Wednesday, January 11, 2012

There they go again!

I may be way off base here, but I’m thinking those people who try to predict or control food trends have gone way off the deep end. We have had cupcakes coming out our ears for several years now. On  ABC's"the Chew" television program yesterday, they were predicting that homemade marshmallows are the next trend. Does that mean all of those cupcake shops are now going to switch to marshmallows? But the big question is, does that mean we are going to have sticky fingers until they tell us what the next trend will be? To tell you the truth, in the early 70s, my sister, Ann, and I had C and W Gourmet Gifts, and we made some pretty mean marshmallows. So, does that mean “those people” are over 30 years behind the times?
I am sure my “trends” are usually wrong, they are, afterall, decided by what I like. What I think is cool is usually far different from what “those people” think….and personally, I don't give a damn. As a chef at Crown Center here in Kansas City during the early 90s, it seemed like every one of the 25 to 30 year old “boy chefs” felt they had to put lemon grass in everything. I never could figure out why, because trust me, some of their concoctions were dreadful!

I did agree with the Burger Trend a few years ago. There is nothing like a big, juicy burger on a grilled bun. All Americans like a it beef, chicken buffalo, veggie, etc., they are loved.

a Martha Stewart photo
I think a beef burger with mustard, pickle and onion is still the number one choice in America…..but make that bun a great bun, spread it with butter and grill it until it is a nice golden brown. As for the mustard….good old French’s Yellow is the choice of many, but for me….I want Dijon.
When it comes to onion, it depends if it is Vidalia season. If it is, a big quarter inch thick slice is perfect. If a Vidalia isn’t available, make mine sautéed diced yellow onion, with a little bit of salt and pepper. Simple and perfect. Pickles are a problem for me. I don’t want some limp sour thing from the shelf at the grocery store, (you know, the kind McDonald's uses). No, I want a crunchy, garlicky, tangy pickle from the refrigerated case. Better yet, I want a homemade Bread and Butter pickle….lots of them! As for cheese, sure, why not? Make mine Havarti, please. If the burger is as thick as it should be, lettuce and tomato just make it harder to  eat. Fix a salad on the side!

My Dad used to make a hamburger that was huge! Each burger was about a half a pound of the best ground beef he could buy. He brushed them with Heinz 57 Sauce, seasoned them with Lawry’s, and on to the grill they would go. They were NEVER well done…medium rare was the only way! I must admit, they were a little large to eat neatly, but they were fabulous! I bet if someone opened a Bing’s Burgers, it would be a hit, even though they say we need to go with marshmallows!
I guess it all comes down to eating what you like. Set your own food trends and ignore everyone else. Don’t fall for their schemes. They are just trying to make a name for themselves and a buck or two along the way.

But, a big plump marshmallow in a cup of rich hot chocolate is a very good thing!

Here is a recipe for a great sauce/relish for any kind of burger.  It can change the entire feel of your meal. I particularly like it on pork burgers.

Onions and Cherries
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; cook, stirring, 5 to 6 minutes, or until onions are light brown. Reduce heat. Add cherries; mix well. in a small bowl, combine brown sugar, vinegar, thyme and pepper; pour over onions. Mix gently. Simmer, covered, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

For an interesting twist on barbecue sauce, try this one....

Fig Balsamic Onion Barbecue SauceExtra-virgin olive oil, for liberal drizzling plus 2 tablespoons
1/4 pound pancetta, chopped
2 red onions chopped
Salt and black pepper
1 fresh bay leaf
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, eyeball it
1/2 cup aged balsamic vinegar (I use The Tasteful Olives Fig Balsamic, marvelous!)
2 to 3 tablespoons honey or dark brown sugar
Zest and juice of 1 orange

Put 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a pot over medium high heat. If you're cooking outside you can cook over the grill flames. Add the pancetta to the pot and crisp it up, 3 to 4 minutes, add the onion to the pot and season with salt and pepper - go heavy on that pepper. The black pepper will really balance out the sweetness of your sauce later on. Add the bay leaf to the pot.
When the onions are very soft and begin to caramelize, remove the bay leaf and add the Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, honey or sugar, and orange juice. Let the sauce thicken up and sweeten up 6 to 7 minutes until the liquids are syrupy. Adjust the black pepper level to your taste.

It may be too  cold to go out and light up the grill, but if you have a grill pan or an iron skillet, you have perfect equipment for making a great burger. Just make sure you don't skimp  on any of your ingredients or procedures....after all, the American Burger is a beautiful thing! For dessert,  toast some trendy marshmallows!

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy
oil painting by Kay Tucker

Somerset Autumn on Wea Creek

Somerset Autumn on Wea Creek
Oil Painting by Kay Tucker, Private Collection


oil painting by Kay Tucker

Kansas Storm

Kansas Storm
oil painting by Kay Tucker, Private Collection

Watercolor Collage

Watercolor Collage

Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time

Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time
48"x36" sculptural painting by Kay Tucker