First off, things have improved dramatically on the propane grill front. I’m learning the limits of this new (to me) form of cookery. For one thing, NO BACON DIRECTLY ON THE GRILL GRATE! I bought a kilo of hamburger (carne molido) a few days ago in anticipation of trying my hand at the most basic of grilling skills: hamburgers. I’m happy to say that things went swimmingly.
I’ve read a lot of stuff about making, assessing, and eating hamburgers from my very dear friends at Serious Eats. My sensei, Kenji, has taught me to not try to mix seasonings into the meat or over-handle it lest you end up making meatloaf, not to worry about how many or how few times I flip the burger (turns out it doesn’t really matter), how to shape the perfect patty so it doesn’t turn into a meatball, etc. Armed with all this info, I fired up the grill to preheat, formed up a couple of ~250 gram patties, that were just a skosh bigger than the diameter of the bun, properly cupped slightly in the middle to keep them flat once cooked, sliced some onion very thinly and pole-to-pole, buttered the buns and got ready to grill. Once the patties were nicely browned on one side, I flipped them over, salt an peppered the top, spread some onion slices over them and then topped them each with a slice of Manchego cheese. I used Manchego simply because some friends that had departed a few days earlier had given it to us when they were emptying their fridge. While the burgers were cooking I toasted the buns on the grill because non-heated buns are a sin against nature. The burgers looked really good when I took them off the grill. We dressed them with mayo, mustard, tomatoes and pickles and dug in. Well, they were pretty good but certainly not great. So what was wrong? Well, first, the Manchego was some national brand pre-sliced stuff that we would probably never buy ourselves and, unfortunately, it didn’t have much flavor. Likewise the burgers were okay but certainly weren’t just dripping with meaty goodness. Also, they were too done being pretty much well done all the way through. I knew I could do better than this.
I didn’t have any intention of going back to the store for other ground meats to make the perfect blend of burger meat so I was going to have to figure out what to do with the regulation hamburger that I was using.
Even though Kenji cautions against kneading spices and seasonings into the ground meat, I couldn’t see any reason not to add them to the surface. However, I wanted to keep things simple so I stuck to just salt, pepper, worcestershire sauce and MSG. Also, there really, truly is only one cheese that’s really right on a cheeseburger and that, my friends, is good ol’ American pasteurized, processed cheese. This is becoming very easy to get here in Mexico so Lulu bought me a package of Kraft Singles.
Again, I formed the patties, trying to keep the messing around to a minimum, preheated the grill, sliced the onions and buttered the buns. This time, I opted to not close the lid on the grill. I figured that would allow the patties to get nice and brown on the outside without baking the inside. I was shooting for them to be cooked to ‘medium’ when I took them off the grill. I brushed a little worcestershire sauce (salsa inglesa) on top, followed by salt, pepper, and a light sprinkling of MSG. We decided that we should make “hawaiian” burgers this time since the grilled pineapple tasted so good with the chicken we did a week ago. So, two 3/8″ thick slices of fresh pineapple were added to the outskirts of the grill at the same time the meat was put over the hottest part.
Once the meat and pineapple was done, and the buns nicely toasted, we dressed the burgers pretty much the same way as before and dug in. Whoa! What a difference! The patty was nice and pink in the center but brown and crispy outside. And it actually tasted meaty. The American cheese gave it just the right flavor but was kind of a pain to unwrap after it had sat in the 100 degree heat outside for a couple minutes. But, small price to pay for just the right kind of cheesiness. The pineapple was really tasty but, frankly, was too much for the burger. Made it hard to taste anything else.
Next day was the same except without the pineapple. Now, that was a good burger! Can’t wait to get some ground chuck and try again. Lulu made potato salad which we enjoyed on the side for 2 of our burger nights. Last night we had some zucchini that needed using so I cut it into spears, covered them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and grilled them along with the burgers. One of my favorite ways to eat zucchini. We’re out of ground beef now so tonight I’m grilling some hot dogs. Managed to find some that were actually made of pork. Most of the dogs sold down here are made of turkey. So, anyway, the grill is now earning its keep and I’m over being mad at it. It’s also helping to keep the cabin temp cooler.
We’re getting ready to go on vacation in a few days. Sunday we’ll be flying out of La Paz and landing in Tijuana. We’ll make our way across the border and then get on San Diego’s excellent mass transit system which will take us to Chula Vista (affordable lodging) for the night. The next morning we’ll board the trolley for San Diego where we’ll climb aboard the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to LA and then the Coast Starlight to Salem, an overnight trip.
We’re looking forward to getting back up to Oregon to greet our grandson into the world, visit with friends and family (especially our kids) who we haven’t seen in at least a year, help my folks celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary, help Lulu’s siblings celebrate their Mom’s life, live in an actual house for awhile, do some projects around Cody & Scott’s place, cook some stuff that is more fun to cook and eat in a temperate climate than it is in the oven that is La Paz right now, buy some stuff that we can’t find down here, and see all the loot that we’ve ordered over the months that’s been piling up at Cody’s. We’re also going to shop around and hopefully buy a Toyota Dolphin (or similar) RV to expand our travel horizons a wee bit.
So, that’s what’s coming up and what we’ve been doing (at least the eating part of what we’ve been doing). Can’t promise another post before we leave La Paz, but maybe.
PS: Here’s another website that I just learned about that I anticipate will consume a LOT of my idle time when I have an internet connection. Remember, as Meathead says on this website: “If you boil ribs, the terrorists win.”