Category Archives: How to Cook “American Style”

CHARCOAL GRILLING and BEER DRINKING

HOW TO COOK: “American Style”:

Charcoal Grilling

Ever since I was a kid, the charcoal barbeque grill fascinated me. I remember the first time I cooked over charcoal too. It was probably the 4th of July in the 1970s. My first cooking gadget was a stick from my own backyard, probably even off my mother’s favorite bush, the purple lilac. I stripped off any leaves on the stick and stuck a marshmallow on the end. I believe it was my sister who first showed me how to properly toast a marshmallow without burning it. I did burn quite a few marshmallows in my day before learning how to get them a perfect golden brown (I never liked them burned). I find it ironic that my sister, who never even cooked more than an egg or bacon back then, was the one giving me one of my first barbeque cooking lessons. Yes, I believe toasting a marshmallow is cooking at its finest. Even as a youngster, I enjoyed the challenge of it. That Fourth of July, I ate as many marshmallows as I could stomach without getting sick, just so I could cook them. Even my brother and sister could only eat so many. Subsequently, I could not cook the entire bag or I would have. Thus, began my endeavors into grilling over charcoal for the rest of my life. I only hope that some of the BSA Scouts I have known acquired the very same marshmallow cooking techniques and that it helped inspire them to be great at grilling as an adult.

            To grill burgers, hot dogs or even marshmallows, you don’t need some fancy barbeque grill either. I have used barbeques that were in my local park that sat there for years and were exposed to all of New York’s worst weather. They were simple barbeques made from a few cinder blocks and a rusted steel grate that we cleaned with a wire brush and covered with aluminum foil to cook on. The charcoal was always the classic Kingsford that needed lighter fluid to get it to start burning. I found that match-light (also made by Kingsford) had lighter fluid already in it, but to me seemed to make the food taste of lighter fluid.

To light the charcoal, you make a pile shaped like a volcano. Sprinkle lighter fluid on top and toss on a match. It will have a large fire flaring up and then slowly burn off. Then, wait until all the coals start to turn gray and then using tongs or a small hand shovel, spread the coals out to an even layer.

To the best of my knowledge, Scouts are not allowed to use lighter fluid so I learned in my BSA training class to use something called a charcoal chimney (see Gadget List). Even adults can learn valuable skills during camping trips (hint hint). Since there is no lighter fluid used, there is no lighter fluid taste coming off the charcoal. Thank you Scouting!

I use my charcoal chimney all the time now, particularly when Barbequing. What’s the difference between barbequing and grilling?  You grill a steak, which means you’re cooking over heat quickly and to just the right temperature before pulling it off, letting it rest and cutting it up. There are chefs who are just trained in the art of how to work the grill. I’m sure that Peter Lugar’s and Blackwell’s Steak House have experienced and well trained chefs to cook those expensive aged pieces of beef to perfection. To me, there is nothing better than a two-inch steak cooked over charcoal and served with a baked potato, creamed spinach, or fresh string beans.

Barbeque, however, is low slow cooking. It is impossible to get a rack of ribs to cook so they are edible in ten minutes. There are tips and tricks to grilling great ribs on a gas or charcoal grill, but those involve aluminum foil and allowing them to cook slowing away from the direct high heat. We will get to that at a later day this summer I’m sure. If however you want true southern ribs, pork shoulder (aka pulled pork) or beef brisket THAT’S “barbeque”, then you need a new gadget called a smoker. Smoking is a completely different lesson in itself and this lesson is about grilling.

To grill on your “barbeque”, you must wait until those coals are gray all the way around or you risk having “yucky taste imparted to your steak”. You just want the slightest hint of the charcoal yummyness imparted to the steak, hamburger, hot dogs, or whatever it is you are grilling. A gas grill will never give you this flavor, unlike those advertisements in the seventies would tell you they could. They said that the lava rocks they sold with the grill back then would “flare up and impart the same charcoal taste”. Nope, they lied. Now, barbeque manufactures do not sell those lava rocks anymore, and with good reason! It was ruining the natural beauty of places like Hawaii by taking them away for no reason, sheeesh. So, cook on charcoal.

This Father’s day, or July 4th , go buy yourself a fairly inexpensive charcoal grill and fire that bad boy up using your new charcoal chimney. Then, open an ice cold beer, light a cigar, and wait. Take your time. Relax and chill while you grill. After the steak is done, toast a marshmallow or two and make some s’mores. Don’t even think about letting the kids or your drunk friends toast a marshmallow on your expensive boujee designer gas grill. It was probably built into the stonewall that’s impossible to replace easily and you will have a sticky mess to clean when the hot burning marshmallow falls off the that fancy ass skewer and lands inside the grill! YUCK! On charcoal, you would just have to clean out the ashes when the kids are finished. No muss, no fuss, no problems!

  Go, have fun and grill your next steak or cheeseburger over charcoal, just like the Scouts do!

Welcome to SUMMER FUN! Enjoy the weather, the drinks and the food!

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

NOTES: Whether you choose wine or beer with your steak, may you have a healthy and happy Father’s Day! Even if you’re not a dad yourself, I hope you had a father figure you can always look up to.

