Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Spin on an American Classic

So who doesn't love a good burger?  I'm a huge advocate of grilled, juicy, meaty goodness between two perfectly toasted buns, topped with an array of delicious toppings that could cure nearly any craving.  Anyone who knows me well, knows that I'm extremely fussy about my burgers.  What most major chain restaurants serve is something I have lovingly coined, a meat patty... NOT a burger.  A true burger is a menagerie of spices, flavorings and binders intermingling with the ground meat to form a perfectly round disk that just begs for those charred grill marks.  Slapping some ground beef on a grill that came out of a preformed "burger" package just isn't going to cut it. 

While I believe the sky is the limit for proper ways to season your ground beef (or bison, or lamb...), there are a few staples I always include.  For one pound of meat, add one fresh egg and 1/3 of a cup of panko breadcrumbs for texture and richness.  The crumbs will soak in the spices and flavorings and distribute them throughout the burger more evenly than seasoning the meat alone.  The next non-negotiable in burger assemblage is Worcestershire sauce.  I'm an advocate of Lea & Perrins brand personally.  Finally, sea salt and cracked black pepper round out our staples. 

Beyond that, I've added roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, olive tapenade, fresh herbs, crushed Doritos (yes, you read correct) and pretty much whatever I had kicking around my pantry that I though could taste good with beef... and let's be honest, what doesn't taste good with beef?

Now if you're looking to dress up your basic burger to give it a new twist, think about stuffing your toppings inside.  Think of the upsides... your cheese melts evenly during the cooking process, cooking time is reduced and you save the mess of toppings oozing out of your bun while you're trying to eat it.  Seems like a good enough argument for me.  My most recent creation: The Caprese Burger.  A classic Italian mozzarella, tomato and basil salad stuffed into the middle of a perfectly grilled burger.  The sky really is the limit here thought.  Use your imagination and see where it takes you!

Spread your beef mixture out  to roughly 1/2 inch thick & 5 inches in diameter

Place your choice of fillings in the center and fold the sides over to evenly cover

Stuffed and ready to grill

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Healthy Buffalo - Short ribs like you've never had before

Since relocating to the lovely, tax-free land of New Hampshire from Boston, I've learned that there are some advantages to living in what the average person would view as a "more country-like setting."  Yes, I have to plan pilgrimages down to to Boston for stops at some of my favorite food vendors, but there are a few hidden gems up here that I never would have thought to explore prior to living amongst them. 

Deep in the heart of Chicester, New Hampshire (that's next to Concord to give a more well known vantage point) is a fabulous little shop called The Healthy Buffalo.  When you walk in, you feel as though you're walking into a revamp of someone's living room (probably because you are) full of freezers, refrigeration units and a giant black board listing all of the game meats and cuts they have available.  Ever tried kangaroo?  How about elk or wild boar?  Turtle?  Duck?  Ostrich?  They have them all... and a lot more.  You can purchase bison meat cut into every major steak variety... including my personal favorite, short ribs.  Oh rib meat... how I love thee and your fall of the bone, slow cooked, juicy deliciousness.  Bison short rib has a similar texture to beef, however it's significantly leaner so you get less of an oily coating in your mouth when you eat it.  It does have a slightly gamey flavor, but nothing overpowering that would detract from the basis of why you'd be eating short ribs in the first place.  They also have an amazing array of house-made sausages using various game meats combined with liqueurs, fruits, vegetables and spices to give them a really unique flavor.  They even offer samples of some of their products on Saturdays and Sundays. 

On our most recent trip, we picked up 2 lbs of short ribs to make for a dinner party we were hosting that week.  Now that I'm back to working a full time job, I don't have time to slow braise meat for 12 hours in the oven anymore during the week and needed a simpler solution to achieving that fall-off-the-bone tenderness... enter the crockpot!  I love my crockpot.  It's a fabulous tool to have in any kitchen with almost endless possibilities.  The best part... set it and forget it.  First thing in the morning, I combined my short rib meat with 1 bottle of full bodied Cabernet (you don't have to use anything pricey, just something you wouldn't mind drinking), 3 cups of veal stock, fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage and basil) and a mirepois of diced carrots, onions, celery and vine ripened tomatoes.  Give it a stir and let it simmer for the next 8 to 10 hours for a perfectly delicious entree. 

Check out The Healthy Buffalo online at  If you're outside the Greater New Hampshire area, guest what... they ship their products!  Bon apetite!