food 

2018.08.25UPDATE: smashburger

Image of the smashburger logo. Image credit: smashburger

Second up in our parade of Texas fast-food joints is smashburger. I tried the Classic: normally lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, pickles and smash sauce over a single patty, I ordered mine easy on the onions (still a little scarred from WHATABURGER) and easy on the smash sauce. It was excellent. smashburger's thing is that their burgers start as meatballs that get smashed onto the grill using weights. The "smash" creates lovely crispy edges on the patties -- and THAT, in my opinion, is the true smash sauce.

I didn't really understand their fries. They looked wet. My wife, who had more than I, mentioned she could taste some very nice spices on them, suggesting they're tossed in some sort of oil. Other reviews online confirm the fries are tossed in olive oil with rosemary and garlic (she mentioned detecting the rosemary and garlic at the restaurant). Guess I'll give them another try later.

Overall, I found smashburger's product superior to WHATABURGER. Comparing the two, the WHATABURGER product is larger -- about the size of a Whopper®. The smashburger was smaller, on par in diameter to a Big Mac®. I thought the meat had better flavor, plus the sear. The vegetables on the smashburger were sliced, not diced -- true of the onions, anyway. Both brands offer sliced tomatoes. As for buns, hon, I was impressed by how flat the WHATABURGER buns were -- the smashburger buns are egg buns which also didn't seem particularly bready.

So that's what's up with the smashburger.

 

UPDATE:
I want to talk for a little bit about smashburger's corporate headquarters.

Last week I visited the local restaurant and ended up with more than I wanted on my burger: a long black hair, that I pulled partly from my mouth, but mostly unspooled from the sandwich. I set it on a clean napkin in my tray and promptly took tha tray, including the remainder of my meal, up to the front and stole a glance at the two women at the grill: Both long-haired hispanic ladies with no hairnets, although both wore their hair pulled back. The person at the front saw the problem immedately, and did a few things: First, the two ladies were replaced by a guy wearing a hat, who got to work on replacing my meal. The second thing I saw was that the lady with the longer hair visited the restroom. I didn't want to be a jerk or anything, so I didn't look up at her when she emerged -- I didn't want to risk receiving a look like, "Now I've got to wear this stupid hair net," or, "Because of you, I got in trouble," or whatever. The manager then handed me a pair of coupons for discounted meals. As it happens, Laurel has the smashburger app and received or took a survey regarding the visit -- so she was honest. Smashburger contacted her, apologized for the incident, and sent us another pair of coupons -- even though she explained we'd received some already.

Texas law requires "hair restraints," but doesn't specify what they are exactly, although it does mention that hats may be worn to serve in such a capacity. I checked the local health department reviews, and found the store received a score of 91 (out of 100, I presume) during their August evaluation.

The local store did a great job of identifying the problem and working to fix it immediately. The headquarters did a great job of following up with us -- we explained everything, including the corrective actions we had observed -- and ensuring we were compensated. They did a fine job.



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2018.07.12smashburger

Image of the smashburger logo. Image credit: smashburger

Second up in our parade of Texas fast-food joints is smashburger. I tried the Classic: normally lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, pickles and smash sauce over a single patty, I ordered mine easy on the onions (still a little scarred from WHATABURGER) and easy on the smash sauce. It was excellent. smashburger's thing is that their burgers start as meatballs that get smashed onto the grill using weights. The "smash" creates lovely crispy edges on the patties -- and THAT, in my opinion, is the true smash sauce.

I didn't really understand their fries. They looked wet. My wife, who had more than I, mentioned she could taste some very nice spices on them, suggesting they're tossed in some sort of oil. Other reviews online confirm the fries are tossed in olive oil with rosemary and garlic (she mentioned detecting the rosemary and garlic at the restaurant). Guess I'll give them another try later.

Overall, I found smashburger's product superior to WHATABURGER. Comparing the two, the WHATABURGER product is larger -- about the size of a Whopper®. The smashburger was smaller, on par in diameter to a Big Mac®. I thought the meat had better flavor, plus the sear. The vegetables on the smashburger were sliced, not diced -- true of the onions, anyway. Both brands offer sliced tomatoes. As for buns, hon, I was impressed by how flat the WHATABURGER buns were -- the smashburger buns are egg buns which also didn't seem particularly bready.

