Remove from the griddle and slice diagonally. Serve immediately.

To bake the bread:

  • In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the yeast, sugar, and warm water and whisk a few times. Let stand for 15 minutes.
  • Add the lard or shortening, salt, and 1 cup of flour and mix with a wooden spoon.
  • Add the starter then about 1 1/2 cups of the flour, reserving half a cup just in case. Connect the dough hook and knead the bread until it begins to come together. Add more flour to make the dough the right consistency, it should be moist and cling to the hook.
  • Flour your work surface then turn the dough out onto the surface. Fold the dough over a few times then form it into a ball. Lightly grease a large bowl then place the dough ball in the bowl. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and place in a warm spot for 2 hours. It should double in size.
  • Remove from the bowl and push the dough down with your fingers. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. One at a time, mold the dough into a rectangle, flatten with a roller, then roll it up into a long, skinny loaf. Place the loaf on a parchment paper lined sheet pan. Repeat with the other loaf. Dust the loaves with flour, cover with a towel, and let it rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours.
  • Using a sharp knife or razor blade, make 1/4 inch deep cuts lengthwise down the top of the bread. Spritz with water then place in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, turning the sheet pan halfway through. It should be golden brown. Mine took 20 minutes.
  • Transfer the loaves to a wire cooking rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing. You store them at room temperature as is if they haven’t been sliced. After slicing, wrap tightly in plastic or foil and store at room temperature, not in the refrigerator. You can freeze them as well, just make sure they are tightly sealed in plastic wrap.

FILET MIGNON AU POIVRE

I pan seared my little 10-ounce Filet Mignon then finished the cooking in a 425 degree oven.

Previously, I made a Black Peppercorn Shallot Cognac sauce. When the filet came out, I deglazed the pan with the sauce. So simple and quick yet so elegant.

Of course, Steak au Poivre can be made with other cuts, but traditionally, it’s a Filet Mignon.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup sliced shallots
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns, crushed
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup brandy or Cognac
  • One 10-ounce Filet Mignon, fat trimmed, tied
  • Avocado oil or canola oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • Chopped chives
  • Chopped parsley

Directions:

  • Bring the filet to room temperature. Trim any excess fat. Tie some butcher’s twine around the filet so it holds its shape. Season with Kosher salt.
  • In a small saucepan over medium low heat add 2 tbsp butter then the sliced shallots. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Season with salt and add the crushed peppercorns. Add the stock, cream, and brandy. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until reduced by half. Strain into another small saucepan and set aside. Discard all the solids.
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Place a heavy oven-proof skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tbsp avocado oil or canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the filet and cook until very brown on one side. Turn over and brown the other side. Place the skillet in the oven and cook until the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees for Medium Rare. The length of cooking time will very greatly with the thickness of the steak. The one in the recipe was about 2 inches thick and took 8 minutes.
  • Remove skillet from the oven and place the filet on a cutting board, cover loosely with foil and let rest at least 10 minutes.
  • Drain any oil from the skillet and place it over medium heat. Add about 1 cup of the sauce and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the skillet. Add the Dijon and the tomato paste and stir to incorporate. Simmer for about 5 minutes until the sauce thickens.
  • Slice the filet, about 1/2 inch slices. Plate a few slices on a plate then spoon on some sauce. Garnish with chopped chives and chopped parsley.

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.

BEEF TENDERLOIN STROGANOFF

I’ve made it with Top Round. I’ve made it with Sirloin. But, nothing compares to the version here made with Beef Tenderloin.

Beef Tenderloin, Filet Mignon, takes away the issue of chewy beef in Beef Stroganoff. You can slice Top Round as thin as you like, but it is still tough unless you cook it for an hour or so, braise if you will. With Filet Mignon, a long cook is not necessary. However, to do the mushrooms and onions properly involves a little time and patience. They should be caramelized for at least 20 minutes, low and slow. This will unleash the beautiful flavors of the mushroom and onions. Take your time with this step. As or the filet, I pan sear it really hot, no more than rare. Then, lit it sit for a while and slice thin to finish the cooking in the simmering, savory sauce that has fresh thyme, a little garlic, sour cream, and Dijon mustard.

Buttered, wide egg noodles are kind of expected, but any pasta will do like pappardelle or even shells. Use your favorite pasta. Be sure to garnish with a little chopped chives.

Note: I prefer to cook the filets whole, then slice thin just before serving. You can slice the beef before hand, but sometimes this allows it to overcook…and a filet mignon should not be overcooked!

