Our stupendous food intern, Molly Adams, recently cooked up some very special burgers for us lucky editors. Here, she reports:
The premium burger just got a little more attainable. Pat LaFrieda—the butcher who supplies custom meat blends to Shake Shack, Little Owl and other restaurants known for their burgers—is now selling three types of patties to home cooks: beef brisket, beef short rib and original beef. (Unfortunately, they’re only available to NYC cooks, since the burgers are sold by the grocery-delivery service Fresh Direct.) The secret to these ultra-juicy patties is in the grind—or should I say chop? LaFrieda only chops small batches of whole-muscle Black Angus beef from Creekstone Farms and ensures the meat is not crushed or overworked, which can make burgers tough and dry. Last week, with the help of Kitchen Assistant Brian Malik, we cooked up a dozen LaFrieda burgers. The unanimous favorite: the brisket burger, which was incredibly moist and flavorful ($6 a pound; freshdirect.com).
F&W's testing kitchen assistant, Brian Malik, spent last week baking cakes for a January story. Here, he reports:
For an upcoming story on bakeware, F&W's awesome food intern Molly and I worked our ovens overtime making yellow cakes, 14 in all, to test different baking pans. It’s amazing how different the cakes turned out in each pan, even though we used the same recipe every time. Some were light and spongy, others were dark and crisp, and in one, the cake overflowed, covering the oven floor with a sticky burned mess. The full results will be in a future article, but until then, use your favorite cake pan for these amazing recipes:
Yellow Cake with Vanilla Frosting
Marble Cake with Chocolate-Buttercream Frosting
I hadn't cooked for my kids for more than two weeks, but all that changed when they returned from camp yesterday. Maybe I was out of practice, maybe I was feeling a bit defiant or maybe I was just hoping for a change, but given how much I enjoyed superspicy broccoli rabe last week, I wanted it again. There were sweet Italian sausages in the fridge, some homemade focaccia buns in the freezer and, of course, broccoli rabe—all ready to come together. I thought about sautéing the broccoli rabe, chopping it and kneading it into the sausage meat, but that would've been too cruel to my kids, not to mention self-defeating (I would surely have wound up making PB&Js). To satisfy everyone, I sautéed the broccoli rabe with garlic and so much crushed red pepper flakes all our mouths were vibrating, grilled the sausage patties (and the buns) and sandwiched it all together. A little aioli with olives, capers and herbs from my garden finished the dish. Malcolm, my 7-year-old son, passed on the aioli and broccoli rabe, but my 12-year-old daughter, Pia, ate it all.
Don't get me wrong—I love my kids, and I love eating with them. Some days I challenge them with unusual foods, but mostly I take the path of least resistance. But since they've been away at camp, I've rediscovered the joys of eating whatever and whenever I want (if at all). Tuesday's dinner was a bowl of cereal (Chex, granola and Grape-Nuts), Wednesday's was a peach, Thursday's was a PB&J (natural peanut butter and homemade berry jam) and Friday's was sautéed broccoli rabe with anchovies, olives and so much crushed red pepper that my mouth was vibrating. Maybe someday, my kids will appreciate stinky, spicy and bitter foods, but right now, that's a challenge I'm not ready to take on. Till then, I'll seize every opportunity to satisfy my own appetite.
I've had a small obsession with ice cream bombes ever since I saw a certain domestic mogul make one into a watermelon look-alike on TV. With summer coming up, I decided to start experimenting with them for fun. An ice cream bombe is really just layers of different flavored ice creams frozen into a bowl or other mold. When you slice it, you can see all the layers, and it really looks impressive. It doesn't require a recipe, but it's a method that can be creatively reinvented hundreds of ways. This week, I decided to do a riff on a Creamsicle using orange sherbet, vanilla ice cream and raspberry sorbet. Once you have it down, create your own favorite combo—I think my next one will be a mocha bombe using chocolate chocolate chip, chocolate vanilla swirl and coffee ice creams. Here's how to do it:
Use a 1 1/2 quart mold, such as a metal or glass bowl, Bundt pan or kugelhopf mold, and line it with plastic wrap. Soften 3 1/2 pints of ice cream, sorbet or sherbet in the refrigerator, in any combination of flavors. Using the back of a large spoon, spread 1 1/2 pints of the ice cream into the mold to cover the entire surface. Freeze between spreading each layer to harden. Repeat with another pint of ice cream and then once more, creating an ice cream bombe with 3 layers. Once complete, freeze for at least 4 hours before serving. To serve, invert the bombe onto a platter, remove the plastic wrap and, using a sharp knife, cut the bombe into slices or wedges.
