National Burger Month 05/11/2011: Inside-Out Salmon Cheeseburgers

Oh man. Too much beef. I don't know if I can keep on doing this. But I'll do it today at least. Today I decided to do salmon because... too much beef.

I've done inside out cheeseburgers before, with beef and lamb. Conceptually, the inside-out salmon cheese burger is similar. It's two patties of meat that I use to sandwich a little bit of cheese. For this sandwich, I take some grilled salmon basics and turn them into a burger.

1/2 pound salmon fillet (pin bones and skin removed, so I'm left with slightly under 1/3 pound)
1 tbsp dill, chopped
2 tbsp Philly cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp olive oil

I chopped the fillet into manageable cubes and processed them in a food processor, pulsing until it was chopped but not liquified. Into the fish I mixed the dill, and some salt and pepper to flavor. I formed two patties, and layered the cream cheese on top of one of them. 

After this, I covered the cheese up with the other patty and patted everything together until I had one cohesive fatty patty. I then massaged it with the olive oil, softly and gently, and oh so lovingly, so that when it went on a medium hot grill, it wouldn't dry up too much.

Fish doesn't take as long as beef to cook, so after just 2-2 1/2 minutes I flipped it over and cooked the other side for the same amount of time. If you do it properly, this thing wouldn't leak too much. I'd imagine if you do it incorrectly, you'd have no cheese left inside the burger because the Philly, it just runs when it melts. Yuck.

You can do what you wish with your fatty patty of salmon. I topped mine with tomato and microgreens, and had it in English muffins. Oh, yes.

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 05/18/2010: Tour of California Stage 3

Today, the 2010 Tour of California stopped by Santa Cruz for the finish of Stage 3. I took the afternoon off to hang out at the festival area by the finish line with Bettina, Lindsey, Kate and Isabel. John joined us later because he was prevented from crossing the street on account of bikers. It was pretty laid back. Lots of weirdos have come from far and wide to watch the cyclists. We stood at about 200m to the finish line, at the foot of a hill, expecting a lot of speed from riders about to launch into their sprint finishes. The race setup made for pretty dramatic views of the action. Like these:





So cool to watch Dave Zabriskie win it. We went back home later to watch the whole stage on my DVR and found that the stupid VS Network cut the broadcast with about 4km left in the race to jump to a stupid fluff piece pre-game show for the NHL conference finals!!! How stupid! Even Lance "McOneball" Armstrong agreed. Here's his tweet:
Who's the dumbass @versustv that cut off @AmgenTourofCali coverage w/ a mile to go for pregame hockey?? #pathetic
And we also found out that the VS network camera cut away from where we were standing on the street corner just as we would've been shown. Bettina thought that it caught some part of our legs.

Anyway, we went home and I made a little grupetto (cycling terms are apt) of Juicy Lucies at Kate's request.

Oh and I should post this picture of Jonathan Vaughters, DS at Team Garmin-Transitions, signing this weirdo's manboob. I hope the guy with the manboobs was able to at least say hi to Dave Zabriskie because he sure was dedicated to getting all the autographs from team Garmin.

National Burger Month 05/15/2010: Juicy Lucy returns

Excyooooooze me.

Yo what's up fatties.

I did a Juicy Lucy before. I did it to mark the midpoint of National Burger Month when I did it two years ago. And I'm doing it again today.

Juicy Lucy oozes with charm. Juicy Lucy is pretty obscene. Juicy Lucy is pretty good, the way it wears worcester and garlic salt. And you have to do it with American cheese or it won't work at all.

The Triumphant Return (now with more Bacon!)

We have been way to busy to keep up with the blog. But enough is enough.

In December, my friend Jordi was keen enough to post this gem on my Facebook page:
If I Die A Bacon-Related Death, I'd Like It To Be Because Of This

The resulting outburst of chatter was exciting. Clearly, this was a topic dear to everyone's hearts. Excerpts follow:

Me: OMG... Must do tomorrow.
Aileen: here are no words. none. greasy elegance rolled into one. can you weave other designs? do it Mike!! do it Jords (or did you already make this?)
Jordi: i'm gonna weave me a f*ckin' bacon blanket and wrap myself in it!!
Me: This guy's only mistake was that he didn't put chorizo in with the cheese.
Tracy: I may just have to surprise my husband with this one...but yeah, I agree with Mike - sausage and even some hash browns...
Jordi: or wild mushrooms and goat cheese...mmm. it can be the new crust. just add your favorite filling
Ria: But I do agree, it's missing more ingredients. Please update if any of you try it! Very curious....
SooJee: tell us how this comes out Mike and take pics:)
Tracy: Wild mushrooms and goat cheese? Sorry, but there's nothing gourmet about a basket weaved with bacon...
Jordi: not only is it gourmet, woven bacon is couture!
Me: Only bacon can turn gourmet into gourm-yay.