THE GADGET LIST UPDATE # 2.0

Good morning. The whole giving up coffee thing didn’t last long. I’m weak. I gave in to the need to be awake in the morning after not sleeping all night. Enough about my addictions for the time being. Let’s move back to talking about my culinary experiences. To cook we need GADGETS. I have discovered that throughout this whole “How to Cook: American Style” cookbook project I will be adding to the Gadget List as I use new ones. I own a few of them. Correction, I own a whole heap of them. Maybe I should rephrase that as I have “collected” a lot of them.

            I recently received a letter from a fellow co-worker and reader on the subject of Gadgets. He began his email talking about his favorite Commercial products. He advocated for all things of commercial quality to buy VOLLRATH. Saying “A one stop shop for a quality lifetime product, almost always made in USA. From measuring spoons, ladles, pots, & pans to ovens fryers, slicers and EVERYTHING foodservice or restaurant related. Lasts a lifetime+

            I would totally agree with that statement. I have seen their pots and pans in many restaurant kitchens that I have had the privilege of being in. Here in the school district, where I work at my REAL JOB, they have a culinary program. I believe they use many of their pots and pans as I recall seeing them hanging in the classroom kitchens. This by the way is an AMAZING high school program and not just cooking but BAKING too! Sorry about that diversion; now, back to the program.

I have never thought to look for Vollrath cookware before but he suggested that I start looking for them at garage sales and estate sales. Speaking of estate sales, I was at one this weekend run by Pair of Picker’s. Pair of Picker’s are some of the nicest people I have met at one of these things. This weekend alone they sold my son Sam a set of dishes that included a magnificent soup tureen. I can’t wait to use it and fill that puppy up with some matzo ball soup. Thank you guys for all the resplendent items I have purchased over the past few years from you!

The next item on his list was knives. I have always looked for good knives at garage sales. I find I have better luck at estate sales for these items, as no one wants to give up their best knife while they are still alive. I know it almost sounds strange to buy things at an estate sale, but for me it is always better to buy something at an estate sale then have it go into a landfill. If you plan to start a chef’s knife collection, then I would begin by getting a good knife carrying case or Chef’s knife roll to store them in. Amazon has loads of them. I purchased mine in a store called Su La Table in the Smithhaven Mall. The knife roll along with one knife was a Christmas gift actually. I have since filled up the entire roll and perhaps have been thinking of getting a second one. Yes, I’m crazy like that. Any-who, long story short, Pete recommends “DEXTER RUSSELL USA, not the Dexter Russell Japan International (it’s a thicker blade) knives. Takes an edge, with a thin blade, inexpensive, NSF plastic handle etc.” Again, this too is now on my list of things to look for.

            Now we move onto more about pots & pans. This is an essential cooking utensil (is that an alliteration?). I myself have two pans that I absolutely love and they are both made by All-Clad. Pete however, prefers to use his 1985 Cuisinart Commercial Stainless cookware. That’s pretty specific there, Pete. He explained to me that it was “Made in France with a sandwiched copper slab between the pot and the stainless bottom.” I know this is good for heat conductivity but more importantly, even heat conductivity! He has been using these pots and pans for 35 years and expands his collection at thrift shops and yard sales. When Pete is not using Cuisinart pans, he has a collection of cast iron frying pans. His favorite is his 10” Griswold made in the USA cast iron frying pan. He tells me: “they have a SMOOTH interior bottom, easy to cure or strip down and season again, not like the new pebblly bottomed Chinese/Lodge stuff.” Thanks Pete, which is what I own. He gave me a whole lesson next on how to strip down and season cast iron frying pans. Perhaps I need to impart some of this wisdom on that subject to more than just the BSA Scouts. The Scouts all learn how to season cast iron pots every year in some troops, as many of them use cast iron pots to cook in all year long. They are a marvelous thing to use in those campfires and with charcoal!

            So check out my latest update to the Gadget List. Have fun collecting and have fun cooking! Thank you for the email, Pete. To the rest of you, keep those emails coming! I love hearing from you!

Be well, cook well, and eat well!

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

Lesson 12: SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS

It was a cool wet late spring day yesterday, perfect for cooking indoors. Sam was requesting Chicken Parmesan for dinner. He always requests Chicken Cutlet Parmesan. He either asks for that or Tex-Mex (chicken enchiladas). Chicken Parmesan is also one of Jennifer’s favorite meals. I have to admit, I like Chicken Parmesan too.

            When I was a kid, my mother used to make veal cutlet parmesan. At the young age of nine, I was not a big fan of veal cutlet parmesan but the sauce and the cheese made it very palatable. It was at this age (I think) she started making chicken cutlet parmesan the same way as she made her veal cutlet parmesan. I enjoyed the chicken more than the veal, but always ate both with spaghetti. By the time I was 10 or 11, I saw my mom preparing dinner. I inquired what she was making. It was the dreaded veal parmesan. I asked why she didn’t make chicken parmesan more often than the veal. She looked at me with a surprised look and asked why? I said that I liked the chicken parmesan better! She said, “That’s great!” very enthusiastically. Then she continued: “Chicken is much cheaper then veal, so from now on I’ll use chicken!” This was probably much to my older brother’s dismay, but from that day on, it was chicken parmesan instead of veal. Now that I know more about veal I never make it for my own family or friends, besides that Jennifer will not eat it. Sam does not like most beef so it has always been chicken parmesan in my house. Chicken parmesan is not completely what I came to talk to you about today. Since we need spaghetti sauce for chicken parmesan, first we need a post and a cooking lesson about Spaghetti and Meatballs (Ma’s Spaghetti Sauce).

