Hamburgers & Buns

Hamburgers!  You guys must be thinking that I finally got a grill, right?  After all that time at the apartment coveting our neighbor’s grill, smelling the sweet smoky aromas that wafted up to our second floor windows, but knowing that we were not renewing our lease, so getting one would be a pain.

And now we have a house, so there’s no excuse to not have one, so of course we do have one…it’s just that it’s still in the box.  Yeah, I know, for shame.  Hear me out though, the assembly instructions are as thick as a science textbook, and I might be good at Ikea assembly, but there are no gas lines and fire and heat running through my Ikea furniture.

I’m just afraid to mess it up, and so is Luke, but getting a father person over to our house to help set it up has proven difficult.  So in the box it will stay, probably until after the wedding.

I cooked these burgers in a pan on the stovetop, setting off the smoke detector no less than twice, even though the hood fan was on.  Of course I made my own buns (they were huge, I had no idea they’d rise so much…and many large “bun” jokes ensued).

I doctored mine up with some sautéed mushroom, cheddar cheese, and a caramelized pineapple ring, in addition to some parsley for greenery because for some reason I had forgotten to buy lettuce.

Please disregard my veiny hand

Neither of the boys (Diego and Luke) complained since I’m pretty sure they are both allergic to all green, leafy foods.  I also made some oven fries to accompany our burgers.  Definitely a good meal for our first entertaining stint in the new house.

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Adapted from Foodie Bride

Makes 8-12 buns

1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast

1 cup lukewarm water

2 Tbsp oil (vegetable, canola, or olive) plus more for greasing the rising bowl

2 large eggs

3 Tbsp sugar

3 ¼ cups flour

1 tsp salt

In a large bowl, add warm water and sprinkle the yeast over top. Let sit 10 minutes, until frothy.  Add the, oil, 1 egg, and sugar to the bowl.  Add the flour and salt and mix until the dough holds together, about 2 minutes. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl. If not, add additional flour by the Tbsp.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for 5 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a large bowl that has been lightly greased with oil.

Cover it with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1-1 ½  hours.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.  Turn out the dough back out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough in half and each half into 4-6 pieces (make them smaller than you might think for a bun, they will rise).  Roll into rounds and flatten with the palm of your hand onto the baking sheet; placing buns about ½ -1 inch apart.  Cover with a damp towel and let them rise for 20 minutes + oven preheating time.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk the remaining egg with 1 Tbsp water.  Brush the buns with the egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Classic Hamburgers

 A Bashful Bao Original

Makes 4 patties

1 ½ lb 80/20 ground beef*

salt and pepper

Toppings:

8 oz button mushrooms

1 Tbsp olive oil

4 pineapple rings

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp butter

slices of cheddar cheese

condiments of your choosing

Season the ground beef with salt and pepper and form it lightly into 4 patties.  Be careful not to handle the beef too much, the more you handle it, the tougher your burgers will be.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Once the skillet is hot, place the patties in the skillet.  Cook until the meat is fully cooked on the underside, about 3-5 minutes, then flip them over and continue cooking to your desired level of doneness.  Remove from skillet, place on sesame buns and top with your favorite accoutrements.

For these burgers, I sautéed the mushrooms until soft in olive oil with a sprinkling of salt, pepper and smoked paprika.  I also sautéed the pineapple rings in butter and brown sugar until brown on both sides.  And of course, a nice slice of sharp cheddar.

*For hamburgers, you really want to use an 80/20 mix of ground beef.  You need that fat to ensure that it retains moisture.  Anything leaner and you will have a very dry hamburger.


Bulgogi Dumplings

Ohh, Wednesday already!  Check out my cute kitchen bunny!  She seemed to enjoy lying against the oven…until I turned it on.  Then back in the litter box she hopped.

I must say that I am very much enjoying her new house bunny-ness.  Girlfriend has an exact internal clock, and it brings me so much joy to feel the dainty brushings of bunny feet on mine while I prepare a little plate of veggies for her.  Sometimes she even follows me around when she thinks I have food for her.  Now if I could only train her to respond to her name…a task for another day I suppose.  Today, we’re making dumplings.