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Unsalted butter
  • 8-10 ounce Filet Mignon, butterflied 1 inch if thick
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, white or cremini
  • 1 small onion, quartered and sliced into slivers
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium beef stock
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 tbsp Wordcestershire
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup cram
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 6 ounces wide egg noodles
  • Chopped chives

Directions:

  • Season the filet with salt and pepper. To a medium to large skillet over medium high heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil then 1 tbsp unsalted butter. When the oil is hot, add the filet and cook just until browned on both sides, about 1 1/2 minutes per side depending on how thick it is. Remove from skillet to a plate.
  • Lower the heat to medium, add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp unsalted butter then add the mushrooms and fresh thyme. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes then add the onions and garlic. Cook stirring and tossing for about 15 minutes until the mushrooms have lost all their liquid and are golden brown. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the stocks, sherry, Worcestershire, and Dijon. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Turn off heat and cover for another 15 minutes for the flavors to meld.
  • Add the cream and the sour cream and stir in. Return heat to medium low and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add the cooked beef and the juices back to the skillet and simmer for about 5 minutes until the meat is cooked medium rare. Taste and reseason if necessary.
  • Cook the egg noodles according to package directions (8 minutes). Drain, return to the pan and add 2 tbsp of butter, stir to coat.
  • To serve, place some noodles on a plate or large bowl then spoon on as much mushrooms and beef sauce as you like. Garnish with chopped chives, serve with garlic bread.

HOW TO COOK CHICKEN FRIED STEAK WITH HAND-WHIPPED YUKON GOLD POTATOES

I have made Chicken Fried Steak numerous times…some OK, some epic failures (coating falling off, tough meat, etc). But this recipe, though not fool-proof, has been very successful most of the time. Instead of Top Round (pounded and tenderized so much my arm hurt), I use a boneless ribeye, trimmed and lightly pounded. Of course, a good CF Steak also requires a great gravy, and that is included in this recipe. It’s basic, it’s old-school, and it’s relatively easy!

As with Fried Chicken, there are a couple of tips that will help insure it comes out, ie, use a cast-iron skillet, fry in canola oil at 325F, and season properly. Oh, yeah, and keep it simple.

So, here goes…This should serve 2-3 people.

INGREDIENTS:

– 1-8 oz boneless ribeye, about 1 inch thick, trimmed of fat

– 1/2 cup buttermilk

– 2 medium eggs

– 1 1/4 cups flour, seasoned, divided

– 3 tsp seasoning mix (recipe below)

– Kosher salt

– Fresh ground black pepper

-Canola oil for frying

For the gravy:

– 2 1/2 tbsp seasoned flour

– 1 1/2 cup whole milk

– 1/2 cup cream

– Kosher salt

– Fresh ground black pepper

– Hand-whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes (recipe below)

DIRECTIONS:

– Mix the flour with the seasoning mix, place in a flat bowl or pie plate. Beat eggs with the buttermilk and place in another pie plate. Put some parchment paper on a plate for the coated steaks.

– Trim the actual ribeye (the center) out of the rib steak. Save the rest for grinding hamburger some other time. Trim off all the fat. Butterfly the ribeye into 2 pieces. Pound the steaks with the tenderizer to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper to taste.

– Place a steak in the seasoned flour, shake off excess, then coat with the egg/buttermilk mixture, then back into the flour. Place on the parchment paper.

– Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet, about 1/2 inch deep, to 325F, no hotter. Add the meat to the oil and cook for about 2-3 minutes then turn and cook another 2 minutes or so. It should be golden brown on both sides. Remove to a cooling rack over a sheet pan and put in a 250F oven until ready to serve.

– Pour off all but about 2 tbsp of the oil in the skillet. Over medium heat, sprinkle in the flour and begin whisking. Cook the flour for about 3 minutes, do not brown. Slowly add the warm milk, whisking constantly, until it begin to thicken and become smooth. Add more or less milk to reach your desired gravy consistency. Add the cream and 2 tbsp of butter, whisk in until smooth. Cook for about 5 minutes on a very low flame, whisking continuously. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Seasoning mix:

– 1 tbsp granulated garlic, 1/2 tbsp onion powder, 1/2 tbsp paprika, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp cayenne (or to taste).

For the potatoes:

– About 1 1/2 lbs (about 4 medium) Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled, leave whole

– 1/2 cup cream

– 2 oz unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

– Kosher salt

-Fresh ground black pepper

– Place the peeled, whole potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Place over high heat and bring to a simmer, not a boil. Lower heat, cover, and cook for about 32 minutes or until completely done but not mushy.