            My mother always started her spaghetti sauce by making meatballs. One fine Sunday afternoon, when I was probably bored out of my mind, I sat down and watched her cook. I was a teenager in high school and very interested in food—both eating it and cooking it. I even wrote down the recipe for her meatballs and sauce on an index card that I still have to this day. That was the very first recipe I typed up and put into that MS Word document back in 1999.

            I watched as she mixed the chopped meat and the other meatball ingredients by hand. Then, she carefully shaped the balls so that each one was the same size. When she was done, it was time to fry them in her pressure cooker. After adding a tablespoon or two of olive oil, she added six or so meatballs to the hot pot. She cooked them on medium high heat and turned them over and over so they were brown all the way around. This was so time consuming. No wonder it took her all day! She moved the first batch of meatballs to a plate and kept adding more until they were all fried. Next, she fried the sausages the same way when the last of the sausage and piece of pork was cooked. Then, she added everything back into the pot and started the sauce.

            She began by opening the Redpack whole tomatoes on an old style can opener mounted on the kitchen wall by a side door that led out to the driveway. The can opener was this antique golden yellow and the brand was Swing-A-Way. How I even remember that is beyond me, especially when sometimes I can’t even remember my password for my email.

            She used an Oster blender to chop the whole tomatoes one can at a time, pulsing it on and off, until they were just the right consistency. Then, she poured each can into the pot covering up all the browned yummy meat. After that was the onion and the garlic. First, she dices the onion and the crushes the garlic before adding it into the blender. She added just enough water to the blender so she could chop it all up smooth. It was probably only a 1/4 cup of water but it did the trick. Again, the blender pulsed until she was satisfied with the consistency of the onions and garlic. It smelled amazing, and there were certainly no large chunks left. She poured this into the tomatoes and meat, then stirred. The burner was on low and the sauce was beginning to heat up and bubble.

            Lastly was the seasoning. If she had fresh basil in the summer, she added that (otherwise, it was dried), she always used fresh curly parsley. The parsley she cut using a pair of scissors so it was nice and fine. She never measured anything and cut the parsley right over the pot. “That looks good,” she said. Brilliant it was. Then came the McCormick spices: Bay leaves, oregano, black pepper, (maybe some crushed red pepper), some Morton’s table salt, and a pinch of sugar. “That’s to cut the acid,” she said.

            She covered the pressure cooker and added the thingy on top. She called it a jig-gil-ar. As soon as the sauce heated up enough to start the jig-gil-ar jiggling, she set the timer for 30 minutes.

            After thirty minutes, she would have to run the pot under cold water before removing the jig-gil-ar and opening the lid. Once she said she accidently knocked the jig-gil-ar off too soon and she had spaghetti sauce all over the ceiling, but that was before I was even born. What a mess it must have been.

Now, it was time to add a second large pot of salted water to the stove and bring it to a boil for the pasta. She ALWAYS added just a bit of olive oil to the pasta water. “That’s so the pasta doesn’t stick together,” she said. Soon, we would be eating spaghetti and meatballs!

            This recipe was the same sauce she used to make the chicken parmesan. We will get to that recipe tomorrow. For now, I need to eat something. All of a sudden, I’m hungry.

            Be well, be happy, and enjoy your own family history.   

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

lesson six: SOUP (but its to damN hot for soup)

I love soup. All kinds of soups, just not watermelon, Gazpacho, or Vichyssoise; that is probably only because they are served COLD. I like my soup HOT. I have an entire soup selection in the “recipe book”. The recipe book is just a very long word document (500pgs) that I have been working on for about twenty something years. In the beginning it was just my hand written recipes that I typed up. This included but was not limited to my mother’s spaghetti sauce recipe. I hope my brother still has it. I remember he loved that sauce, and her meatballs!

All my recipes have evolved over the years, including many of the soups. So, there are different “variations” of chicken soup for example. There may not be much of a change from one recipe to another, perhaps only slight differences in ingredients, but when you are cooking, you can often adapt a recipe to your own personal taste. I would suggest to try to make the dish as the recipe writer intended (being an amateur writer myself, I am partial to this). Then, the next time you make the recipe, swap out an ingredient you don’t like with something better. Then *SHA-ZAM* you’re a chef, who is now developing their own family recipe!

Like I was saying earlier, it’s too damn hot for soup, so I will not be posting any soup recipes here for a awhile yet. Don’t worry, I will get to them in lesson six along with the fall. It will all be here before you know it. Let’s not rush summer. It is my favorite time of year. School is out here in New York for the entire summer and the kids don’t go back to school until after Labor Day. To this very day, that’s why summer is still my favorite time of year. Plus, I love all our outdoor barbeque parties!

Speaking of parties, I am cleaning up my backyard now and trying to get it ready for guests to come over. I am looking forward to having huge crowds again in my back yard, just so I can cook for everyone. Is that crazy? Somehow it sounds crazy. If I really think about it, I’m working on cleaning up my yard so I can work at cooking all day so people can eat…OH I must love cooking! I do tend to drink while I barbeque so maybe that is why they call me The Drunken Chef at work!

Bon Appetit. I mean, be well, be happy and eat yummy food!