I should back up a second.  These dumplings are a fabulous fusion of Korean and Chinese cuisine.  You might have read the title and wondered to yourself, ‘Hmmm…what is bulgogi?’ (bull-gah-gee)  Well, I’m glad you asked.  I was first introduced to this dish by a Korean friend of mine who said he’d only give the recipe to the girl he would marry.  So I never got that recipe.

That being said, I’ve found some pretty good recipes on the Internet.  Bulgogi is a beef dish characterized by super thin slices of flank steak (or a similar cut) marinated in a sweet, yet savory sauce.  You have to try it to understand the true flavor of bulgogi.

I would absolutely recommend searching out a Korean restaurant if you want to give it a try.  Bulgogi is amazing.  Seriously.  Amazing.  And when you stuff the flavors of bulgogi inside a dumpling wrapper, things get even more amazing.

Added to the mix are also chopped scallions (of course) and chopped up bits of cooked vermicelli noodles (thin bean thread noodles).  The end result is umm…amazing.  I have made these twice now, and have been incredibly happy with the results both times.  Dust off those dumpling crimping skills and get to it!

Bulgogi Dumplings

Adapted from The Cooking of Joy

Makes 4-6 servings, about 4-5 dozen dumplings

1 bundle bean thread vermicelli (available at your local Asian market)
1 lb ground beef
3 scallions, roughly chopped
½ cup bulgogi marinade (also available at Asian markets or online)
1 Tbsp sesame oil

1 package dumpling wrappers

Soak the bean thread vermicelli in a bowl filled with hot water for 15 minutes.  While the vermicelli is soaking, use a food processor to mince the scallions. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Squeeze the excess water out of the vermicelli and use the food processor to chop into about 1/2″ pieces. Add to the mixing bowl.

Add the ground beef, marinade, and sesame oil and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Get your dumpling wrappers and a small bowl of water out.  Wet your finger and trace the edges of a wrapper.  Put a spoonful of the filling in the middle and fold in half.  Seal center portion of the joined edges. Pleat the edges together from right to left, making sure that the whole thing is totally sealed and place on the tray.  Repeat this process until the filling is gone.

To pan-fry the dumplings, heat a frying pan on high and add a Tbsp of vegetable oil once it is hot. Once the oil is hot, add the dumplings one at a time so that they are sitting upright. Once the bottoms are browned, add about a cup of water to the pan and cover it.  Let cook for a few minutes until the water is almost all gone. Remove the lid and let the rest of the water cook off.  Transfer the dumplings to a serving plate using tongs, and serve alongside soy sauce.


Beef & Veggie Bolognese

I have a confession to make.  It’s really quite scandalous, but I feel like you all need to know this about me.  I can’t eat plain white rice.  Wow, I know, It’s like I’ve rocked the very foundation of all you thought you knew about me.  What?  The girl who loves all things Asian doesn’t even like to eat rice?

I hang my head in shame, believe me.  I tried to shake the habit in Taiwan, attempting to enjoy many bowls of the stuff, but to no avail.  If you serve a meal that is accompanied by rice, there’s an incredibly high chance that those tiny grains will never see my plate.

The reason I’m bringing up my strange aversion for this one carb is…well I’m not quite sure.  One thing I do know, is that this aversion does not extend to pasta, or bread for that matter.  I eat plain bread all the time, and have been known to start my meal of pasta directly from the steaming hot colander.  Something about pasta (and noodles!) are so appealing to me. Perhaps it’s their length, allowing me to slurp and suck in mouthfuls at a time, twirling them around my fork like yarn wrapped in a skein.

And you can’t forget the sauce.  You should have seen the look on Luke’s face when I announced the completion of a “beef bolognese” dinner.  “What’s the orange stuff?” he asked.  “Um…that’s carrot,” I replied happily.  “Oh.”  10 minutes later I was staring at a plate empty of everything except for the carrot bits.  Oh well, more Vitamin A for me!