– Drain the potatoes well. Use a potato ricer and rice the potatoes back into the saucepan. Place over low heat. Add half the butter cubes and half the cream and begin stirring with a stiff spatula or spurtle. Stir until smooth, add the rest of the butter and continue stirring until very smooth. Add more cream and butter for your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle some whipped potatoes on a plate. Lean a fried steak against the potatoes, and ladle on the gravy. Garnish with chopped chives. Pass more gravy at the table.

Did I just cook a NY Steak or a KC Strip?

Actually, I already knew the answer to that question…at least how I see it.

The cut of meat in question in that photo was always called a New York Steak in our house. Technically, a loin cut from behind the ribs. Our neighbors down the street, from the mid-West, called theirs a Kansas City Strip. But, their steak had the bone left on! Yeah, baby…that’s the way to cook a New York. You take a T-Bone, cut away the little tenderloin side (save it for another day) and cook the strip loin side with the bone. Maybe in KC you can readily find bone-on strips…but, nowadays out west, good luck..unless you have a great butcher.

Anyway, I bought this steak, labeled a Prime New York, at Costco. And, I will continue to call it that until I find one with the bone on. Then, I’ll call it a KC Strip.

In addition, the NY/KC Strip rivalry is differentiated by the method of cooking as well. Arguably, a NY Strip is traditionally cooked in a screaming hot over/under broiler with minimal seasoning, while a KC Strip is cooked on a wood-fired grill with varied seasonings and sauces.

I did this one, heavily seasoned before with Kosher salt and fresh-cracked black pepper, on a really hot stove-top cast iron skillet. Then basted with butter, garlic, and herbs, and finished with some of my salt-free seasoning mix. Then, plated on top of a Worcestershire garlic butter herb sauce. Sherried Shallot Mushrooms served along side and some Garlic Mashed Cauliflower…we’re doing the Keto thing right now, so…potatoes are a No-No!

Whatever you choose to call this thing, it is a superbly flavored, juicy cut if cooked properly, ie, medium rare (130-135F). It can get real tough and chewy beyond that. You can get these cut real thin for steak sandwiches (about 1/2 inch) or, nice and thick (about 1 1/2 inches) for grilling like this one. I have included a great recipe for the Sherried Mushrooms below as well as my salt-free seasoning mix. The Garlic Mashed Cauliflower is prepared just like any Garlic Mashed Potato recipe.

Ingredients:

  • For the steak:
  • 1 – 16 ounce Prime or Choice New York Strip steak
  • Canola oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepperm
  • Unsalted butter
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
  • 1 fresh Rosemary sprig
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • For the Sherried Mushrooms:
  • 4 ounces of medium white mushrooms, quartered
  • Unsalted butter
  • Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Shallots, thin sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon of Cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons of dry Sherry
  • 1/4 cup of low-sodium chicken stock
  • For the Garlic Mashed Cauliflower
  • Cauliflower, cut into 2 inch chunks
  • Unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, thin sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • White Pepper
  • Half and half

Directions:

  • Take the steak out of the refrigerator about an hour before cooking. Coat with olive oil. Season with Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, heavy on the pepper.
  • Melt about 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium low heat. When the butter has melted, add the quartered mushrooms and sliced shallots. Stir well, turn the heat to low, and cook for about 20 minutes to caramelize. Do not let it burn. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sherry and the chicken stock, turn up the heat a little, and bring to a simmer. Lower heat and let the liquid cook off, about 10 minutes.
  • Cut up the cauliflower into 2 inch cubes and steam them for about 10 minutes. Drain well, return to the pan and add 2 tablespoons of butter, the sliced garlic, and 1/4 cup of half and half. Season with salt and pepper then mash until it reaches the consistency you desire, just like mashed potatoes. Or, use an immersion blender and puree if desired. Taste and reseason if neccessary. Cover the pan, set aside, and keep warm.
  • Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of canola oil and swirl in the pan. When the pan is smoking hot, add the steak and let it cook until there is a nice brown on one side. Turn the steak and brown the other side well. Turn down the heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter, the smashed garlic, and the rosemary sprig to the pan. Tilt the pan enough to submerse the garlic and rosemary in the butter. Then, start basting the steak. Baste it as much as you can stand. Turn the steak over and continue to baste with the butter. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 130 – 135F for medium rare.
  • Remove the steak to a cutting board and loosely cover with some foil.
  • Add another tablespoon or so of butter and 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce to the pan and bring to a simmer to reduce slightly. Turn off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes.
  • To plate, pour some of the pan sauce on a medium serving platter.
  • Slice the steak against the grain in 1/2 inch slices and layer on the platter. Sprinkle with a small amount of Maldon sea salt or Kosher salt. Add the Sherried mushrooms around the slices. Serve with the garlic mashed cauliflower on the side.

