Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Give a Bachelor a Burger: A Homemade Dinner for your Favorite Working Man

In the past 10 years a cultural food phenomenon as appeared in the Silicon Valley. Publicised first by Google, it has become the common standard that all corporate campuses in the Bay Area now offer plentiful meal options to their employees morning through night. The thought process behind this of course is that if they don't have to go far for a great meal they can spend more time working more productively. A happy healthy employee is a loyal productive employee... and loyal productive employees make you money!

I recently had one of my favorite bachelor buddies over for dinner. He has been working for a few years at a big time Silicon Valley company and he loves his job. Like any wise bachelor he also daily takes advantage of 3 meals a day while working early in the morning to late in the evening. Who wouldn't? I don't know many guys (or gals for that matter) who enjoy heading home after a long day at the office to rustle up a meal for one (if you have started to follow my twitter:: and you should!::  you know that my domestic goddess rarely comes out on the weeknights. Example- the night I had pancakes, asparagus, & left over sweet potato fries for dinner... yikes). However even with the fine food options available after awhile the appeal of eating every meal from a cafeteria is bound to wear thin. If you have one of these bachelor buddies here is your opportunity to be their new favorite person. There is something special that a hand crafted and thought out meal provides to the eater that a cafeteria can never provide.

When planning out this dinner my first thought was "I have to do burgers". I knew my buddy was a huge burger connoisseur, but of course I couldn't do just your average burger it needed to have my own flair on it. Since it's grilling season there have been ample ideas in my favorite recipe magazines and web sites. One trend that I really attached to was the cheese stuffed burger. I went with a nice creamy Gorgonzola to give a nice surprise and then happened upon an awesome recipe for a caramelized red onion, bacon & balsamic dressing that would work so perfectly. Finishing off with some fresh arugula brought a nice cool peppery component and a nice compliment of color! While I wanted to really go all out and bake the buns myself it was not in the cards this time but I did put them on my grill pan for a few minutes to warm them up and give them a nice toast. To round out the plate I herb roasted some dutch golden baby potatoes and grilled some asparagus. It made my night when as soon as he walked in the kitchen (smelling the hearty smell of cooked bacon) he declared "it's like you went online and looked up 'what are Jared's favorite foods?' !". Nothing makes me happier than making people feel special with food and a comment like this left me glowing. It is always so fulfilling to show people how much you care with a meal you thought up just for them! Unfortunately in all the fun I forgot to take a picture but below you can find the recipes!

I found the original recipe via foodgawker on fellow food blogger's site, visit Tracey's Culinary Adventures to see what other treats you might enjoy!

Gorgonzola Stuffed Burger
with Red Onion, Bacon, & Balsamic dressing:

For the Dressing

4 thick slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

For the Burgers
2 thick slices bacon
3/4 lb 85% lean ground beef
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce ( I just kinda dashed some in the bowl till it looked good, I may have put a little more)
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola or blue cheese
2 hamburger buns

To Prepare the Dressing:

In a large skillet over medium heat cook bacon (chopped into 1/2 pieces) till it just begins to crisp. Transfer it from the pan with a slotted spoon to a plate covered with a paper towl to drain. Leaving the heat at medium add the sliced onions to the bacon grease to cook down and caramelize. I pulled the pan off the heat for a second while I was adding them to try to avoid hot grease splatter. stir periodically as they begin to caramelize around 10 minutes or so until they look nice and soft. Add the balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, 1/3 cup of water and the cooked bacon to the pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer and continue to stir periodically as the liquid is reduced and absorbed another 5 minutes or so (you want to make sure it is no longer soupy). If you are going to be short on time the day you plan to serve your burgers you can prepare this part up to two days in advance and then reheat it before service.


In  medium bowl mix the ground beef, minced bacon and Worcestershire sauce with a little salt and pepper. Separate into 4 even portions flatten each into a round about a 1/4 inch thick. Top each of two rounds with a 1/4 cup of the crumbled gorgonzola. Top with the extra two rounds a firmly press the edges together to seal in the cheese (after pinching the edges I picked up each burger and formed them a little more in my hands so it felt like it was 1 piece not two halves of the whole, you dont want the cheese to escape!)

After grilling your buns set you burgers on the grill over medium heat about 5 minutes on each side for a nice medium doneness (I wait till the outside edge is no longer pink about half way up then flip it, since the center is cheese there is less worry about the doneness).

For mine I put a little mayo on my bottom bun then topped with the burger the onion dressing and some fresh arugula! Filling and flavorful this is a sophisticated twist on a classic with some great unique flavors!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

AT&T Ball Park Series #3: King Street Carvery

I first fell in love with the King Street Carvery concessions (seems like such a cheap word for the fare available at this stand) last season on one of my first games in the 315 vicinity of View Reserve. I had come to a day game and I wanted to branch out from my usual Italian sausage. While surveying my options this stand stood out from the Doggie Diner and heat lamp ruined pizza's as an option for a real meal. I ordered the Carved Turkey sandwich with optional Cranberry sauce (nice and thick) and the side of potato salad. While I did at first balk at the cost (Combined with a beer my total was over $20) I so enjoyed the sandwich that combined with it's close proximity to my season tickets it has become my new standard! (with the exception of the potato salad- it was very tasty but not really necessary the sandwich is filling enough) I now have to introduce all my friends who join me at games to this spot because it really is a can't miss. With the Review as an inspiration I have begun branching out to other  items on the menu and so today I present you with three options. Fore warning- they were not all fantastic, however there are plenty of things that you will really enjoy available!

