Love Is... Sharing Your Cheese

Thanks for your patience as I reformat the blog... always want to keep it fresh and inviting.

Yesterday was starting off as an average Saturday morning. I was way hungover from drinks at a local dive that proved very entertaining. The sun was glaring at me as if it were God's flashlight on high beams. Then brunch at our favorite diner left me falling in love with my husband all over again.

I ordered an Angus cheeseburger with 2 eggs over easy on top. A new brunch special. I assumed I was getting a burger on a bun with fixins, like a normal cheeseburger only with the addition of eggs. I received a burger patty with eggs on top, home fries and toast - so it looked like the standard breakfast platter with a burger standing in for sausage or the like - and NO cheese. I wasn't angry, I love this diner and my life can go on without cheese. Then, without any hesitation my husband took half the cheese off his Big Joe's Country Scramble (description to come) and put it on top of my eggs. I was so moved I almost cried into my coffee. It was one of those moments where anything you were thinking of or were distracted by leaves your being and you focus only on this event. This wasn't about men always prepared to give up half their stuff. This was my man wanting to give me anything I desire. Yummy. What a loving gesture. I propped the burger and eggs and cheese onto the toast and proceeded to devour it.

Big Joe's Country Scramble is serious breakfast. One biscuit, split open. Topped with scrambled egg, topped with sausage gravy, topped with cheese. Home fries on the side. Divine. Libby makes a respectable sausage gravy in a can on the aisle with salted brown rain water they call gravy in a jar.

Two breakfast posts in a row, I know. More on other food in the day shortly.


Egg sistential

I love poached eggs. My dismay at a restaurant for serving coddled eggs advertised as poached is on record. A tender white and hot oozy yolk - yumm. I had simultaneous cravings for poached eggs, salmon and hollandaise sauce - time to make salmon eggs Benedict, sans English muffin for lower carb count.

Armed with Scottish smoked salmon from Trader Joe's and leftover wild Copper River salmon from dinner last night, I began the hollandaise. Clarified a stick of butter in the microwave, whisked 2 yolks with lemon juice & zest, salt and a tablespoon of water over a double boiler. Drizzled in the butter while whisking and 3 minutes later it's ready! I poached the eggs in the water under the bowl, about 4 minutes for the perfect egg. I laid a bed of smoked salmon, arranged the egg on top, doused in hollandaise and leftover salmon. A wonderful way to start the weekend!


Dining in the Sky

My Mother, June Diane Alois, died June 19, 2006.

As this sad anniversary approaches, I reminisce about her food and how it influenced my life. There are two main points on the subject; I began cooking when she worked full time and went to college at night and I wanted her to come home to a hot meal. The second is that I was interested in cooking because her repertioire left me thinking food could be better. Despite this, her food and her love gave me a career.

She was great at making My-T-Fine chocolate pudding. Whether in a graham cracker shell for a pie or just in a ceramic bowl, pudding was serious business. When I was cranky (often) she made me pudding in a cloud - a cool whip lined bowl with pudding in the center.

She was a master at making chicken cutlet parm with pasta in only half an hour. Put water on to boil - fry cutlets - assemble parm - drop pasta into water - put chicken in oven - serve. The original 30 minute maven.

She made me breakfast everyday before school whether I wanted it or not. It was never too complicated, usually an english muffin or a Lender's bagel, and I never appreciated it at the time. When I was very little she used to make me scrambled eggs and when I tired of eating them I shoved them in the couch. No kidding. Gross, I know.

She made great coffee despite never drinking it. She made it every morning for Mary and I before going off to Seth Low junior high and on weekends.

In elementary school when I came home for lunch everyday, she would go to the Italian grocery to get a fresh semolina knot roll for my sandwich, usually bologna and american cheese. I ate this same bologna and cheese with a granola bar and capri sun juice pouch through junior high.

On the first day I met the Captive Husband, it happened to be Sunday so she made her meatballs and gravy. That night we shared the first of many wonderful meals together and it began with her cooking.

She cooked beef until it resembled the gray of cement. When we lived in Arizona far away from any Italian food she attempted to make pizza with only the Kraft green cylinder can cheese. I never had pizza before and thought I never wanted it again.

She loved zucchini bread and spinach pie. She bought one or the other to all events that required her to contribute food.

