American Food

February 4, – February 11, 2019

celery root veloute

Monday:  Celery Root Velouté

pasta putanesca

Tuesday:  Pasta Puttanesca

Potage with tetrazzini

Wednesday:  Country Potage with the absolute last of the Tetrazzini

Iron skillet burger with tomatillo sauce

Thursday:  Cast-Iron Burgers with Tomatillo Sauce / Roasted Potatoes


Friday:  Niçoise Salad

Coucous with Chicken and Spiced Chickpeas

Saturday:  Couscous with Chicken and Spiced ChickpeasMoroccan Spiced Chicken with Chickpeas

Cauliflower Casserole with peas and ham

Sunday:  Annie’s warm hummus with tomatoes and olives / Pea, Cauliflower and Country Ham Casserole


Apologies for getting the blog out late – we were on vacation this week (we’ll tell you about it next week) and I could not figure out how to upload pictures on the Chromebook I was using for a computer.


Note:  At the very bottom of this post is a picture of and a recipe for a drink that Larry Mayfield had during his recent trip with Lezlie on the Orient Express.  I inadvertently left this out of our last posting.  No  one was murdered during the Mayfield’s trip, but if you drink a couple of these ‘Train Stabilizers’ the effect should be much the same.  And now for the main course:


“Sacred cows make the best hamburgers”

  • Abbie Hoffman


Surely, American cooking and dining is overrun with sacred cows.  And where there are many cows, there is bound to be a lot of manure.  I have met people who spend more time questioning waiters about the content, the cooking method, the cooking oil and the provenance of food than they spend raising their children.  (Peace – I know that some people have diseases which require this.  I am not speaking of them.  I am speaking of people who decide, in Middle School, that by becoming Vegans they can save the planet.  And then there are the people who make you alter your dinner plans because they just never liked, say fish.   And, in the lowest circle of hell, those who proudly announce, “I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a hamburger or a hot dog.”  For God’s sake, the hot dog and the hamburger are the two iconic American foods.  You might as well declare yourself a devotee of Fidel Castro, or send money to the Ayatollah.

Today, we’re going to avoid all gastronomical correctness.  There won’t be a shred of kale or a grain of quinoa in sight.  Today, we’re going to focus on one thing – making tasty food.  Diet, if you must (and most of us must) from time to time.  Eat lots of vegetables and fruit.  Drink enough water to drown a whale.  But, for heaven’s sake, don’t give up the considerable pleasures of humble food, well cooked and eaten when you are actually hungry.

And by all means – learn how to cook a good hamburger.  This is not as easy as you think.  To quote David Chang:  “You can get a Michelin star if you serve the best hamburger in the world.”

I don’t cook the best hamburger in the world.  And I don’t want a Michelin star, which requires years of culinary school, working as a slave to egotistical, sadistic head chefs, investing in a restaurant, working at all hours and, if you are very, very good, also being very, very lucky.  But I cook a passable hamburger.  In past posts, I’ve shared some of my favorite ways to create this most wonderful of sandwiches.  Here’s my latest:

Iron skillet burger



These burgers are perfect with cheddar cheese, lettuce, a pickle and, if you must, ketchup.  But the Salsa with a good melting Mexican cheese is a great new twist.  Unlike ketchup, the salsa lets you taste the meat even as it adds spice, acid and great flavor.

Timing:              About 20 minutes for the Salsa – 15 for the Burgers

Ingredients:                                 Serves 4

Note:  If you’ve decided to use the salsa, make it first.  This will add about 20 minutes to your cooking and prep time.

2 lbs. Ground beef, 80% lean (This is important – you can’t save enough calories by using lean ground beef to make up for the dry, tasteless burger you will create)

Sesame Seed Buns, or your favorite bun

Cheese, pickles, iceberg lettuce, onions if you wish, condiment of your choice (try the tomatillo salsa, below)

2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil  (Yes, you read that correctly.  You’ll need 4 Tablespoons, but divided into portions.)

Kosher Salt

Ground Pepper


Divide the ground meat into 4 equal portions and lightly roll them into balls – you don’t want the meat too tightly compacted.

Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium high.  It’s hot enough when it just begins to smoke.  (Note:  There will be spattering when you put the burgers into the skillet and when you flip them.  Wear an apron or, if you have long arms, just stand back.)


Add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil to the skillet and then the meat, spacing it so that you can squash the balls into patties of around 4 1/2 “ diameter.  Mash the meat down into patties (don’t worry if the edges split and they aren’t perfect circles.)

Season the meat with salt and pepper (put your spatter guard on top of the skillet, if you have one) and cook for about 3 minutes for medium-rare.

Flip the burgers, season the cooked side (it should be dark brown and caramelized in spots) and cook for another 2 ½ minutes for medium rare – a bit longer for medium.

Transfer burgers to a plate and let rest while you toast the buns, cut side down, with a little more oil in the same skillet.  If you leave the burner on medium-high this should take no more than a minute.

Assemble the hamburgers and serve.  (Tomatillo Salsa recipe is below)


Tomatillo Salsa and Cheese for Hamburgers

1 lb. of tomatillos, husked and rinsed

2 or 3 jalapeno peppers, stemmed and halved lengthwise (our supermarket sells gigantic jalapenos, so I use just 2 – I remove maybe 2/3 of the seeds and some of the membrane from the peppers since SWMBO does not like terribly hot food – leave the membranes and seeds if you like a searing experience)

Medium onion sliced into thick rounds or wedges

Cup of cilantro or parsley leaves (to use, Cilantro tastes like soap, so we use parsley as a substitute)

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

Kosher salt


Heat the broiler

Chop the onion and split the jalapenos

Toss the tomatillos, jalapenos and onion with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil on a rimmed backing sheet.  Season with salt.


When the broiler is ready, broil until blackened and very soft.  Check at about 12 minutes.

Let the vegs cool a bit and then put into a food processor with the cilantro or parsley and the black pepper.  Pulse until coarsely chopped.  Adjust seasoning, if necessary.

This is a fine dip, or a great salsa for tacos or, as we suggest in this case, for burgers.  I’d top the burger with a good melting Mexican cheese, or cheddar, and then top with the sauce.  Enjoy good American food.


Train Stabilizer

Lezlie and I took the iconic journey on the Orient Express this September.  Only once a year, the historic train makes its original run from Istanbul to Paris – the journey that inspired its passenger Agatha Christie.  The original bar car, seen in the movie, still shines as if it were back in the 20’s.  Onboard, there are several different drink recipes created by the OE’s head bartenders.  This one sounded scary but when I sipped it I was amazed how smooth the drink was.  Given the bumps of the railroad, I understood that with one or two of these, the lumps in the train tracks just smooooth out, thence its name.

One ounce Cognac

One ounce Tawny Port

8 shakes of Orange or Cherry bitters and then stir

Optional: you can mix with 4 ice cubes while you stir, and then remove cubes and lovingly tap off the liquid to give it a mild chill.  I like it that way, or just neat.

4 thoughts on “American Food

  1. Thanks, Lisa and Mary.
    Mary – the recipe is from the Wall Street Journal of Saturday, February 10th: “Pea, Cauliflower and Country Ham Casserole” If you can’t find it on-line, e-mail me and I’ll scan it for you. We used more ham and more breadcrumbs than it called for. Tell Grant, he owes me.

  2. This was a great blog! I read them all and as a huge fan of health and nutrition I find the hotdog and burger comments hysterical. I totally agree.!! Too many people are obsessed with food in one form or another. Have some fun every once in a while. Can’t wait to have a burger!!

  3. Just wanted. you to know how much I look forward to these blogs. Between you and the NYT newsletters, I manage more often than not to stay out of the ‘what to cook’ rut!

    Curious about the country ham, cauliflower and pea casserole. My guy is a huge casserole fan – care to stare the recipe?

    Cheers to you and your true love –

    your fan,


    On Sun, Feb 17, 2019 at 6:21 PM whatwecookedlastweek wrote:

    > Bill Stewart posted: “February 4, – February 11, 2019 Monday: Celery Root > Velouté Tuesday: Pasta Puttanesca Wednesday: Country Potage with the > absolute last of the Tetrazzini Thursday: Cast-Iron Burgers with Tomatillo > Sauce / Roasted Potatoes Friday: Niçoise Salad S” >

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