Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Birthday Burgers & Espresso Ice Cream

My parents celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary a few weeks ago by going to Chili's, of all places, for dinner. "I had a hamburger," Mom said defensively. "Sometimes all I want is a really good burger."

So for her birthday, I grilled thick, juicy burgers served with fries and her favorite - onion rings.

Since it was my mom's birthday, I bypassed lean ground beef and went for two pounds of 85/15 ground chuck. My initial instinct was to try and fancy things up a bit with bits of cooked bacon or blue cheese, but Brandon convinced me to stick to the basics. "Burgers are real simple," he said.

Kimi's Burgers
2 lbs. ground chuck
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 onion, finely minced
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix thoroughly using clean hands. Divide into six balls, roughly 3 inches in height, and gently flatten into patties. Season both sides with more kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, then refrigerate until ready to cook.

I like to grill my burgers, whether its indoors on a grill pan or on out outdoor bbq. Either way, make sure the cooking surface is nice and hot before you put the meat on. Be careful not to press down on the patties because it squeezes out the juices and you want to keep all that yummy goodness in the meat. Cook until the burgers are firm to the touch. Remove from grill and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Once the burger patties were in the fridge, I got started on Ina Garten's Cornmeal-Fried Onion Rings. This was the first recipe of Ina's that I had a little trouble with. I couldn't find buttermilk at my neighborhood market, and I didn't feel like schlepping to another store just for one ingredient, so I mixed whole milk with half & half cream. I don't know if having buttermilk makes a big difference or not, but the batter slid off the first batch of rings I tried to fry.

So I whisked an egg and dredged the milk-soaked rings in the egg before tossing it in the dry ingredients. That seemed to do the trick. My onion rings didn't look as nice as Ina's, but they sure tasted good! I've never been a big fan of onion rings, but I think I've been converted.

As far as I'm concerned, you can't have hamburgers without fries. So I quickly sliced five small russet potatoes, skins and all, into thin wedges, which I fried in oil while the onion rings were soaking in the milk. Be sure to season the fries with salt as soon as you take them out of the oil. Same goes for the onion rings.

My mom loves good, strong coffee, so for dessert I decided to serve Ina's Espresso Ice Cream. It was my first attempt at a French-style ice cream, which involved tempering eggs and cream, so I was a little nervous. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until I had to reheat the egg and cream mixture over the stove. I may have cooked it too long because once I went to pour it through the sieve, it was pretty lumpy. Then again, maybe it's supposed to be and that's why you have to use a sieve.

I had to use a spatula to push the mixture through the sieve, and I ended up tossing some of the lumpier parts, but it turned out in the end and that's all that matters. My Espresso Ice Cream was so good, I couldn't resist licking the big, rotating spatula from the ice cream maker, and even then I was scraping every bit I could out of the bowl.

Be forewarned, however. If you use regular espresso (I bought 1/4 lb. for under $3 at my corner cafe), serve dessert early because you get quite a buzz and will be up for hours.

One of my biggest culinary pet peeves is a wasteful recipe. In other words, recipes that call for only the zest of two lemons, or only the yolks of six eggs. I mean, what the heck are you supposed to do with six egg whites?

Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that most ice cream recipes, including espresso ice cream, call for a lot of egg yolks.

"Looks like we're having scrambled egg whites for breakfast tomorrow," I lamented to Brandon as I separated runny eggs through my fingers.

But by the time I'd tempered the cream and eggs, heated the custard and sifted it through a fine sieve, I had a new plan. Fried rice!

It was perfect since I still hadn't figured out what to have for dinner that night. Fried rice is the ideal lazy, go-to meal - just throw in whatever's in your fridge. I diced some leftover bbq jerk chicken, Chinese picked mustard green and bacon lardons for added flavor. We didn't have any green onions in the house, or I would've used those, too.

Kimi's Fried Rice
2 cups white long-grain rice
2 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. shrimp paste (optional)
2 tbs. pickled Chinese mustard green (optional)
4 strips bacon, diced
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. sesame oil
soy sauce to taste

Wash and cook rice in a rice steamer or on the stovetop. While the rice is cooking, fry the bacon pieces on medium heat until crispy. Add shrimp paste and garlic, then stir in the green onions and mustard green. If you have other veggies, such as diced cabbage, bean sprouts or green beans, stir those in along with any other diced meats. Lower heat.

When the rice has finished steaming, add to frying pan and turn up heat. Stir well, making sure to combine with other ingredients and rendered bacon fat. (I know, so bad and yet soooo good!) Sprinkle in soy sauce and stir until the rice becomes a nice, golden, caramel color.

Pour beaten eggs over the rice mixture and stir until the eggs are thoroughly cooked.

1 comment:

  1. Buttermilk substitute:
    1 cup milk
    1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar

    mix, let sit for a few minutes.

    Buttermilk actually has a sour kind of taste to it, its not just thicker.

    Make egg white omelets or white cake or meringues...