I liked the addition of vegetables in this recipe, as I like my sauces to have more body and flavor.  Luke thought it was great too, even if his arch nemesis, carrot, was involved.  Feel free to take out some of the veggies, in which case, decrease the amount of crushed tomatoes so the meat flavor can still shine.

Beef & Veggie Bolognese

Adapted from Kitchen Trial & Error

Makes 4-6 servings

¼ cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 medium carrots, diced

1/2 pound ground beef or 1 pound quartered mushrooms

28 oz crushed tomatoes

¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

¼ cup fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

In a dutch oven or large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion starts to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the carrots and cook until the vegetables are soft, about another 5 minutes.  Add the meat or mushrooms, and cook until meat is no longer pink or the mushrooms are soft, 6 to 8 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, and basil. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in the cheese.  Serve over pasta, and garnish with extra cheese!


Beef Teriyaki

Finally, I get around the infamous grill pan post.  I know it’s taken me a while, but since I make so many meals/desserts/snacks/breads etc. to share with you all, I actually have so many photos that I’m posting about a month behind.

I know, it’s a strange fallacy that everything I post here I’m currently eating in my apartment, but I did have it at some point recently, so you can still trust my judgment.

Now, onto the beef.  I made this for Luke’s birthday, since I always make some kind of beef dish as his “special” meal, and we were very happy with how this turned out.  Minus the whole cleaning catastrophe.

All the char bits hardened onto my cast iron grill pan, and I guess it wasn’t seasoned well enough because those bits stuck on hard, and I’m now very apprehensive about using it again.  I say just wait until we move into the new house and get a proper grill.

The man plate.

Anyway, this beef tastes just like the teriyaki beef strips you get from take-out Chinese places (which I do love so much despite my normal ambivalence towards American Chinese food.)  The glaze is a perfect blend of sweet and savory, and I wanted to pour it on everything.  I served the beef over thin egg noodles and mushrooms, which I stir-fried with some of the extra sauce.  Luke dubbed it one of his best birthday meals.  I think that means it’s a winner!

Beef Teriyaki

Adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

Makes 3-4 servings

For the steak:

1 lb flank steak, trimmed of excess fat
1/6 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp mirin (or rice wine)
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp orange zest (I omitted this)
1 scallion, chopped, separated

For the sauce:

1/6 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sake or vermouth
1/4 cup mirin (or rice wine)
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp cornstarch

Cut your steak into inch wide strips, then cut the strips into pieces about 4 inches long.

Put the soy sauce, mirin, canola oil, garlic, ginger, sugar, orange zest and the white parts of the scallion in a resealable plastic bag. Shake to combine. Add the meat, press out the air and seal the bag. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (but no more than an hour), flipping the bag every 15 minutes to make sure the marinade coats evenly.

Preheat your grill to medium-high heat (400-450 F). Oil the grates lightly.  Or, if using a grill pan, place the pan over two burners set to medium high heat and grease the ridges.

While the grill/burners preheat, make the sauce. Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce is syrupy, about 12 minutes. The sauce should be reduced to about 1/2 cup. Transfer all but 2 tablespoons of the sauce to a small bowl and set aside for serving.  (I set aside half so I could stir fry noodles.)

Remove the meat from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the meat on the grill or grill pan and cook on the first side for about 3 minutes, or until well seared. Flip the steak and cook on the second side for 3 more minutes. Use half of the reserved 2 tablespoons of sauce to brush the top of the meat, then flip and cook for 30 seconds. Brush the second side of the meat with the remaining tablespoon of sauce, flip and cook for 30 seconds longer. Transfer the meat to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes.

Garnish with the green parts of the scallion and serve with the reserved sauce over noodles or rice.


Beef Stroganoff

Man oh man, I really wish we had a grill.  When the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, something just makes people what to cook their food outside on a fiery hot grill.

I will admit to being one of these people, minus owning a grill.  Our downstairs neighbors have one outside their door, and I’ve been tempted to ask to borrow use of it, but then I remember that I’ve never owned, operated, nor cleaned a grill and wouldn’t want to leave it in poor condition, nor have to pitifully ask them to help me through every step of using it.

