worth doing right

breakfast of champions

Of the foods that I love a lot, that take under 10 minutes of actual cooking time, hamburgers are the one thing that I generally opt to go out for, as opposed to cooking at home 9 times out of 10.

It’s not that I don’t make excellent burgers (I do make excellent burgers). It’s just that if I’m going to be putting in the legwork myself, they are going to be made right. Dammit.

  • Right means cooking on the grill, not the stove. That right there eliminates six months of the year, here in the Snow-ta.
  • Right means a charcoal grill, not propane. Which means that it takes longer for the coals to heat up than it does to actually cook the food — even if you are a member of the Better than Briquettes Brigade.
  • Right means knowing what the hell is in your patty. Preformed, frozen blocks need not apply.
  • Right means not fearing medium-rare. This means that those pre-ground tubes of beef that have been sitting in the cooler at your place of grocery-izing for FSM knows how long are not appropriate. This means that you either have to be one of “those people” who pesters the butcher to fresh grind up a roast or steak for you, or you do it at home, with your handy KitchenAid Food Grinder Attachment.

All these caveats means that doing burgers my way… is a bit of a pain in the ass. But a worthwhile one, especially when you make more patties than you need, and freeze the rest for those “I’m-willing-to-fire-up-the-grill-but-maybe-not-hand-select-and-twice-grind-a-3-lb-roast-today” days.

While it was Alton Brown who first introduced me to the joys of grind-it-your-damn-self burgers, he is also a bit too much of a purist for me, claiming that the ultimate burger should contain only beef, salt, and maybe pepper. I can see where the man is coming from, and those pure burgers do have their place (especially when you don’t fear medium-rare),  but I do like to opt for a little more excitement. Be it the chives that are always thriving in my garden during the 6 months of reasonable grill time every year, garlic from the farmers market/CSA, or maybe, just maybe some form of anchovy by-product, I like my burgers like I like my men. Adult. err… Adulterated. Or something.

Also, when cooking for a group, I do like to err on the side of fully cooked. People are picky. People fear medium-rare (even when I explain to them that the bacteria in the average cut of beef, as opposed to chicken, only exists on the outside, so if the meat is fresh ground, the bad stuff doesn’t have time to multiply all the way through the grind the way it can in pre-ground meat). When there’s a lot of stuff on the grill and people to greet and sangria to serve, it can be hard to get the timing exactly right, so things might over cook a tad. So, I need a standby burger template that can hold up to such abuse.

So, to continue the series of things that made last Friday delicious, here are…

Adult(erated), Abusable Burgers

– makes 20, 1/4lb burgers

(adapted from Cooks Illustrated’s “Well-Done Burgers on the Charcoal Grill”, and “Grilled Hamburgers with Garlic, Chipotles, and Scallions” recipes)


yes, i am that good

Pretty much the whole cage

Photo credit: Alex Barnes

Sometimes I need a nudge (and someone else’s photography) to remind me of it, but there it is.

In honour of Nerd 3’s1 all too brief return to the world, I hosted a little get together this past Friday.  Me being a single-woman living all alone this year, I didn’t want to go too all out, but what I did do, I wanted to do right.  So, a potluck was called for — with me handling the meat. *ahem*

Wanting to challenge myself a little (and feeling somewhat guilty that the side-box on my smoker hasn’t seen action in far too long), I figured that I should perhaps try to improve my grill-fu by learning how to make something that’s always intimidated me — pork ribs.  The plan was to do baby backs, since they are smaller and easier (shorter cooking time to get to that fall-off-the-bones tender perfection) than their spare cousins.  I’d even bought a rack a couple of weeks ago and did a test run (which while not anything to get overly excited over, was still pretty good).  So I headed to Costco to pick up a couple of chuck roasts (more on those another post), and 6 racks of baby-back ribs (I was feeding all of North Dakota, a bunch of Army Nerds, and a fair sized chunk of Brampton, ON).

Except that Costco failed me. Of the 6 racks of baby backs I needed, the Coon Rapids Costco offered up but 4.  And two of them (one of the two packages left at 7pm on a Wednesday evening) were looking mighty dodgy.  Not wanting to deal with venturing to other purveyors of massive quantities of dead animals, I rationalized to myself that spare ribs couldn’t possibly be _that_ much harder.  And variety is good, right? And worst case, I had five pounds of chuck roast that would end up as burgers anyways (plus brats in the freezer).

So, one 10 lb package of spareribs was added to the bill, along with 5 lbs of baby backs. Cooksillustrated.com and I spent some serious quality time together, and a 20 hour cooking odyssey was begun.  The results of which were some very happy bellies, and a crazy ass recipe, which out of sheer magnanimity, I share with you today:

There Is Nothing Prudent At All About These Ribs (TINPAAAT Ribs, for short)

(portions  adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s “Authenic Barbecue Pork Spareribs” and “Barbecued Baby Back Ribs for Charcoal Grill” recipes)


things that i’ve learned since the last post here

  • That handicapped campsites are really only for handicapped people.
  • That you should avoid thinking about handicapped spaces, for fear of embedding Denis Leary’s musical masterwork deep into your head.
  • That taking delivery of a new fridge is significantly less traumatizing when you have a chest freezer and a bar fridge on your property.
  • That it is possible to feel condiment-related guilt.
  • That the best way to alleviate said guilt is to remind yourself that the bar fridge is not that big, and said condiments have maybe been in the fridge since the departure Nerd 1.
  • That pretty much the entire ass-end of a 2003 Suzuki SV650 is plastic.
  • That those bits that aren’t plastic are probably bolts in really hard to reach places.
  • That it is possible to have a great time camping, even if you can’t devote an entire picnic table to the bar area.
  • That sometimes, even when we bring The Ruckus, we are far from the most obnoxious campers on the St. Croix.
  • That it’s really hard to find fancy stationary that isn’t disgustingly girly, part of a wedding invitation kit, or  in the form of a pack of folded cards.
  • That not working on Fridays is amazing.
  • That’s it’s possible to bullshit your way through being on a Convergence panel.
  • That some nerds (small ‘n’) are seriously pretentious asshats — but most are not.
  • That Presence of Mind means that you can be running when you cast Arcane Blast.
  • That there is a time before the cafeteria at HedoCorp opens, and it is possible to get to HedoCorp before said time.
  • That when you have writer’s block, you should just misappropriate the style of another writer and go for it.

Well, I’m back (for now).  This week is going to involve taking delivery of a major appliance, a triumphant return to the Guthrie, and a BBQ for which my preparedness could be described as both completely inadequate, and also fairly average, considering that there’s still 84 hours to go.  Which means that I should lots to write about… let’s see if I’ll find time.