-The Drunken Chef (Russ)

Lesson 7 – Salads

I love salad. I usually eat some kind of a salad before dinner or just as a meal for lunch. Sometimes I will eat a salad for dinner on a hot summer night. One of my favorite salads to eat as a meal is the antipasto salad. The first place I ever had a good antipasto salad was at a local pizza place here on Long Island 30 years ago. After that day, I started making it myself. There is nothing to cook after all. No oven and no stove heating up the house. Which as a cook on a hot summer night, is a blessing. The main ingredient in most salads is just lettuce, usually Iceberg. I have found that as good as iceberg lettuce is, I often like to use Romaine and “spring mix” to change thing up.  

Let start with the Antipasto Salad. Begin by washing and drying the lettuce and greens. I have a salad spinner to dry my salad greens and I love it. My sister in-law simply just uses a colander and lets the greens sit and drain well. I have even used paper towels in the past, because if your lettuce and salad greens are too wet, they will literally water down the salad dressing.

Now I begin to build my antipasto salad right on our large dinner plates instead of using one big bowl. Sometimes, if I am making an entire tray for the women in my wife’s classroom or for a party, then that’s a different story.

The lettuce goes on the dinner plate first. Now, I cut the deli sliced salami into quarters. I repeat this with the pepperoni, and the provolone cheese. I place all these items carefully on the lettuce, spreading them all out. On top of that goes some quartered plum tomatoes or garden fresh tomatoes. I add thinly sliced red onion and roasted red pepper that I cut into strips or diced into one-inch squares. Then, I add some canned sliced mushrooms and marinated artichoke hearts that I drained the juice off. If I have it, lastly I put on a whole pepperoncini right on top.

To season, I sprinkle with black pepper, Italian seasoning, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, and add just a bit of either Wishbone Italian dressing or Olive garden salad dressing on top.

This is the first recipe I choose to talk about in the section on salads not because it is alphabetically first, but because right now, it’s my favorite.

So, get out there and make a salad. Here is another one of those places where you can experiment freely with the ingredients. I will be posting many more salads and homemade dressings in the future including:

Chef’s Salad

Chopped Salad

Rotelle Pasta Salad

Spinach salad with hot bacon dressing

Caprese

Italian Vinaigrette Dressing

Creamy French dressing and thousand island

Caesar Salad dressing

Green Goddess

SO, watch for my salad recipes ALL summer before it gets too cold to eat salad…

Lesson 10 – BBQ Chicken Wings and Legs

You now have hot dogs under your belt and if you’re really good, hamburgers too. Hamburgers should really be a whole how to lesson in themselves if you have never made them. Since every BSA Scout I ever taught how to cook knows how to make a hamburger correctly, you might as well learn too. Let’s see how the year goes and I will try to fit that in soon, before the summer really gets going.

It’s party time and backyard BBQ season is upon us. When I think party, I think of wings! Summer is a good time for BBQed wings or BBQed chicken legs. Both of these I think go great with my version of a honey barbeque buffalo sauce.

Prepare the chicken wings; chicken wings may have to be prepped before they can be cooked depending on where you get them. Sometimes the wings come whole and you have to separate the “drumett”, from the “winngett” and discard the wing tip. I do this by carefully working my chef knife between the joints of the chicken wing and cut through the cartilage separating them. Chicken wings can be a lot of work, but just as Mussels are difficult to clean, they are both well worth all the effort in the end.

Once prepped I toss my wings in a bit of oil and spices before grilling them.

INGREDIENTS:

Purdue Chicken wings cut into wing and drumetts

          (Frozen wings can be substituted for fresh)

1 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

½ cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

Half stick butter

¼ cup Sweet Baby Ray’s honey barbeque sauce

½ cup Marie’s Blue Cheese salad dressing

1 tablespoon Cholula Hot Sauce

Baby Carrots and Celery sticks

Spices:

Paprika

Onion powder

Garlic powder

Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Heat gas grill for 10 minutes or until charcoal coals are gray. In a large bowl, place wings and coat with oil. Sprinkle with spices and toss with oil until wings are evenly coated. Place on grill and cook until golden brown and crispy. While wings are on grill, keeping warm on low, make the sauce. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add Frank’s red-hot sauce, Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbeque sauce, and Cholula to the melted butter and heat on low until warm.  Do not boil. Pour sauce over wings to cover and toss in a large bowl.

Serve with baby carrots, carrot sticks, celery sticks, Marie’s blue cheese dressing or ranch dressing.

NOTES: do not use oil with frozen wings. I like this method (bbq) of cooking the wings because the whole house does not smell like grease and fried food because it’s done on the barbeque.

You can replace the wings with chicken legs or thighs. They just take longer to cook!

Wings before the sauce

Sauce

1 cup Frank’s red hot sauce

½ stick salted butter

2 – 4 tablespoons Sweet Bay Ray’s original BBQ sauce

1 tablespoon original Cholula hot sauce

1 tablespoon honey (optional)

In a small pot add: Frank’s red hot sauce, butter, BBQ sauce, Cholula sauce, and honey. Heat buffalo wing sauce until all the butter is melted and sauce just begins to simmer. Don’t over heat the sauce.

Serve with:  Marie’s blue cheese dressing, celery sticks and carrot sticks.

Match with: Sam Adams – Larger, Oktoberfest or Porch Rocker

Lesson 9 – Dawgs – Hot dogs with all the trimmings

Memorial Day Weekend and Hot Dogs go hand in hand. Here on Long Island, we call ’em: “Dawgs” and beer! Whether it’s root beer or the icy cold adult version, you need something to drink with a tasty dawg. There is nothing like a frosty cold one on a hot summer day!