(Note that a 1 1/2 quart mold holds 3 1/2 pints of ice cream. But you can use any size mold and adjust the amount of ice cream accordingly.)
Not long ago, I discovered that pecans and walnuts (two very fatty and delicate nuts) toast beautifully in the microwave. This morning, with no time to preheat the oven for a meager handful of hazelnuts, I decided to put the microwave method to the test. Well, it worked like a charm—mostly. For 1/2 cup of raw, unblanched hazelnuts, I set the timer for two minutes, which was a tiny bit long. A few of the nuts were too dark to use, but most were perfect. The nuts cooled more quickly, the skins blistered and were magically easier to remove. In the future, I think I'll do 30-second intervals (which is good for all nuts) to control the toasting.
As if I didn't already believe that Microplanes are the single best kitchen (and other-makes a great pedicure tool, too!!) tool, I serendipitously discovered yet another brilliant use this weekend when I made grilled lemongrass chicken. I had a few stalks in my freezer, but no time or interest in thawing. Plus, I can never chop it fine enough for my taste, sharp knives not withstanding. I pulled out my fine Microplane and grated my frozen lemongrass stalk into fluffy, sawdust-fine shards. I didn't even have to peel the outer layer. Then, I grated some ginger (amazingly, the grater left the peel behind) and a large garlic clove all to a superfine puree. I mixed it all with some miso, fish sauce and brown sugar and was good to go in about 5 minutes. The intensity of the lemongrass really came through precisely because the pieces were so ultra-fine; they were able to permeate the chicken thoroughly. I may never need to chop again!
It started on Tuesday in the Test Kitchen, when I took a bite of bucatini with fresh tomato sauce. It was absolutely delicious until, oddly, it started tasting slightly bitter. I had a heaping portion of tuna-noodle casserole, which was supersatisfying...until the bitter flavor returned. I headed to a wine tasting—one with hundreds and hundreds of bottles out to try—but I only lasted a mere 45 minutes because no matter what I tasted, there was that weird medicinal flavor in the back of my throat.
When I returned to the office, I immediately turned to Google. The more reliable medical sites said I could have anything from reflux (I had no heartburn) to lead poisoning (not likely) to cavities (quite likely). I decided to sit tight and see how I felt in the morning.
Sadly, F&W's Test Kitchen is temporarily relocating to another space while our offices undergo renovations. Unfortunately, that means packing and moving equipment, pantry items and all sorts of nonperishable necessities. What it also means is clearing out and cleaning out our fridges of all fresh ingredients. We filled our "give-away table" with cheese, eggs, broccoli, half-full jars (optimist that I am) of jam, mayo, mustard, pickles, chutney, hot sauce and various and sundry condiments for the staff to take home. Of course, I kept a few things for myself—a few slices of pancetta, some moldy pecorino (which I cleaned up), a slightly wilted endive and a lemon, all of which went into my clearing-house salad. I cleaned out my fridge at home to complete the meal, and it was a huge success, not to mention a pleasant surprise.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 slices pancetta
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 pocketless pita
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Romaine lettuce heart, coarsely shredded
1 red endive (traviso), sliced
1/2 can drained chickpeas
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 ounces sliced young pecorino (Sardinian pecorino)
2 slices turkey breast, shredded
4 hard cooked eggs, quartered
1. In a large skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil. Add the pancetta and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Add the pine nuts to the skillet and toast, stirring, until golden. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate. Add the pita to the skillet and toast until golden, about 2 minutes, turning once or twice. Cut into quarters.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice, mayonnaise and garlic with the remaining oil. Add the lettuce, endive and chickpeas, season with salt and pepper and toss. Arrange the pancetta, pine nuts, pecorino, turkey and eggs on top and serve with the pita.