So that's what's up with the smashburger.



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2018.07.04WHATABURGER

Image of the WHATABURGER logo. Image credit: WHATABURGER

Tried my first WHATABURGER today. Not too shabby. I ordered a double meat, hold the mustard and pickle. What I got was essentially a BK Lounge "Whopper," with thinnner patties and lots of chopped onion, but on a thin bun, which I really liked. But I found the burger overall to be a bit dense.

I thought their fries were similar to but thinner than McDonald's', if McDonald's left out the salt.

Overall, it was a decent enough burger. I'd order it again. It was large, but not majorly "bready."

So there's my thoughts on WHATABURGER.



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2018.01.07Notes on Harp and Cheese Soup

The word 'Soup' from a Campbell's Soup can label. Image credit: Campbell's Soup

I've a few notes to offer on the Harp and Cheese soup recipe. It's hard to believe we've been making this recipe for eight years now.

The notes come following the construction of... can I say "construction?" "Assembly," maybe? I'll go with "assembly." The notes come following the assembly of a recent batch. We made it as a present for a neighbor who did us a favor. We used some upgraded ingredients, and what a difference it made.

  • The biggest improvement was in the cream we used. We bought cream from a local dairy, instead of using a standard product found at the grocery store.
  • Yukon Gold potatoes were used because they seem to be a little more starchy, which lends itself to the concoction. It's supposed to be thick -- really thick.
  • 5c of Kerrygold Dubliner cheese is basically three 7-oz. blocks.



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2017.12.26Pecan Pie, Revised

Pecan pie. Image credit: Food Network

For as good was this pie has always been using the original recipe plus my earlier notes, this year's attempt was an absolute slam dunk.

As mentioned in a previous post, I updated the link to the Food Network recipe in the earlier posts (and noted the updates). That recipe is (currently located) here:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/pecan-pie-recipe-2011668

Also in previous posts, I offered some notes about things I learned or did along the way. Here are a few more:

  1. Pecans: a single 12-oz. bag of chopped pecans will satisfy the requirement for 2 cups. Put those on a baking sheet and toast them for 5 minutes at 350° for the filling. Also, the photo of the pie shows pecan halves on top. There's no need for the halves. Really.
  2. Bourbon: For years, I've used H.L.Weller's Special Reserve for the bourbon component. This year I switched it up -- Laurel bought us a lovely bottle of Jack Daniel's Sinatra Select. I used 2T of that instead and I really loved the flavor it produced -- the vanilla finish blended very well with the vanilla extract. I highly recommend it.
  3. Filling: I followed the recipe exactly. The ingredients stir uneasily until the eggs are added -- then it becomes much more pliable.
  4. Crust: I took a shortcut this year and did not make the crust. I let Marie Calender handle that part this year. Needless to say, it cuts way down on the prep and baking time. I did stick the frozen shell into the oven for 5 minutes before adding the filling (the recipe said to do this if your crust has cooled too much). I'm not certain that really did anything positive.
  5. Finally, the recipe makes a single pie.

I'll leave you with this: Laurel told me it was probably the best pie she's ever had EVAR. And pecan pie is her thing -- I didn't grow up with them like she did. When our Christmas dinner guests left, we still had about 40% of the pie; I know better than to even think about touching it.



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2017.12.24Pecan Pie Not Found

Pecan pie. Image credit: Food Network

I was pretty confident coming into the holiday season, because I knew I had the pecan pie recipe online.

So yesterday I got quite a scare when I visited my old posts from 2011 and the link to the recipe was broken.

Happily, I was able to recover the link. The new link is in place inside the old posts, including a note on when I updated them.

I'm all set to get my bake on tonight!



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2017.12.22Turkey Time Means Brining

When I was a kid, brining wasn't a thing -- at least, it wasn't in our family. Grandma, may she rest in peace, always served a very dry turkey. That was the cause of my affinity for dark meat -- it's fattier and less susceptible to a lack of moisture.

We first brined a turkey at Christmastime a couple of years ago. The bird was so juicy it sprayed juice all over both of us AND the kitchen ceiling when I started carving it.