I start with making either Sabrett brand or Nathan’s hot dogs. I often buy them in May at Costco. It’s only the beginning of the summer season and we go through so many over the course of the next two months. I don’t want to run out, so it’s the club size package for me! I freeze them so I always have a good supply for last minute BBQs with family, friends, or neighbors. Franks, weenies, Red Hots, or dawgs, whatever you call them they all cook quickly on a hot grill. Therefore, it’s best if we prepare all the side dishes first.

Potato, macaroni and cold slaw always take the longest and are more labor intensive than baked beans from a can. You can make these all on the same day (like Memorial Day at 6:00am), but they taste better if they sit overnight and you let the flavors blend. You can make these salads up to five days in advance.  I start cooking Thursday for MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND.

There are other easy sides too, like sauerkraut. You can make this at home, but I buy the fresh stuff that comes in a bag in the meat department for this big weekend, like the Board’s Head brand. The canned stuff is horrible if it’s overcooked right from the can. You cannot uncook something that is overdone, yuck. There isn’t anything you need to do to good sauerkraut aside from heat it up when using it for hot dogs. We can do that in a pot on the side burner of the BBQ.

Oops. That might be where my stockpot is full of corn on the cob. Nope, Memorial Day weekend is too early for that. We will save that recipe for the Fourth of July. Please remind me, if I forget.

Next, we have Baked Beans. That can go one of two ways. You can serve them directly from a can by just heating them up in a pot on the stove (I use my Coleman stove for this), or you can make them yourself in the oven.

Let’s say it’s a party…I NEED a party as things open up now after COVID! I have set up the Coleman stove to keep the sauerkraut and the baked beans hot.

We could however make the beans from scratch and have them in a chafing dish. Okay, chafing dish it is. See the Baked Beans recipe. After you’re done making the beans, let’s look at the Spicy Onions recipe and we can keep that on the burner next to the sauerkraut.

We will need Condiments like: spicy brown and mild yellow mustard, ketchup, and relish.

Chili would be good, but ONLY after Labor Day (no more white blouses to be ruined are worn after Labor Day.) Sometimes I wait until later in September or early fall (Octoberish) to make chili. When the weather turns colder and you need to keep the Dawg hot, it works best when it’s cool out. For now, we have beans, for the kid in all of us!

Oh! Yes! We need pickles and maybe potato chips too!

Now, it’s time to fire up the grill! The gas barbeque vs. charcoal BBQ is always a dilemma. There is nothing better than a burger or a steak over charcoal but what about a hot dawg? Well, it depends what else is on the gas grill at the moment. I always start my hot dogs on charcoal and keep them warm on the gas grill in the beginning of parties. Once the charcoal is gone or the kids are toasting marshmallows, I move everything to the gas grill. I may have a batch of chicken wings or chicken legs on the grill early on. In that case, I keep the burgers and the dawgs on the charcoal grill.

In winter, I stop BBQing and the hot dawgs move inside. Then, they are the New York City “dirty water dawgs” or fried in a pan as if Ben’s Deli or Nathan’s made them. These recipes should be posted in the fall (Novemberish), so check back then.

Before you go and invite all those guests, don’t forget to check out the BBQ wings recipe and Chicken legs recipes that I will post tomorrow.

Also try these side dishes: Cold Slaw, Potato Salad, and Macaroni Salad

Enjoy! Stay safe and have fun!

-The Drunken Chef (Russ)

Lesson 11 – Homemade Hamburgers

May 26, 2021

            When George Forman was asked what his favorite food was, he always replied, “Cheese Burgers”! He even said that after he was a millionaire and could eat anything or anywhere he wanted.  No wonder it was HIS name on the George Forman grill! I even owned one myself and used it when I lived in a small apartment with no real kitchen. It worked great too! Thank you Mr. Forman, for all those wonderful cheeseburgers back then.

            Today, I own a huge outdoor propane gas grill to make my hamburgers, plus a few other types of outdoor grills. However, cheeseburgers cooked on the charcoal grill are still the best of all, maybe even as much as George Forman grill. I love all kinds of homemade hamburgers.  Rarely (pun intended), I even eat them out at restaurants too. 

I think the best burgers are still the ones I make at home. Today, we will discuss how to make the recipe HOMEMADE HAMBURGERS.

Any BSA Scout that I have supervised cooking hamburgers still remembers some of my tips or tricks of cooking them just right (I hope!). When you are out in the middle of the woods with a big group of Scouts, always cook the hamburgers to 160ºF. I never ran the risk of anyone getting sick from an undercooked burger. The trick was NOT to overcook them. A hamburger that is too well done is inedible to me.  At home, I cook all my hamburgers to order. If you want your burger rare, then that is your business. If you order it rare, then rare you will get.  Rare by the way is warm and red in the middle. The hamburger reaches an internal temperature of 130ºF on an instant thermometer. I like my burger medium-rare myself, or 135º, medium is 145º, medium-well is 155º and well is 160º. Any meat will continue to cook for 10 minutes as it sits after pulling off the fire. If you are not directly handing someone a burger right off the grill to eat, always then UNDER cook it by 5 or 10 degrees and it will cook as it sits. Then, it will be done perfectly when they come up to get it and sit back down.  

