Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ode to National Burger Month

May is National Burger Month so I thought I'd give my take on a good burger. The hamburger is the perfect backyard food to experiment with. There are endless possibilities when creating a recipe, every bar and gastro-pub has their own interpretation of this simple concept. Here in Philly, every time you turn around there is someone advertising the "best" burger! I say the best burger is the one you create yourself. I put together a few burgers to share.

The first is a basic burger with a slight twist, the cheese is on the inside. It's known as a Juicy Lucy. There are two bars in South Minneapolis that claim to have invented the Juicy Lucy, Matt's Bar and the 5-8 Club. Hey, it's just a burger stuffed with cheese so let's do it. I recommend always buying 80% ground beef for burgers - no need to mess with any Fancy ground cuts of meat. You need that fat content to ensure it will stay juicy.

Start by forming a ball with the ground meat then press it flat. With your fingers create a well in the center of meat to hold the cheese.

Fill the center of meat with a good extra sharp cheddar. And form another flat burger to cover the first. Use your fingers to seal the two pieces together around the edge to keep cheese in during grilling.

Now the burgers are ready to hit the grill. Whatever type of grill you have, get the coals good and hot. Salt and pepper both sides of the burger, use a liberal amount of salt, this will produce a nice crust on out side of the burgers!

Let that fire do it's job, don't keep flipping the burger. Shoot for a medium-rare to medium doneness, around 140 deg.F internal temperature. Let the burger rest for at least 10min. after taking off grill.

My presentation for this cheese stuffed beauty is very basic, ketchup, mayo and some homemade onion rings on a soft sesame roll! No salad on my burgers please, I want to taste the meat. Remember, that cheese may be hot when biting!!

 Alright, now lets take this in a different direction while sticking to the stuffed burger theme! I like to call this next one the Italian Medallion. It's summer time and you feel like having a little Italian meal... say, spaghetti and meatballs - take it out to the grill!

Start by making your favorite meatball mix... pork-veal-beef, garlic, eggs, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, buttermilk... whatever makes ya happy! Form into stuffable burgers and fill with a few strips of mozzarella and cooked spaghetti  that was dipped in your favorite sauce, also add parmesan cheese - generously. Once you have your complete stuffed meatball burger, it's grill time! Do not add anything to the meat just set it on the hot grill and create intense grill marks on both sides. Now move the burger to a pot of you favorite sauce, put pot on grill and cook in sauce for about 20min. being careful not to burn sauce. I presented this spaghetti stuffed meatball burger on crispy garlic bread with a topping of extra sauce. It's sure to surprise and please you guests!

OK, hang on, it's time for a stuffed burger Philly Blind Pig style.

Here's our 80% beef stuffed with caramelized onions, sauteed balsamic mushrooms, grape jelly wasabi sauce (love this on everything!) and pepper jack cheese. I assembled this bad boy and it hit the grill.
After the burger was done on the grill I let it rest before coating it with my jalapeno corn batter and dropping it in the deep fryer!

I topped this crunchy concoction with ketchup, mayo and grape wasabi sauce and served on soft roll. I know it's extreme, but it was damn good!

Get out there and grill some burgers, play with fire and impress your friends... no friends... call me , I'll come eat your burger! Be creative when combining ingredients, you never know till you try. Oh, and when it comes to a side dish... I recommend beer!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Smoke in the Valley - Green Lane, PA

This is one of my top anticipated competitions of the year, and not just because it's only 45min. from home. It's expertly run by the Green Lane Fire Dept. and organized by Shawn Tucker. They cater to every need of the competitor. Plenty of water and electric hookups. The staff pick up trash, grey water and ashes from the team sites and ice is always available. Hey - the sun even came out for a couple hours! The rain held off till the morning, allowing the Fire Dept. to ignite their annual bonfire and it's a site to see!

Besides the regular KCBS categories, Smoke in the Valley was one of the 9 events to host the Rancher's Reserve Beef Cup. The cut of beef to be cooked was top sirloin and it needed to be purchased at a Safeway store and receipts turned in as proof of purchase. This was a bit of a hassle for the teams and I think it could have been planned better. Only half the teams entered in the KCBS competition participated in the Rancher's Reserve. I can't see why "Rancher's Reserve" couldn't have delivered meats to the event. Shawn Tucker came to the rescue and picked up meats for the competitors who were unable to get to a designated store and delivered them to the teams, my man knows how to run an event! I picked up my top sirloin at a Genuardi's close to my house and came up with a recipe to wow the judges.

The Plan:

Take the top sirloin steak and grind it down with some fatty trimmings from the brisket along with garlic, sage and other spices. Form the ground meat into about 2 inch sausages and insert corn dog sticks. Throw them in the smoker  for 2 1/2 to 3 hours and cool. Dip into jalapeno corn batter and fry. Finish with a grape jelly and wasabi glaze.
Reality. I had that mix of sirloin and brisket cut into nice cubes, laced with chopped garlic and sage, topped with some nice spices to kick it up. When it came time to grind the meat I clamped my old fashion meat grinder to the shelf on my smoker and started adding the meat. Turning the handle... turning the handle... turning the handle... no ground meat - my grinder was missing the cutting blade. So much for the plan, I was ready to sh!tcan the whole idea. But of course, as usual, Marie stepped in to save the day. She hand minced the cubed meat (which was not a small task) so we could form then into little fatties on a stick... the game was back on!

They hit the smoker for 2 1/2 hours. When cooled they were corn battered and deep fried. I finished them off with a grape jelly and wasabi glaze. Here is our presentation...

I was very happy with the way they turned out, though using a grinder would have blended the ingredients much better. The jalapeno corn batter was rock'n - I will be making some version of these again!
                    - Batter recipe at the end of blog! -

As far as the KCBS meats go, it was another disappointing finish. Only one top 10 finish, 8th place pulled pork out of 54 teams.

I really liked how our chicken turned out, but it
finished a sad 30th.

Ribs could have been a bit more tender, but flavor
was right on. They finished 29th.

Our 8th place pork!

I flat out destroyed the brisket. It looked nice but
believe me, it was tough. Finished 51st.

Overall, this is definitely one of the best organized BBQ events I have competed in. I look forward to it every year! It's not just a competition - It's one big back yard party!

Jalapeno corn batter
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup AP flour
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 large jalapeno
1/3 cup onion grated
8.5 ounce can cream corn
1 1/2 cup butter milk
drizzle of honey

Next up  -  Roc City Rib Fest - Rochester, NY   -   May 28 - 29