Locations: View Reserve 317, Lexus Clubhouse, Promenade Level section 126
Average Wait: My main experience is with the View Reserve Location, there are 2 lines (which many people don't realize) Head to the line on the right side of the stand as that one is usually shorter. Line moves quickly although it may take a moment for your order as it is being prepared on the spot not pre-packaged which is totally worth it for the warm fresh flavors

The Carved Turkey Sandwich The picture depicts the sandwich after I have already dressed it to my taste spreading the heaping spoonful of cranberry sauce around with some mayo and deli mustard (condiments conveniently located right next to the stand)
Price: $9.25
Value: I definitely think this sandwich is worth, heaping with thick slices of turkey carved on the spot for your order. It is also served with a pickle spear!
Overall Flavor & Satisfaction: I am never disappointed. The carved turkey is nice and moist, great flavor. The cranberry sauce has excellent consistency and the roll it is served on tastes fresh and holds up well (most times). If you are not a turkey fan I have heard nothing but great things about the Carved Brisket sandwich which is served with horseradish and a pickle as well! Also carved fresh to order

Pulled Pork Sandwich with Creamy Slaw
I am a huge lover of pulled pork and had been eyeing this item warily on the menu for awhile now. I recently enjoyed a game with my dad and decided it was time to give it a try!
Price: $10.00
Value: I'm going to rate this in terms of the cost of this same sandwich at a sit down restaurant and say that the quantity matches the cost
Over All Flavor & Satisfaction: YUM!!!! I was over the top pleased with the sandwich. First of all size wise it is great totally filling. The meat is tender and juicy and the sauce is the perfect balance of sweet with just enough spiciness. The creamy slaw balances everything really well and it is served on the same great rolls as the Turkey & Brisket sandwiches. Fair warning though - this is a fork sandwich! You can maybe if you are lucky make it through 1/3 of the sandwich before the roll begins to fail you, with all that delicious sauce it's gonna get soggy. I recommend tearing pieces of the bun off and loading them with the pork and slaw and eating it in sections and the remaining straight with a fork. And get lots of napkins!
Side Note: This is an original item from Willie McCovey's Restaurant, the aptly named- McCovey's, in Walnut Creek, CA. Read more about the restaurant on their website here.

Boudin's Chili in a Bread Bowl
As a bay area native I grew up with delicious Boudin's sourdough bread always available. Usually i would be a clam chowder in a bread bowl girl however on this particularly chilly (hehehe) night- only chili would suffice! Both options are available however.
Price: $8.25
Value: If you can eat the bread- great, if not the amount of chili or chowder available does not really justify the cost
Overall Flavor & Satisfaction: Here comes the disappointment. I was actually pretty excited to try this one out. I like chili, I love bread bowls but right off the bat I was underwhelmed. My bread had obviously been cut too far in advance and was beginning to taste dry and stale. While the cheese melted in nicely the chili lacked depth and character. I like a dynamic chili with a variety of textures (and lots of beans!). This chili had no beans to speak of and basically was just seasoned ground beef. Within not much time it began to get that greasy unappealing sheen on it. I can't say I would recommend it. At a separate game a friend ordered the clam chowder and was disappointed by how unsatisfied it left her as she did not really enjoy the bread and there was an inadequate quantity of chowder in the large seeming bowl. Your dollars are definitely better spent on other items at this stand.

Game Scores: It's been some hard fought battles this year and I'm sad to report that each game I enjoyed these items at was a lose. Phillie, the D-backs, & the Brewers :( Thankfully we had a great shut out win last night! LET'S GO GIANTS!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Farmers Market Squash Blossoms

One of the great sadnesses of my working weekends is that I rarely make it out to the many local farmer's markets in the area. This last weekend I finally had a Sunday off and hit up the Campbell farmers market (organized by Urban Village) just a quick drive from my apartment. This is probably my most frequented of the farmers markets near by. They always have a great showing and I'm guaranteed to leave feeling satisfied. On my first pass through the market I have to admit I felt a little overwhelmed. I hadn't really come in with a plan of attack but more just wanted to go with what looked the freshest and most seasonal. The "problem" was that EVERYTHING looked great! (poor little California girl, so many fresh fruit and veggie options you can't choose, must be a hard life) With 6+ fruit stands and just as many (if not more) veggie stands narrowing down what I wanted to take home felt impossible. They all had a lot of the same things, they all looked great, and the price points were all within 50 cents. It took delving a little deeper to find something special. Just as I was getting close to finishing the lap around the street I hit a veggie stand with something to offer that no one else had. Something I had been wanting for a looooong time but never see at super markets- Squash Blossoms. Really- it's the simple things. This literally made my day. I bought 5 for $1 along with some great looking yellow squash and from there I was one fire. Cute little individual looking cantaloupes? Be mine! Gorgeous lavender/yellow dahlia's? Come to Mama! Handmade personal spinach and salmon quiche? Don't mind if I do! I loaded up my cloth bag like a pro and headed home feeling successful without even spending my whole trip budget!