The trick to me is timing and a meat thermometer. I own a wonderful instant read meat thermometer. (See the gadget list). Back in the woods with the Scouts, we would cook frozen hamburgers on a grill. I would tell the Scouts, “watch the top of the burger but don’t touch it. First, you will see it deforest. Still, don’t touch it. Then when you see the blood start to rise up to the surface, NOW you can flip it over! Cook it until the same thing happens on the other side. When you see the burger beading up, then add cheese. As soon as the cheese is melted, THEN move it to a bun. It usually took two or three young scouts all working together to keep the hamburger line moving along smoothly so everyone ate all at the same time and the food was hot. The hamburgers were never dried out or over cooked using this method and they were always all eaten. Even the adults actually enjoyed them!  

At home, I rarely use frozen burgers, unless it is one of my BIG office parties where there is SO much food that you don’t know what to eat next anyhow. This is when I buy the BIG 1/3 of a pound frozen hamburgers. I can actually get those cook to order at least. I buy mine from a local butcher who makes them fresh then freezes them.  

I remember with great fondness my twenties and camping in the woods. All those frozen hamburgers we ate during a four day long Memorial weekend. They were yummy. That was with thirty other twenty something’s with a lot of beer to wash those burgers down. Boy we went through a LOT of burgers, chicken, and beer that weekend!

Until tomorrow be happy, stay healthy and eat well!

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

Buffalo Burger with Blue Cheese
The hamburger Press helps makes even sized patties.

Lesson five: The Brunch Menu Part Two

Eggs Benedict. Yum! Poached eggs are the pinnacle of egg cooking for any chef. The problem is that it’s challenging to make a poached eggs that looks like something you would get a restaurant.

My first tip is that the fresher the egg the better success you will have, as the whites are less “runny” or more viscous when its fresh. When an egg begins to get older, the whites turn more “watery”. Use the freshest eggs you can buy for a better chance at success.

You can make a poached egg and eat it plain, without making it into something else like Eggs Benedict, but why go through ALL that work if a plain egg is all you want? Hell, just boil the thing in it’s shell until it’s soft-boiled and be done with it. Nope, you want to learn how to poach an egg so you can EAT Eggs Benedict or Eggs Florentine.

For eggs benedict, I will suggest starting with toasting the English muffins. I toast mine under the broiler. That leaves one side soft and makes it easier to cut and eat with a fork in the end. Then we need to work on the Hollandaise sauce.  Great sauces are what great chefs strive to achieve. There is a chef’s station in French restaurants called a Saucier. The saucier not only makes all the sauces for the entrées but they can be involved in making stews like Beef Bourguignon, hot hors d’œuvres, and sautéing food to order. Mostly, they are the chefs who make the sauces for the entrées.

This whole sauce making thing is no easy task. Ask anyone who has screwed up the Thanksgiving turkey gravy and never heard the end of it, year, after year, after year. It’s difficult because it can take as many as two days to make some sauces all from scratch. While other sauces only take minutes. Hollandaise sauce is called a mother sauce (According to French cooking anyway) and one of the sauces that is quick to make. That does not make it easy, just fast to make. Hollandaise can be then used to make “other” sauces by adding, for example, fresh herbs. The sauces made from Hollandaise are called: Béarnaise Sauce, Dijon Sauce, Foyot Sauce, Choron Sauce, & Maltaise Sauce. They are in a class called Emulsified Sauces. I will be writing a whole lesson on sauces alone in the coming year as we explore each one over two dozen sauces and how they compare to say “Turkey Gravy”. Yes, that is a sauce! It’s not “Frenchie” but it’s a sauce. There are five mother sauces in all and each one has other sauces that are made from it. To explain it all now I would have to get out my charts and graphs. It’s a whole big science lesson thing and best saved for another day or a YouTube show.

Let’s get back to today’s feature article. Pull out our medium sized saucepot, for poaching the eggs. I use a 1.5-quart size pot filled with 1-quart of cold tap water. Add two teaspoons of white vinegar and one tablespoon kosher salt (2½ teaspoons of table salt). The salt and vinegar are not for taste but rather to help the pouched egg form/cook quicker and to help produce a better looking pouched egg. Bring the water and stuff to a boil so we can add the eggs later.

Now let’s make that sauce!

 

Hollandaise Sauce

To make 2 cups of Hollandaise Sauce, you will need:

  • 1 1/4 lbs. of butter (5 sticks), clarified* (you should end up with about 1 lb. of clarified butter)
  • 1/8 teaspoon Salt, (kosher preferred so less if its table salt)
  • 2 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons cold water
  • 6 Egg Yolks **
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of lemon juice
  • Salt, white pepper  and Cayenne Pepper or Hot sauce to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  • Clarify your butter*. (this already makes this complicated)
  • Place salt, vinegar and crushed peppercorns into a saucepan and reduce by 2/3. Remove from heat and add water.
  • Transfer reduction to a stainless-steel mixing bowl.
  • Add egg yolks** and beat over a simmering pot of water until the egg yolks become thick and creamy. (If unsure about the thickness, monitor with an instant read thermometer and make sure the eggs do not exceed 150°F/65°C).
  • Once the egg yolks have reached the desired thickness, remove from heat. Slowly drizzle in the warm clarified butter into the yoks while beating with a wire whisk, starting with just a few droplets first to get the emulsion gets going.
  • Continue streaming in the clarified butter until it is completely incorporated. If the hollandaise becomes too thick before all the butter is emulsified in, thin the hollandaise with a couple drops of warm water.
  • Finish by seasoning your hollandaise with salt, lemon juice and cayenne pepper to taste. Add just enough cayenne to help cut through the fat of the hollandaise and to add depth of flavor; your hollandaise should NOT be spicy.
  • You can adjust final consistency by adding a little bit of warm water to both lighten the sauce and give it a better flow.
  • The Hollandaise should be kept warm over a double boiler until ready to serve. The best holding temperature is about 145°F/63°C. This temperature both discourages the growth of bacteria and is hot enough to keep the fat in your hollandaise from solidifying. For both food safety and quality control, hollandaise should not be held any longer than two hours.
  • Common Secondary Sauces: Bearnaise, Maltaise, Mousseline, Foyot, Choron.