So I tried to find some middle ground, i.e. a grill pan.  It worked wonderfully, despite the fact that I cut the meat too thickly in some cases and that I smoked up the majority of the apartment, even with three windows open.  (My kitchen has no hood, so I had to remove the closest fire detector because I’d set it off stir-frying mushrooms)

Anyway, the grill pan was great…until it came time to clean the darn thing.  Half an hour later, Luke and I had resorted to scouring it with SOS, as I had given up on preserving any of the seasoning while scrubbing away char bits.  Eventually, we got it to a manageable level, and now I have grime under all of my fingernails that won’t go away.  At this point, since we’re moving to a house with a real yard in a few months, I’ll hold off on grilling until we have an actual grill.  It was worth a try though.

Beef stroganoff does not require grilling, thank goodness.  It’s one of those stick-to-your-bones meals that always brings a smile to my face.  I remember my mom making this dish with cream of mushroom soup back when I was younger.  Since Luke is a lover of both beef and mushrooms, I feel like I should have made this sooner!

One more thing before you go.  I wrote a little piece elsewhere on the internets about how to master Chinese.  Click here if you’d like to check it out!

Beef Stroganoff

Adapted from What’s Cookin’ Chicago

Makes 4-6 servings

1 1/4 lbs sirloin steak tips (trimmed of excess fat and cut lengthwise with grain into 4 equal pieces)
2 tsp soy sauce
1 lb white mushrooms, quartered
2 tsp hot water
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 tsp sugar
fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tsp tomato paste
4 tsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp white wine
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional)

Using a fork, poke each piece of steak a couple times. Place in baking dish; rub both sides evenly with soy sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour.

While meat marinates, place mushrooms in medium microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high power until mushrooms have decreased by volume by half, 4-5 minutes (should be as much as 1/4 cup liquid in bowl). Drain mushrooms and set aside; discard liquid. Combine water, dry mustard, sugar, and 1/2 tsp pepper in a small bowl until smooth paste forms; set aside.

Pat steak pieces dry with paper towels and season with pepper. Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place steak pieces in skillet and cook until browned on all sides and internal temperature registers 125 to 130 degrees, 6-9 minutes, reducing heat if the outside begins to burn. Transfer meat to large plate and set aside while cooking sauce.
Add mushrooms, onion, and 1/2 tsp salt to skillet and cook until vegetables begin to brown and dark bits form on bottom of pan, 6-8 minutes. Add tomato paste and flour and cook, stirring constantly, until onions and mushrooms are coated, about 1 minute. Stir in 1/3 cup wine, beef broth and mustard paste and bring to simmer, scraping bottom of pan with wooden pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to medium and cook until sauce has reduced slightly and begun to thicken, 4-6 minutes.

While sauce is reducing, cut steak pieces across grain into 1/4″ thick slices. Stir in meat and any accumulated juices into thickened sauce and cook until beef has warmed through, 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let any bubbles subside. Stir in sour cream and remaining tablespoons wine; season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley to garnish and serve with egg noodles.


Spiced Stewed Beef

I will be the first to admit that I am more of a baker than a cook.  Maybe it’s because of my strong penchant for eating sweets.  Or maybe because I have slightly more experience baking than cooking.

Maybe it’s the fact that I slap some cheese and hummus on a slab of bread, chase it down with two brownies and call it dinner.  I have those days a lot.  But I have another mouth to feed.  A mouth that thinks hummus is disgusting and bread could never constitute an actual meal.

I can only watch him eat so many microwave pizzas before I have to put my foot down and make something that contains nutritional value.

I try to plan meals ahead of time, and since I still had wine leftover after making this cake, I decided that I would use it to stew some meat.  I’m not ready for beef bourguigon, nor did I have enough wine for it, so I went with something a little different that turned out to be very tasty.

The beef in this dish is simmered with beef stock, red wine, and star anise until it is tender and extremely flavorful.  Most of the accompanying veggies are chopped up in a food processor, so they become part of the sauce.