I loved listening to her tell stories of her grandmother, Grace Parente, cooking. Rice balls coated in corn flakes and homemade pasta laid on the bed to dry. On Sundays when she was a little girl she would walk to Coney Island with my uncle and great grandfather to get Italian bread. My uncle always ate the end on the way home.

She gave me my KitchenAid stand mixer as an early Christmas present so that I could make oodles of Christmas cookies. The food processor was a gift when I began culinary school. She could barely put gas in her car but she gave me lots of appliances.

She was also the first to clean behind me in the kitchen. No small task, especially then. I am much better at cleaning as I go now. I'm still bad at it, so imagine what it was like in 1996.

I would give anything for a bologna sandwich right about now. I hope there's zucchini bread in heaven.


Brew Cause

Craft beer + Charity = A great Sunday. Last Sunday we ventured to Yards Brewing Co. in northeast Philadelphia for a Slow Food fundraiser. Slow Food is a worldwide non-profit group dedicated to keeping small farmers and producers viable and working hard to advance sustainable agriculture and recreating the kitchen and table as a place of community. It was founded by Carlo Petrini who was disgusted by the proliferation of McDonald's in Italy. The local chapter is very active and had a hand in saving Cape May Salt oysters from extinction. Local chapters are all over the nation. They hold many events each month that are fulfilling for the gullet and soul. Join today - memberships are tax deducible and a great way to network and socialize.
Yards Brewing Co. is the only craft beer currently bottled within the Philadelphia city limits. While the beers are special, they also give back to the community. They strive hard to lift Kensington, a seemingly dilapidated neighborhood. Long ago there were more than 50 breweries in the city limits.
The event featured whole roast pig, a passion here in Philadelphia. Joined by potato salad, greens, cornbread apple dressing, roasted veggies and unfortunately forgettable cole slaw. An apple raisin crisp topped things off with lots of flowing Yards beer.
The whole pig. I named it Wilbur although it was female.

Plate o' pork

Beer is born in these tanks

A lot of my favorite beer ingredient


Between the Buns

Today's blog is inspired by Frank Bruni and his Diner's Journal. Burgers. They are this season's grilled chicken caesar, must be on every menu. I get angry when a good restaurant doesn't offer a burger at least on their bar menu. Sullivan's, the smaller very upscale steakhouse chain does offer a great one on their bar menu. I have been lobbying Ruth's Chris to add one to no avail. We were successful in getting Victory beer in there.

But given my desire for their omnipresence, are they simply an adult version of chicken fingers? Picky eater can't be adventurous, have a burger. While I'd argue my consumption is more on a connoisseur basis - for many they are not.

Last night we dined at a family restaurant that offers burgers, ribs, chicken fingers and more sophisticated entrees like crab pasta and salmon Oscar. They even had combo platters to pair ribs and chicken fingers. Their chicken fingers were done nicely, with a crisp batter as opposed to bland breading - but they are still chicken fingers. The burgers there are also of good quality, any time you get to select a temperature (mid rare for me) is a good sign and when they back it up by cooking it to the specified temperature I'm even more impressed.

There are message boards devoted to the topic of burgers. What are the best toppings? Best way to cook them? I submit that the notion is similar to that of pizza. Many children will eat any pizza. Many adults seek out the artisanal, brick oven pizza while some are content with Domino's. Lets hope those unadventurous bland burger people stay in the bad chain places.

Notes on a Burger

Now to the nitty gritty. My "Burger Bible" of sorts complete with commandments.

While I applaud attempted innovations at using various meats, a burger should be beef exclusively. Ground turkey and tuna patties can turn into an enjoyable sandwich, but it's not a burger.

Alternate toppings are a nice touch as long as they don't overpower the intended flavor of the burger: nicely browned beef. Pineapple and teriyaki are nice sweet options - blue cheese and caramelized onions are my favorite. Lettuce and tomatoes should not be added when you have alternate toppings like these.

The size of the burger should be equal to the circumference of the bun, and about 1/2 inch thick. Trying to pack 3/4 LB of beef onto one bun is just uncalled for.

1. Thou shalt use well marbled high fat content beef.

2. Thou shalt season highly.

3. Thou shan't press the burger with the spatula at any point during cooking.

4. Flip only once.

5. Do not overcook! (an unforgivable curse - oops wrong religion!)

6. Let the burger rest before placing it on a bun to avoid SoggyBunBottom, a condition with many known side effects.

7. If applying cheese do so on the heat source. Cold cheese on a hot burger is just silly.