Classically Served With: Eggs (Eggs Benedict), Vegetables (especially Asparagus), light poultry dishes, fish, Beef (Bernaise Sauce)

Holy cow that was a lot of work for just two cup of this stuff but it’s so good! Now if you are not into trying to prove yourself as a top chef and still want to try your hand a pouching eggs and/or making eggs benedict, I have a suggestion. Shush, don’t tell anyone, but its Knorr’s Hollandaise sauce. I use it when I’m being lazy, which means I always keep it in my spice cabinet and use it before it expires! Now you can concentrate on the eggs!

Now let’s make some eggs and heat up some ham. In a small pan add butter and fry up some deli ham or Canadian bacon is traditional. As the water comes to a boil begin to crack your room temperature eggs into a Pyrex dishes.  I find when starting out it makes sliding the eggs into he water easier. Pro: Tip. Sit the water so it spinning around slowly, slide the egg right into the center and watch it drop to the bottom. Add the next eggs and so on up to 6 eggs. As the eggs rise up as come to the surface they are almost done. Professional chefs remote them now and place them in water that is a perfect 150 drees to “cook though to kill any salmonella. I like them float on the water just a bit long perhaps a minute or two before placing them on my already toasted English muffin. It time to assemble said Eggs Benedict, place a slice or ham or Canadian bacon on one half of an English muffin. Is any of this American? Next up the eggs on that. Why do we do it in that order? The ham stops the English muffin from getting way too mushy. Now, (wait for it) pour over your Hollandaise sauce. YUM! Serve immediately with a Bellini or Mimosa! I will have to try it with a Bloody Mary next time.

This whole this can be changed up very easy to a second recipe called: Eggs Florentine. This is simply done by swapping out the ham for some cooked and well drained spinach. I have used asparagus too but I don’t know what that’s called.

How to Clarify Butter* or make “Drawn Butter”:

Clarified butter, (my mother always called this drawn butter), is unsalted butter that is melted down and allowed to separate over very low heat so that the proteins that are milk solids can be removed. After the clarification process, the butter now has a higher smoke point and makes it great for cooking or frying in. I will explain why shortly.

The easiest way to clarify butter is over a water bath or double boiler. This allows you to gently heat the butter just to the boiling point of water or 212 degrees and will never get any hotter! At this temperature, the water literally bubbles up and out of the butter as it evaporates. What’s left is the whey proteins that form a  a white foam on top. Eventually the foam will dehydrate as well and collapse as it cooks, leaving you a thin skin of whey protein on top. Some of the dry casein particles now sink to the bottom. If you did not use a double boiler for this process, they would eventually start to brown. We did, so we are safe to finish the process. Simply skim off the “skin” using a ladle or large spoon. Then pour off the clarified butter, being careful not to include any of the white casein particles that have settled to the bottom. Ka-Pow – Clarified butter! Clarified butter can keep in the fridge up to one year! So you can definitely make this ahead of time for any dish. I have a whole mason jar of this liquid gold in my fringe.

What happens if you do not use a double boiler? Then you run the risk of browning those milk proteins on the bottom of the pot. It that case you have now made something called “Ghee”. Ghee is a clarified butter made using almost the identical technique as above, but is cooked in a pot instead of a double boiler. Because the milk solids come into direct contact with heat from the burner, they can get to higher temperatures than 212°F. It is at this point they start to brown. If you continue browning of the milk fats (slowly) then the finished Ghee will have a dark brown color and a nutty aroma. This is very good for other recipes but it is not what we are looking to use in our Hollandaise Sauce. I love science and there is a LOT of it in cooking but no one tells you about it. No one except, Alton Brown and Harold McGee (listed alphabetically). These are just two of my favorite cookbook authors. Enough science for today, go enjoy your breakfast.

I think it’s time to take a break from breakfast so next time maybe we will do a lunch dish. Thanks for reading today and until next time; Stay Healthy, Be Happy, and Eat well!  

The Drunken Chef (Russ)

** Separating eggs :The old fashioned way of separating eggs is by transferring the yoke back and forth between the half shells over one bowl. Then moving each item to its own bowl so as not to contaminate the eleven prior separated eggs with with a broken yoke on the twelfth try. The second method also involves three bowls. One bowl holds up a slotted spoon or strainer. Crack the egg onto the slotted spoon and then move the yoke to its own bowl. Then move the white it its own separate bowl. Repeat this process until you have enough yokes or whites for what you need. Extra egg whites can be frozen for future use. Mixed eggs (whites with broken yokes) can by used for omelets.