It is definitely best served over rice or polenta, or, my personal favorite, sitting atop a nice broad piece of sourdough bread.

Spiced Stewed Beef

Adapted from Framed Cooks

Makes 4-6 servings

2 large onions, roughly chopped

2 large leeks, white and light-green parts only, roughly chopped

3 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

1/2 cup fresh parsley

8 oz mushrooms, chopped

1/3 cup flour

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 1/2 pounds chuck steak in 2-inch cubes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, or more as needed

pinch ground cloves

1 1/2 cups red wine

2 cups beef stock or canned beef broth

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

3 star anise

1 Tbsp light brown sugar

 Working in batches in a food processor, process onions, leeks, carrots and parsley until finely chopped. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and set aside. Place flour in a freezer bag or other plastic bag. Season with salt and pepper. Add steak cubes, seal bag, and shake until cubes are well coated.

Place a dutch oven over medium heat, and add 2 tablespoons oil. When hot, add beef in batches, turning until well seared on all sides. As beef is browned, transfer to a plate, and set aside.

If the dutch oven is dry, add 1 tablespoon oil. Place over medium heat, and add the vegetable mixture, mushrooms, and ground cloves. Sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine wine, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, star anise and brown sugar. Place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. When vegetables have softened, pour liquid over vegetables.

Return beef to the dutch oven, and stir well. Bring to a boil, partly cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer gently until beef is tender, about 2 hours.  Serve over your grain of choice.


Lasagna

Where’s the first place I’m going today?  Oh yeah, CVS, my post-holiday candy Nirvana.  Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll score a Russell Stover box as big as my head.

Last night, Luke and I went out to a Mediterranean restaurant in the heart of town.  The food was really good, good enough for me to break my “no eating baby animals rule.” Yes, I had lamb.  It’s Mediterranean food…how was I not going to eat lamb?

But now the holiday is over and I am thrilled to stop seeing cutesy decorations on every blog I visit.  I am not, I repeat, not a girly girl, nor have I ever been one, nor will I ever be one, so when the onslaught of red and pink hearts and kisses is put away for another year, I rejoice.  And make layered pasta covered in meat sauce and cheese.

Lasagna seems like a ubiquitous food, everybody has their own recipe, and can dress up the dish with their personal touches.  There’s spinach lasagna, mushroom lasagna, white lasagna, veggie lasagna, quadruple meat lasagna…oh boy that last one sounds like a heart attack waiting to happen.

But mine, is just lasagna.   Noodles, meat sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan; there you go.  Easy, scrumptious, and makes enough to feed two people for an alarming number of days.

Lasagna

Adapted from A Foodie Affair

Makes about 8 servings

1 box lasagna noodles
1 lb ground beef (I used ground turkey)
1 onion, chopped
2 – 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
oregano, basil, parsley, touch of sugar, salt & pepper
1 – 2 lb. container of ricotta
2 eggs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp dried parsley
8 oz shredded 6 cheese Italian cheese blend (or more mozzarella)
8 oz shredded Mozzarella cheese

Boil lasagna noodles according to package directions, drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, brown onion in a little oil until slightly tender and add ground beef. Continue cooking ground beef until slightly browned. Add crushed tomatoes, garlic, spices, and a touch of sugar. Cook approx. 15-20 minutes, or until sauce is slightly thickened. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, parsley, parmesan cheese, and eggs. Mix until combined.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a 13″ X 9″ baking dish, put a little meat sauce in the bottom (just to make sure the noodles don’t stick). Layer one layer of cooked noodles. Put a generous layer of ricotta cheese mixture and sprinkle a little of the Italian shredded cheese mixture on top of the ricotta. Top with a little of the meat sauce.

Continue to repeat the above steps ending with noodles. Top the noodles with meat sauce and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.

Top the casserole with aluminum foil and cook in the oven for approximately 35-45 minutes.

Remove the foil from the top and top entire casserole with 8 oz. package of grated mozzarella cheese. Put back in to the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is just melted.  Make sure you don’t leave it in too long, you don’t want the cheese to brown.