As soon as I got home I put my blossoms in a little bit of water (the stems were wet when I purchased them from the stand so I figured this would help sustain them till I was ready to use them later that afternoon) and began searching epicurious for the basics on stuffing squash blossoms. From them I borrowed some basics, the batter (a/p flour, Parmesan, & club soda) and filling (ricotta, Parmesan, & egg) and added my own flair (sweet corn, bacon, & green onion, all things I happened to have in house). I also decided that I needed a dipping sauce and was inspired while at Trader Joe's to whip up a basil cream sauce (this inspiration would have been nice while I was still at the Farmer's market where I could have bought the basil cheap but cest la vie). After gathering all my ingredients I took a little break to catch up on about 5 episodes of True Blood.... cause what better way to spend a Sunday than watching gore and sex scenes with vampires & werewolves.... don't judge me....

As the afternoon wore on my curiosity got the best of me and I took a break from my TV Marathon to whip up my Squash blossoms. They had shriveled some but with a gentle hand I was able to spread the petals enough that they would be able to wrap around ample filling. As I inspected them I noticed the pistil still in the center. I have no clue about the edible nature of this part of the flower so it seemed like the best choice to just remove it. After that I stuffed each with just over 2 Tablespoons of the filling (pretty much all with my fingers to be as delicate with the fragile petals as possible) and twisted the top together as the epicurious directions suggested.

The batter was very simple to prepare: just whisk together 1/2 Cup all purpose flour, 1/3 cup Parmesan, & 3/4 cup seltzer water. dip the blossoms into the batter and fry at 375 degrees in about 3 cups vegetable oil. I don't have a thermometer so I went with just over medium and they seemed to fry well warming the inside with a  nice crisp outside. Turn them over just once with a set of tongs (by far my favorite basic kitchen tool) after 1- 2 minutes (when you can see that the edges of the batter are starting to turn golden. Let them dry for a moment on some paper towels to absorb the extra oil. I made a nice basil mustard cream sauce to go with these that I found on epicurious as well you can follow the link here: Mustard Cream Sauce (with Basil) .

This was such a yummy and surprisingly easy experiment I was really pleased. I will definitely be hitting up my local farmers market for more squash blossoms soon so I can experiment with my fillings and batters!

Monday, August 1, 2011

AT&T Ball Park Series #2- the Cha Cha Bowl

Promamade Location
For a few seasons now I have heard rave reviews about the infamous Cha-Cha bowl. Served at Orlando's BBQ named for Orlando Cepeda the Giants 1958 rookie of the year and hall of famer. Orlando's roots are in Puerto Rico and the food at his stand has a distinctly Caribbean flair. The menu is limited almost exclusively to the Cha-Cha Bowl and nacho's with fresh pico di gillo and caribbean seasoned pork or chicken.

I chose a Padres game with my dear friend who is a San Diego native to enjoy this particular delight. It has become our tradition each year to attend at least one game together, one per series if we can. We took the train up which gave us plenty of time to head to the promenade to pick up our dinners. Had I taken more time to notice at the previous games I could have double checked the Orlando's stand on my View Reserve Level to see if they had the bowl as well as the nachos' (which I had sampled at a previous game and was sadly disappointed in...) but alas I had not and didn't want to risk getting all the way up there only to have to trek all the way back down. Although popular there was not much of a line when I arrived at the Orlando's stand to my delight and so I marched right up and placed my order. They had a stack of about 5 pre made bowls ready to go but you could see the fresh ingredients being readily spooned into new bowls at regular intervals. I was not concerned that they had been sitting there long.
While waiting for Jayme to get some Clam Chowder in a Bread bowl I sat down at one of the small tables provided in that area to investigate my purchase. Upon opening the lid I was greeted by a nice aroma from the adobo seasoning on the chicken. The Cha-Cha Bowl has 4 layers- first rice, then black beans, then the pieces of chicken and it is topped last with pineapple and zucchini salsa. If you are looking for a healthy satisfying meal at the ball park- this is your go to. Everything was warm and flavorful, fresh and filling. The chicken was tender and moist with a nice little kick to it while the "salsa" (almost more of a slaw it seemed) added such a nice freshness you really feel like you are eating a well rounded plate.

Location: Promenade Level, View Level near Section 315
Price: $9.75
Value: This feels like a full meal with the multiple food groups represented so I definitely say it is worth the price
Average Wait: Head there earlier than later (pre-game), in the early innings you will definitely hit a line, but since they prep some bowls in advance it should move pretty efficiently
Over All Flavor & Satisfaction: I have to give it another 10 out of 10. The Zucchini Pineapple salsa really put it over the top for me. Plus with all the protein from the chicken and black beans you will stay nice and full the whole game!
Game Score: Lost to San Diego 3-5 but it was a hard fought battle!