PS – You can also add to you menu the following:

FRENCH TOAST

Lesson five: The Brunch Menu Part One

            Ah Sunday! I love Sunday…even though it’s Monday. We can still reminisce about Sunday! The one day I get to sleep in an extra hour or two! Sundays remind me of my childhood. There was that big fat Sunday paper with all those great comics. Back then, Sunday was the only day the comics were in color. If it were Easter Sunday that meant I had a fresh new batch of Silly Putty too! You could press the Silly Putty to the newsprint and when you peeled it off you would have a color comic on it. I don’t know why that amused me back then but it kept me busy for and a bit. Did you know that the silly putty trick does not work anymore? They changed the ink or something. Speaking of Easter Sunday it felt so early this year. It feels like I missed it somehow. It is only now going warm outside. Last night even unusually cold for this time of year. My heat started coming on all night! The home heating oil god hates me apparently and wants me to burn as much of the stuff as he can produce before having to turn on the air-conditions before summer hits. Wow! Where did that rant come from? It Sunday lets chill out with a big Sunday morning breakfast!

We have made pancakes, eggs, and omelets. What’s next? Mmm. Let’s making some coffee then a frittata. A frittata is only really a giant omelet from the oven!

We will need a 9 inch by 13 inch glass Pyrex baking dish and a pan to make the bacon and or sausage in.

We will also need:

INGREDIENTS:

12 Eggs

1 TBLS. Milk

Hash browns or potato tots (defrosted)

One pound cook Bacon (crumbled)

One package of breakfast Sausage (Cubed)

8 ozes shredded cheddar cheese (one package)

Tsp. Vegetable oil

A few drops of Tabasco (To taste)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 dregees. Grease the bottom of your Pyrex backing dish with a little cooking spray or just a bit of canola oil or vegetable oil. Olive oil can be a little heavy tasting but if it’s all you have. Use a paper towel to swoosh the cooking oil around. You don’t need to swoosh the spray stuff. I am not really a fan of spay stuff because I don’t know what’s in it. I own it. I use it on occasion, but I don’t like it when I do. Easy is sometimes best! Now that the botten has a nice thin non stsick coting lats add those staore bought home foreis. Why do I use these instead of make my own fresh? Mainly because I’m not masicstic. I could make them fresh sure. Lets peel and great two or three lage potaoes. Then gate a large pan nice and how and frt them up in some peanut oil (If you not allergic otherwise I guess vegetable oil). Drain them cool them and add them to the bottom of the pan. Nope, I diced that the ones I get from the frozen food section and look just like the ones from McDonalds work great once defrosted I press them into the pan making sure they are place next to another flat against the bottom. Then I pop them into the oven for a few minutes. Check on them every five minutes. Take them out as soon as they start to get slightly brown and crisp up and/or sizzle. It the meantime. While the potatoes cook let make the bacon. If you have nevr make bacon before it takes practice to get it just right. Just don’t let your bacon burn it the will ruin your whole frittata. Its best to leasbve it out if it all burns.  When done it should be a light golden brown so it crumbles nicely. Please wait until its cool before crumbling. Otherwise you will need one those Scouts I have mentioned in a previous post to preform first aid for burns on your hands.

Nice job on the bacon! Now you can cook up all of those breakfast sausage in some of that bacon grease. I fist dressed it then slice it. Its easer to slice cold then hot. Do other cookbooks point these things out?

Have you been checking on your potatoes? If not, then they are plenty brown by now. Sprinkle the cooked sausage and the bacon across the potatoes spreading them across the whole dish evenly.

Now it’s time to break a few eggs into a large bowl. You can’t have a frittata without breaking a few eggs. Add a tablespoon of milk to the bowl with the eggs. Too much milk and the eggs won’t set. You can even add some Tabasco now. I like the stuff so I always add a little. This many eggs I would add ten drops or five good shakes of the bottle. That is not even one-drop per egg. Most people don’t even notice it if you don’t add too much! Scramble a dozen eggs using a wire whisk or fork from your flatware set. Do not add the cheese yet! This the same thing as adding too much milk. The eggs will not cook. You will have a cheesy custard casserole, ewe. Now pour the scrambled eggs into the pan filling it up ¾ of the way. Do not fill it to the top or it will spill over before it cooks. Place it in the oven. I hope you didn’t turn the oven off after taking out the eggs. Bake for about 20 minutes. Check it after twenty minutes to see if it’s just set. If it is not done yet, then check on it every ten minutes after that until its set. Then sprinkle all that nice cheddar cheese on top! If you’re really a pro you grated a block of cheddar yourself. You saved money and hopefully your fingers too! Then place it back in the oven until it is all melty and yummy. Let it rest for only a few minutes and sever with fresh bagels, English muffins or toast. Add orange juice, tomato juice or pineapple juice. Add mimosas or Bellini’s or Bloody Mary’s if your home with friends and enjoy!

 This recipe works in a cast iron Dutch oven. If your ever stuck in the woods and need a good hearty breakfast meal in a hurry. This will work. To make it in a hurry you can precook the sausage and the bacon before the trip and breing it with yopu in the cooler. You can even cook the bacon and sausage the night before while making dinner! The just put it all in the cooler for the next morning. Duck oven cooking is a whole lesson in it itself. In addition, you do not need water to clean a Dutch oven only coarse salt, oil and a $#@& load of paper towels! I will save that tip for the Scouts!

Next time we will cover pouches eggs and Hollandaise Sauce for my favorite, Eggs Benedict. That’s all in our next Lesson…

Stay healthy, be happy and eat well!

The Drunken Chef