I didn't get to do anything with the idea until Christmas when I was asked to do a little appetizer for Christmas dinner. So here we go. (Yes many of you have seen this already but as I have not cooked anything interesting in the past month, we will do reruns for now)

To address my primary contention in the conversation above that the original blogger didn't do enough with his bacon, I decided to make this a surf and turf. We used some steamed shrimp and some herbed goat cheese instead of the simple shredded cheddar that the original blogger used.

First we weave le bacon. (Jordi said it was couture so we have to use francaise when we can)

Et voila, le bacon mat.

We fry the bacon.

We add the goat cheese and shrimps. (Kosher this is definitely not)

We roll the bacon.

And the finished product!

Which our President-Elect then proceeds to devour, not mindful of the other guests at holiday dinner who wanted in on the bacon fun.

The overall verdict was that it was delicious. It was good. But the preparation left a lot of room for improvement. The bacon fell apart when I attempted to slice it into pinwheels for presentation. Somebody suggested that I perhaps finish it in the oven to seal in the goodness and to firm up the bacon. The surf-and-turf-like combination of pork and shrimp was great and the herbed goat cheese was a good balancing note.

A future possible application, per Paolo, Jordi and Ria: weave the bacon and place it into metal colander with curved bottom to bake-- result would be a bacon bowl! We could then pile on all the toppings our hearts desire.


I was going to do a repeat of the dish on New Year's Eve, substituting scallops for the shrimp. Because we were strapped for time I never go to do this. Instead, I just individually wrapped the scallops in bacon the next day and speared the whole clump of goodness with rosemarry to pin it all together, then grilled the little suckas. While not as aesthetically pleasing as a bacon mat, they were still pretty and were great New Year's amuse bouches.

Hoity-toity Mac and Cheese

This is a mac and cheese I last made while on a ski vacation a while back. While my friends were on the slopes, I stayed in our cabin and cooked up some mac and cheese and tomato soup, with tons of kitchen equipment that I put in a hiking pack and carried through the woods and into our place. (ok.. it wasn't really Rocky Balboa training in the Soviet Union to fight Ivan Drago kind of labor, but I did have to carry my cast iron pan, my immersion blender, and all my food supplies through the woods in thigh deep snow) Sadly, Kay's Cabins near South Lake Tahoe in Kirkwood, California closed shop.

Anyway, California is cold and cloudy right now, and that is enough context for comfort food, especially with the discomfiting smell of Northern California forest wildfires wafting into my house.

Mac and Cheese

1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 cup red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2 inch squares
1/2 pound penne pasta
1 1/2 cup half and half
1 1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 pound cambazola (or other mild blue cheese), cut into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup bacon, diced (optional for the non-veggie)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a pan, sauté the celery and the bell pepper in butter until just soft. Season with salt and pepper. Also, now is the time to fry up the bacon if you're using it.

Boil the pasta until al dente. While it is getting ready to boil, combine whipping cream, half and half and cheese until cheese is melted in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally. While the cheese is melting, beat the egg yolks in a separate, heat resistant bowl and set aside. After the cheese fully melts, stir in the celery seed and season with paprika, salt and pepper. Pour half of this mixture into the egg yolks, stirring constantly. And then return the egg yolk and cheese sauce mixture back in with the rest of the mixture.

After draining the pasta, mix the cheese sauce and the veggies (and bacon) in the same pan as the pasta. Transfer all of this into a baking pan. Top with parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the top of the dish is beginning to brown.

I like to drizzle a little truffle oil over the whole thing when it's done. And I suspect shaved truffle will do nicely, but I'll only do that if somebody is nice enough to give me some truffle. Someone? Anyone?

It's a hoity-toity mac and cheese and I'm not apologetic about this all.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.