Here is what we cooked last week:
Monday: Warm Vegetable terrine with Cecca sauce (Giada di Laurentis)
Wednesday: Garden Vegetable Soup / Egg Salad sandwiches with tarragon, parsley and chives. (The soup is an Alton Brown recipe – very light and savory – the egg salad from the elegant Vegetable Literacy, given to me by Julia and Andrew)
Thursday: Penne alla sugo di peperonie formaggio caprino with Caesar Salad
(The Penne was from the now forgotten, but always worth remembering, Marcella Hazen – a sort of twentieth century Lynne Rosetta Kasper and the Caesar Salad from the original Mexican recipe, involving steak sauce and undercooked, not raw, egg yokes)
Friday: Cheese, salami, pickle plate / Shrimp Tacos (a modified Flay recipe)
Saturday: Dinner at The Hartwood with cousin Ann, great-nephew Steve and Ann’s friend Mary Beth.
Sunday: L. A. Burger with green salad (Steve Raichlen)
The truth is that we are still recovering from the Stewart brothers’ gathering. Barbara seems to be doing better than I am and attributes that to drinking wine, instead of gin – but we all know that is an old-wives tale spread by the California grape-growers’ cooperative. Still, we had to eat, and between the vegetable terrine – more tasty than non-vegans might imagine, the penne with peppers and goat cheese and the L. A. burger it’s tough to choose a favorite. But it was Billy who reminded me that it’s getting late in the summer and we hadn’t had a proper burger since Spring. So, by association with my son, the L. A. Burger is declared the “keeper” of the week. And oh boy, is this a proper burger.
In fact, you may never eat another burger once you’ve tried this one. (Well, of course you will – you won’t always have the time to do the extra prep with the caramelized onions, the parmesan crisps and the mushrooms. And if you’re at a friend’s house and they’re serving burgers you have to eat one. Where are your manners? But my guess is that you’ll keep coming back to this burger as often as you can. Be warned – once you taste this you will dream about it; if you have any artistic skill, you will draw it from time to time; composers have been known to devote sonatas to it (symphonies being reserved for Bistecca alla Fiorentina); poetry, sculpture, dance – all of the arts are appropriate to praise this wonderful piece of meat.
So what is an L. A. Burger? It’s one of the burgers in Steve Raichlen’s book, Man-Made Meals, and you should get that book. (If you want to save money you can probably get the recipe on line.) I suggest that you substitute a challah bun for sesame seed, that you substitute Crimini mushrooms, sliced about ¼” thick, for shiitake (the ones I get in the super-market are a bit gummy), and skip the buttering and pan-frying of the bun – it can make it too soggy. Otherwise, Steve has a great recipe. Do not skip the umami* ketchup – it is the perfect complement.
Note: Raichlen calls for this burger to be cooked in a skillet on the stove and that will definitely give you the juiciest burger. But there is no reason not to grill the burger and the buns – you will still have a great dinner.
* Regarding the word “umami” – Beez believes that I use the word ‘umami’ too frequently. But, sometimes, no other word will do and in describing this burger, it fits. I have, occasionally, hinted that the term came from a small boy saying to his mother “Ooh, Mommy, this is really good.” But Wikipedia informs me that it is a Japanese term meaning “something like savory” and refers to a taste that is different from salty, sweet, sour or bitter. “Savory” is not quite right. Nor is “earthy.” Mushrooms, truffles, the smell of ground coffee are earthy, but lack the unctuousness of umami. Savory comes closer, but feta cheese is savory without having the richness of, say, a good bolognese. In fact, ‘Bolognesey’ would be a perfect term if it didn’t sound silly and didn’t imply that the food has to be of Italian provenance. So umami (which, come to think of it, also sounds silly) it is – that blend of salty, sweet, unctuous and earthy that makes grown men cry (when women aren’t looking), and the L. A. Burger a monument to Man-Made Food. In fact, I am raising money to build just such a monument. Please send $100 in unmarked bills to Chapel Oak Road. For $500 you can get your name on the plaque. Before you laugh, think about the ‘Big Boy’ statue.