On Frankie In The Kitchen…

…which is a rare sight in itself! Normally, I run a solo ship, and don’t always ask or require a sous chef, but lately, the man has been helping me out (especially on my longer days that include training) by making us dinner a couple times the last few weeks! And on one of those nights, he grabbed my camera and started to take some photos, you know, for the blog! HOW CUTE IS HE?! So naturally, I decided to use his photos, and his recipe and present them to you dear readers, and without further ado, I present Frankie’s Jalapeno Smash Burgers! YUM!!

Now, to make these smash burgers, you’re going to need a cast iron grill press, and possibly a cast iron skillet, which if you haven’t invested in one, DO! I may have already told you about the Alton Brown method of cleaning the cast iron skillet, but since then, I’ve found an even easier way to clean out my skillet, black grit & all. Heat up about 1- 1.5 cups of water in the microwave until boiling (about 5 minutes should do it, if not less) and as soon as you’ve removed all the yummy food from your hot skillet, slowly pour the hot water into the pan and using a spatula or wooden spoon, gently scrap off all the black, burnt bits from the bottom. When done, pour out the dirty water, wipe it all down, and take a little vegetable oil or shortening to the bottom of the pan to coat it all up again, then let it sit out. DONE! As for the press, those are incredibly inexpensive an can be bought for about $20 at any of your local cooking equipment stores OR Amazon…like most everything else, am I right? Alternatively, you could use a non-stick pan, but I think cast iron skillets really get a lovely sear on your meat that a non-stick can’t do as nicely – and you can use ANOTHER pan to squish your burgers. Just food for thought (no pun intended)!

Now, once you’ve got your equipment all set, it’s time to assemble the burgers! I finely minced up one deseeded jalapeno, and Frankie mixed up the jalapeno into the meat, then used the kitchen scale I had bought last year to weigh out four 3-4oz meatballs. Then he got his pan nice and hot, placed a ball in the middle, then took the press to it, pressing firmly till the patty was about 1/8″ thick (give or take, my eye measurements have never been the best). Give it a sear for about 1-2 minutes, then flip, let sear 1-2 minutes, then remove and repeat with the remaining balls. SIMPLE! Oh, and if you want to add some crunch, bake off two slices of bacon per burger at 400ºF for about 20 minutes.

And then this is where I learned something new! As Frankie finished off the burgers, he addressed the toasting of the buns issue. Now, normally, I will either brush on olive oil or spread some butter, then stick it in a pan, BUT NOT FRANKIE! And do you know what he did?! HE SPREAD MAYO ON THE BUN, THEN TOASTED IT IN THE PAN!!!! CRAZY RIGHT?!?! And I’ll tell you right now, not ONLY did those buns come out looking pretty darn perfectly toasted, THEY TASTED BUTTERY! I honestly don’t know how he did it, and I never knew that he’d been doing this to our burgers and sandwiches for years, but there you have it! Mayo instead of butter or oil, and it’s actually pretty clever because the mayo won’t sucumb to burning quite as easily, nor does it leave that burnt taste on the edges of the bun, but rather just…I don’t know what you would call that, but it was such a fantastic tip, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to buttering my bread (for sandwiches and burgers specifically) again!

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But all in all, with this burger, not only are the patties thin, but they’re hearty, and not all that fatty! Super delicious too, and we both finished every last bite! And I think this wonderful co-cooking may lead to further collaborations in the future! But you (and I, for that matter) will just have to wait and see what other clever meals Frankie’s got stowed away for a rainy day! Until then folks, chow on! — Cooking Maggie

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Frankie’s Jalapeno Smash Burgers

Ingredients:

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 4 strips of bacon (optional)
  • 1 jalapeno, deseeded and finely minced
  • Romaine Lettuce – left as large leaves
  • 1 Beef Steak or Vine Ripe Tomato – sliced thin for sandwiches
  • Sliced Cheddar Cheese
  • Dill Pickle Slices (small rounds or long planks)
  • Mustard, Ketchup, Mayonaise
  • Buns of your preference (we love Brioche buns or potato buns personally)

 

Instructions:

  1. (Optional): If cooking bacon, heat oven to 400ºF. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil, then arrange bacon on sheet so that each has its own space (not touching each other). Bake bacon in oven for 20 minutes (or until done), then remove and let cool on a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.
  2. Mix the ground beef & jalapenos together in bowl, then make four 3-4 oz balls with the mixture.
  3. Pour a little oil into a cast iron skillet over medium high heat, and when hot, add a ball and press (smash) it with the cast iron grill press until patty gets to be about 1/8″ thick. Let sear for 2-3 minutes, then flip burger to the other side, and let sear for 2-3 minutes. Remove the patty from the pan and place on a plate, keep it warm by covering it. Repeat this for the remaining patties. (Optional: If you’d like melted cheese on any of the patties, add a slice of cheese on top of the patty after you flip it, and cover with a pan lid or heatproof bowl.)
  4. When all patties are cooked, assemble your burger accordingly and munch away! Serves well with salt & vinegar kettle chips or a salad!
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On Sloppy Joes!