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.

Applewood Smoked Pork Belly

Someone asked me recently, “Just exactly what is pork belly?”. There are individuals who think it is part of the digestive system of a pig. Understandable.

It’s funny, some folks scoff at pork belly when they see how much fat it has. This, while they are pounding rashers of bacon every other day for breakfast!

This recipe was done on my Pit Boss pellet smoker (a Traeger clone is one way to explain it). Score the fat with 1 inch squares. Kosher salt and black pepper. Then rub with a sweet pork rub I made (recipe below). About 3 hours on the grill @ 225F until it hits 158F. Then wrap with foil and a little apple juice and cider for another 2 hours until it reaches 200F. A 1 hour rest on the butcher block and its done. Butter tender. Slice, shred, or cut in chunks. BBQ or no. Up to you. Me? No…its too good on it’s own!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of sweet pork rub (recipe below)
  • 1 cup of apple juice, divided
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider
  • 4 pound slab or pork belly, fat trimmed to 1/4 inch

Directions:

  • Heat your smoker to 225F.
  • With a sharp knife, score the top (fat side) in 1 inch squares. Season lightly with Kosher salt and black pepper. The, rub generously with the pork rub on all sides. Rub it in.
  • Put 1/2 cup of apple juice, 1/4 cup of apple cider, and 1/2 cup of water in a spray bottle.
  • Place the seasoned pork belly on the grill and smoke until the internal temperature reaches 158F (about 3 hours). Spritz with the apple juice every 45 minutes while it is cooking.
  • When the pork belly reaches 158F, remove from the grill and wrap in two layers of foil adding 1/2 cup of the apple juice to the wrap. Seal it up completely and return to the grill until the internal temperature reaches 200F (about 2 more hours).
  • Remove the pork belly from the grill and let it sit covered on the butcher block for about 1 hours.
  • Slice, shred, or cut into 1 inch cubes.
  • You can sauce with BBQ sauce at this point, but this is optional. I don’t because it is too good on it’s own.
  • Sweet Smoker Pork Rub:
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons of paprika
  • 3 teaspoons of granulated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ancho chile powder

Beef Short Rib Soup with Mushrooms and Leeks

This is a soup recipe I developed with a couple of things in mind. I wanted a brothy, no cream, no tomato soup. And, I wanted it to have beef in it…and very little carbs. It’s kind of like Oxtail Soup without all the vegetables and tomatoes. Plus, it’s not easy to find oxtails in my area…so, I used little, bone-in beef short ribs.

It’s not real hard to make. No sautéing anything. Just toss in a pot. There are two stages, so bear with me.

Ingredients:

  • 4 – 2 inch beef short ribs with bones
  • 2 cups of white button mushrooms, divided
  • 1 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms, soak in 1 cup of hot water for 20 minutes
  • 3 cups of low-sodium chicken stock
  • 3 cups of low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 cup of dry sherry
  • 3 sprigs of parsley
  • 3 medium cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, thin sliced
  • 2 small sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 medium white onion, peeled, rough chop
  • 1 large rib of celery, rough chop
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried Calabrian chile flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 2 small leeks, white and light green part, 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil
  • Fresh chopped chives or green onions for garnish

Directions:

  • Place the 4 short ribs with bones in a large saucepan. Add the 3 cups of chicken stock, 3 cups of beef stock, 1 cup of sherry, the porcini mushrooms and the soaking liquid, 1 cup of the white mushrooms (quartered), the parsley, the thyme, the garlic, the ginger, the onion, the celery, the black peppercorns, and the chile flakes. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and cook for 1 1/2 hours. After that, remove the short ribs and set aside. When cool enough to handle, remove all the meat and cut into 1/2 inch chunks. Save the bones.
  • Strain the broth through a cheesecloth lined sieve. Discard the vegetables. Place broth back in the saucepan. Add 1 cup of the white mushrooms (1/4 inch slice), the leeks, the rice wine vinegar, the white pepper, the sesame oil, the bones, and the diced, cooked beef chunks. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Taste. Reason if neccessary. Remove the bones.
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped chives or green onions.