Monday, March 23, 2015

UnRecipe: Brock's Burgers and a Valentine's Day Redux

I know, it's not Valentine's Day. It's not even February anymore! But I don't care, I felt the need to share a post that perfectly illustrates how food and daily life are perfectly entwined, and that the date shouldn't matter -- we shouldn't require excuses to have special meals. What we eat isn't just fuel, it's a way of expressing our appreciation for others when we dine on something special or make someone their favorite dish -- it's a personal way to celebrate a loved one. Ironic that it's a priority on one of the most impersonal/faux-emotion day of the year: Valentine's Day.

Babe, this burger's for you - from the wonderfully amusing series, Bob's Burgers (no, not Brock's Burgers)

Normally, we don't make a big deal out of Valentine's Day. It's a ghastly, fake holiday, where the only benefit is the marked-down dark chocolate Dove hearts I get at the store the next day. We both got royally cheated last Valentine's Day -- the Mister had a horrible case of the flu, which seriously knocked him down for days, I'd never seen him that sick in a long time. And we were still in the emotional roller coaster of our beloved Indy's battle with cancer. With every attempt at celebrating special-ness last year -- even our birthdays -- we seemed to be thwarted. I chronicled this Wallowing in Craptacular-ness in this post, if you care to know the gory (not gory) details.

Caramelized onions, melty Brie, beef patty, between homemade challah buns - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I don't do resolutions, but I did have resolve in  my heart to make this year an enjoyable one. I decided to hit the "Redo" button on Valentine's Day and made all the same stuff as last year, so that the Mister could actually enjoy it and other solid foods. Brock, like most red-blooded Americans, loves hamburgers. He also loves the high-larious animated series, Bob's Burgers. I made sure to have a lineup of delicious burgers for the Valentine's Day weekend, and we happily enjoyed a meal watching an episode. We may have even been in our jammies and robes -- this is luxury at its zenith, as far as we're concerned.

Tina Belcher agrees: it's all about the Buns - Photos by Wasabi Prime/screencap from Bob's Burgers
What made the burgers extra special was making the buns from scratch. I've been doing more bread making at home, namely challah -- I love the sweet, eggy dough in dessert and savory applications. I used a basic challah dough recipe from Food 52, but added a little more water so that it wouldn't be as dense. It was trickier to handle and I wound up with monster-sized burger buns, but it yielded much more tender dough suitable for burgers. Even Tina Belcher could agree that these buns were oh-so-squeezable.

The beef burgers were inspired by one of my favorite burgers, the Winemaker, originally from Tipsy Cow in Redmond, as chronicled in this past post.  The main thing I loved was using brie as the cheese -- it melts beautifully, and gives it a complex, aged flavor. I also like using sprouts, but they were looking a little wilty at the market, so stuck with caramelized onions for the vegetable topping. As you're building the burger, the cheese warms atop the still-cooking meat patty in the pan, as long as you cover it with a metal bowl or some kind of heat-trapping dome. The treat was most definitely the homemade bun; melting butter in the pan and toasting the bun halves brought out the bread's rich flavor and gave the interior a nice crunch.

Asian-style burger using seasoned ground pork, salted radishes and Sriracha mayo - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I made an Asian-style burger as well, but using ground seasoned pork. I seasoned chunks of pork roast with ginger, garlic, soy sauce, a little fish sauce, sugar, and pepper, and ran all that through the meat grinder. I let the seasoned ground meat marinate in the fridge for at least one night, and then made the burgers from that -- they're already well-flavored, and the pork is nice and fatty, so it sears nicely in the pan and ready to enjoy once it's cooked-through. I butter-toasted the buns the same way, but changed up the toppings by mixing Sriracha and mayonnaise for a sauce, and did a quick pickle of sliced radishes and greens, mixed with salt and some sugar. It was like having a Vietnamese banh-mi burger with the strong flavors and mix of pickled veggies -- delicious, and totally doing this again in the summer.

Tuna tartare that's basically poke tuna - Photos by Wasabi Prime
The main dish I wanted to remake was the tuna tartare I made last year, and mournfully ate all by myself, when Brock couldn't even get out of bed, he was so ill. It's such a wonderfully simple dish to make, I vow to make it more often than February 14th, and for refreshing, simple summer food, this would make an excellent dish. I use Eric Ripert's Asian Tuna Tartare recipe, which is basically like a Hawaiian poke. It's very ginger-forward, which I like, and the only thing I modify is adding a little sesame oil right before serving -- the flavors are so similar to poke tuna, that I just expect that flavor to be there, but that's just me.

It's also a super easy thing to make for a special occasion meal because you can prep it that morning, let it sit in the fridge to allow the flavors to soak in, and there's little to no prep when you're ready to serve it, since it's eaten chilled. You can serve it with toasted bread or potato chips. I wanted to use taro chips, but they were out at the store, so I just got the mixed bag of sweet potato and taro chips, which is nice and colorful. You don't have to serve it atop avocado, but I had one handy, so I chopped it up and laid it down as a "bed" for the tuna, and it tastes wonderful together.

An elegant, no-fuss meal, tuna tartare is the best reminder that we shouldn't wait for special occasions to have special meals. Celebrate whenever you can, whenever you want -- it's a good life, let's enjoy it.
Here's to you, 2015! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

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