I know we all just got done stuffing our faces and bellies with delicious Thanksgiving food (#allthegravy), but I recently shared this recipe with a coworker, and she loved it, so I thought, okay, we’re already getting overly full, so what’s another filling recipe for those post-feast days, or for whenever something gooey and messy is needed at the end of a long work week (or work day as I’m sure we all have those every once in a while)!

A few notes though. 1) I LOVE Worcestershire sauce, so I am VERY heavy-handed with it in this recipe. I think its peppery tang helps cut the heaviness of the meat, BUT if you prefer the tomato-y flavor, just simply halve the amount that I’ve included. OR, if you’re like me and you can’t get enough Worcestershire, add the amount I’ve listed, taste, and then add more if you think it could be more pronounced, which I have also done. I do think the amount I’ve given is a good starting point for those who embrace the tang, but again, halve if it’s too abrasive a flavor for you, or add more if you want it to stand at the forefront!

2) Buns. Everyone is different in how they’ve eaten their Sloppy Joes, but I think it’s fun to try different buns to see what works best for your messy masterpiece. If you prefer more of a meaty mixture, then I think a hamburger bun is going to work in your favor, but if you’re more focused on developing the flavors of the sauce (which means a runnier/messier Slop), then I feel a hamburger bun is more likely to disintegrate before you finish your sammich! But others love that, so again, it’s totally up to you and your preference, but if you’d like to try something a little more substantial that can stand up to just about any kind of mess you can imagine, I really like pretzel buns OR Kaiser buns! In both instances, they are soft & salty enough to stand up to a runny sauce and a lot of meat!

And for all those who are Manwhich lovers, trust me, making the sauce from scratch really does make a difference, not to mention that this recipe is super easy to make, flavor-packed, and one of the most enjoyable meals where getting messy is required and napkins are completely useless. If you’re ready to get your hands (and face) dirty, then this sloppy concoction is right up your alley! — Cooking Maggie

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 lb ground beef
  • 1 bell pepper (red or green), diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups pureed tomatoes (or canned tomato sauce when in a pinch)
  • salt & additional ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • oil for the pan
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 4 rolls (hamburger, Kaiser, or pretzel buns)
  • Optional Toppings: fresh tomatoes, dill pickles, sliced cheddar cheese, cole slaw

 

Instructions:

  1. Brown meat, add cracked black pepper.
  2. Add pepper and onion, until soft. Then add garlic till aromatic, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar.
  4. Let simmer and thicken for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper.
  6. Serve with sliced pickles & cheddar cheese on your preferred bread roll, then enjoy the mess!!

On BBQ Pork & Spoonbread

It’s almost May, and finally, the weather is starting to warm up here in Chicago, which means I’m starting to get very eager for all the amazing food festivals headed our way! Greek Fest in Lincoln Park, Windy City Ribfest & Smokeout (Smokeout is better in my opinion), Taste of Chicago, Roscoe Village Burger Fest (definitely a favorite), and my absolute favorite festival, which I have never not gone to since I moved to Chicago: Lincoln Square Ribfest! And besides, who doesn’t like spending a weekend exploring great neighborhoods, eating really amazing food with a cold brew, listening to music, and smelling like smoked meat hours after you’ve gone home? (Not I!)

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In my eagerness for summer and warm weather to arrive, I thought I’d at least satiate my craving with a little homemade BBQ Pulled Pork! Normally, I try not to make BBQ at home because it’ll never be as good as what I would get from a full-time BBQ joint, but this recipe got me about as close to the real thing as I will likely ever get (unless I get a smoker, then maybe I might be able to get just a little closer, but that will have to wait for another day). The one thing I will note here is that, I don’t have a favorite or preferred barbeque sauce that I like to always have on hand, and haven’t gotten around to trying to make my own. So what I did was make a combination of barbeque sauces using Lillie Q’s Carolina Sauce & Smoky Sauce, which turned out quite well! And for the root beer, I stuck with my usual go-to, A&W, but next time might try a different brand (perhaps even an off the grid root beer that’s made in house somewhere, though Frankie is my root beer expert, so I will be deferring to him for that).