Here's the boss' brine recipe:

1cKosher salt
2 qt.stock
10 clovesgarlic
1Tfresh rosemary (sprig)
1Tpeppercorns
1Tfresh sage (sprig)
3 leavesbay leaves
3Tbrown sugar
1 gal.water


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2017.11.23My Pumpkin Pie

Image of a slice of pumpkin pie

I never would have done this. I think I actually told myself when I started this website over ten years ago that the one recipe I would NOT post is my pumpkin pie recipe. But recent events have changed my mind -- namely, having all of my recipes packed away.

A couple of weeks ago, when we were figuring out our plans for Thanksgiving dinner, I was told to not bother showing up for dinner without my pumpkin pies. I know right where my recipe is -- it's packed in a cardboard box inside of a giant metal box someplace in the United States. Since I originally got the recipe from my mother, I called her asking for it -- but she couldn't find it. I made calls to friends, my sisters, everyone to whom I thought I may have given the recipe over the years. No luck -- although I did get a copy of my great grandmother's recipe, upon which mine is based. Desperate, I started looking through ALL of my iPhone photos, because I was pretty sure I had taken a pic of the recipe and texted it to a friend a few years ago.

To my great fortune, I was able to confirm that I HAD taken such a photo in 2015. And I was able to use that image to recreate the magic I've documented below.

Ingredients:

csugar
3 Tcorn starch
tsalt
3 tcinnamon
1½ tginger
6eggs
3 Tbutter (less than 1 stick)
4 cwhole milk
1 large canLibby's pumpkin
3standard one-crust frozen pie crusts

Steps:

  1. Cut the butter into small cubes or slices so they may melt into the mixture more easily. Set aside. Keep pie crusts frozen until ready to bake.
  2. Stir the dry ingredients (sugar, corn starch, salt, cinammon, ginger) together, then fold into pumpkin and set aside.
  3. Slightly beat the eggs and set aside.
  4. In a large pot, heat the milk only until warm -- do not boil.
  5. Eggs and milk:
    • Option 1: Add the eggs to the warm milk over low heat and stir to ensure the eggs don't cook to the bottom of the pot.
    • Option 2: Temper the eggs by stirring a couple ladles of the milk into the eggs, then add the egg and milk mixture back into the warm milk (easier).
    Add the butter.
  6. Stir the pumpkin mixture into the milk and eggs until smooth. Take it off of the heat.
  7. Refrigeration isn't really necessary, but I find it firms the mixture up enough to make ladling it into pie pans much less messy later on. So if you're inclined to take a break for dinner before the long baking process, stick it in the fridge.
  8. Pour the mixture into a total of three standard one-crust frozen pie crusts. Bake each pie for 10 minutes @ 450°, then for about 50 minutes @ 350° or until knife comes out clean from center. Cool each pie and refrigerate. I bake these one at a time over three hours, filling one shell at a time and putting the mixture back in the fridge after each fill.

Thanks to my sister, I now know that the recipe my great grandmother or great great grandmother handed down originally appeared in a cookbook of recipes for corn products (recall the corn starch) and differs in a few ways from this one -- chiefly in quantities of ingredients. Both recipes make 3 pies.



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2017.10.29Only Too Happy to Cook for my Family

Photo of my white chili cooking in a crock pot. Photo credit: halfgk.com

Sure has been a while since I posted here.

In late 2017 we sold our home and moved in with my mother in law for the winter, then buying a new home next spring. My dearest recipes (contained in the infamous "recipe baggie") were likely all packed up for the long term.

Cooler weather is upon us now, and that means it's time to break out the crock pot, as all Michiganders know. Lately I've been having a real jones for my white chili -- a great way to kick off crock season.

Additionally, I was told earlier this week by my brother in law to not even bother showing up for Thanksgiving this year without my pumpkin pies. *sigh* You can guess where that recipe is.

Just for funsies earlier I did a search on my website for recipes I have posted over the years. I was looking specifically for my white chili recipe. As luck would have it, I had posted it -- TEN YEARS AGO!

I got so excited, I took a screenshot of the post and drove to the grocery store!

The product, early in its process, is pictured above. I had to play a little with the recipe because the store here doesn't have the large jars of Great Northern beans. I figured each jar held about as much as does three standard-sized cans. I bought eight cans just to be safe, and think I have five cans in the mix now. I also bought extra chicken to brown up and dice in real fast -- but I suspect the bag I bought is enough.



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