 

And in addition to the pulled pork, I decided to take the extra step and try my hand at corn spoonbread, inspired by the spoonbread we ate at Revolution Brewery a couple months ago. Overall, not too sweet, with the perfect bite of corn to contrast the smoothness of the actual bread, though the texture was not Frankie’s favorite. But it was incredibly easy to make, so it wasn’t a total loss! But for anyone wanting to give pulled pork at home a try, or wants to try a different take on cornbread, these are great places to start! Hoping there’s warm weather where you are too! – Cooking Maggie


Chicago Food Festivals

Root Beer BBQ Pulled Pork from Mom on Time Out

Sweet Corn Spoonbread from Southern Bite

Bark Boxes & BLTG Sandwiches

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that I in fact love my dog. He has it so good, and with a face like that, how can you blame me? So, like any good dog mom with a nice little pay raise this year, I went ahead and ordered my pup a bark box! However, the reaction I got was not quite what I thought it would have been. Although he’s an ADORABLE pup, Lord Tuggs is a little on the overly cautious side, especially around loud noises and objects that are basically the same size as him, but I think that comes with the territory of being on the shorter side of things. However, that being said, he did enjoy the treats that were inside once we opened it up for him before we got to munching our dinner!

BLTG: Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, and Guacamole. First things first, bread. Sourdough bread to be exact, a must, or something very similar (Tuscan Round Bread if your grocer or baker, if you’re that fancy individual who has one near by, has run out) that can hold up to toasting and layering, and all the good stuff inside (definitely don’t toast too much or you’ll ruin the top of your mouth). I find I don’t need to butter the tops of my bread for this sandwich and that simply toasting it gets that perfect crunch on the outside, but softness from the wet components that makes it easy to eat!
Then comes the next most important piece: BACON! Thick cut is an absolute, but after that, if you like flavoring or a particular kind of bacon, go crazy! It’s your sandwich! We stay pretty traditional in our home, and find just your regular maplewood smoked is just perfect to compliment the other pieces to this sandwich. To cook your bacon, you can just go with what you already know and love, but I personally am a baker of bacon only. Sure, it’s a little more time consuming, but I’ve never had a piece of bacon that wasn’t cooked PERFECTLY, just the way I like it with this method, which I’ve included!
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Perfect Bacon: Make sure your oven is set to 420 degrees, then run each strip of bacon under cold water. Yes, cold water, because what that does is prevents the meat from shrinking once its in the oven. Then, layer the bacon on a wire rack that is sitting in/on a large backing pan (which I cover in aluminum foil for easy cleanup). Then bake for about 20 minutes (I check it at the 10 mark, and then every 2 minutes after that to make sure it come out perfect). And while the bacon is cooking, I can work on getting everything else prepped and ready.

Naturally, slice your beef tomatoes (you can go with any tomatoes, but I got with a firm beef tomato because it tends to hold up better and cover more bread/ingredient surface area) and prep your lettuce (I like romaine lettuce myself because it has a softer crunch to compliment the bacon, but you can use whatever is your preference. I’ve even seen people use arugula, which I love, but find a little overly elevated for this gool ol’ classic). Then get to work on that guac, which I make from scratch because I like it better that way!

The Real Cooking Maggie’s Guacamole
2 Servings
  • 1 avocado, ripe
  • 1/2 plum tomato, diced small
  • 1/4 small white onion, diced finely
  • 1/4 jalapeno (or more to preference), diced finely (leave seeds in if you like heat)
  • 2-3 tablespoons cilantro
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons lime juice (to preference)
  1. Cut avocado in half, remove seed, and spoon meat (flesh?) into a small bowl. Smash with the back of a fork.
  2. Dice tomatoes, jalapeno, and onion, mince garlic, and add to smashed avocado and stir.
  3. Chop up cilantro and add to bowl, stirring to incorporate. Finally, add a dash of salt and squeeze in lime juice, tasting to preference (I add about 1/2 a lime at a time). Stir to combine and serve!!!

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It’s chunky, it’s smooth, it’s packed full of flavor (and heat if that’s your jam), and it’s so easy to make! We’ve now come to post-toasting, where you’ll layer a little mayo, a little lettuce, a little guacamole (to help keep those parts that tend to break apart or fall out between the bread), then a little bacon (really squish it into that guac for maximum holding), and finally top with tomatoes and that second piece of bread. VOILA! Delicious, elevated in a rustic kind of way, and a sandwich we can’t seem to eat only one of.
Enjoy and happy eating! Cooking Maggie Out!

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