Pete’s Burgers: The Wellington

In the midst of my 18,000 word missive on the food in Philly, I addressed my feelings on what should be considered a good burger.  I was sick of complicated restaurant burgers with foie gras and chutney instead of bacon and ketchup being considered the best in a city just because they essentially buy your taste buds.  So I ranted about it.  But you likely missed that since the post was intolerably long.

Allow me to refresh you on my thoughts.  A great burger is ground beef, heavily salted and peppered, charred on a rarely cleaned grill, and served on a simple bun with a strong cheese and mushrooms/bacon/onions/condiments as desired.  Simple and really delicious, it especially helps if the ground beef is closer to 80/20 than 93/7.

That doesn’t mean I avoid messing around with burgers and trying to come up with new delicious ways to eat them.  I love trying to make new stuff (very eloquent, Pete).  So, while I will address the perfect traditional burger and the famous Dupee burger at another time, let’s kick off this new post category with the burger we made in Naples, FL last week: The Wellington Burger.

My mom lives in an awesome condo in Naples with lots of perks; high-end community grills, great restaurants, and a butcher shop that has adventurous cuts. Most importantly: delicious tasting kiddie pool water, at least according to Janet

We made a Beef Wellington over Christmas in Michigan 5 or 6 years ago and I wasn’t the biggest fan.  Each component sounded awesome; beef tenderloin, liver pate, duxelles (mixture of mushrooms, onions, and shallots), all wrapped in pastry dough.  It ended up being way too much in my opinion; just insanely rich.  But stuffed in a burger…. that had some potential.

We started out by throwing a sliced red onion in a pan to caramelize and sauteing a half pound of sliced mushrooms in butter.

Tim is such a nerd, he looked up a recipe for caramelizing onions. Admittedly, he did an awesome job and even cooked in bacon grease which got my nod of approval. But, honestly, who looks up a recipe to pan cook an onion?

Kristi prepared the mushrooms and didn't even need a recipe to do so. Tim was completely blown away! He was all like, "how did you know how to do THAT?!?!?" Friggin jerk, I'll show him

While those cooked, I got the other ingredients prepped.  First, the duck liver mousse.

Annnnd prepped! Went with the pre-made gourmet food store variety since I can't fathom taking the time to make a liver mousse then stuffing it into a burger. That's a Bells Two Hearted in the background. For those keeping track, Naples has Michigan beer, Philadelphia scrapple, and a Skyline Chili franchise. Great place

The selection of what kind of liver pate to use wasn’t that complicated since Mommy Ryan had a block of duck liver mousse in her fridge.  She is a Ryan after all, and odds are that if you look in a Ryan fridge or freezer there will be some form of liver product somewhere.  Makes choices in these situations easy.

The ground beef headed into a bowl for seasoning with lots of salt and pepper.

I know it looks like a ton, but you need a lot of salt for two lbs of meat. It didn't taste salty. Side note: I mysteriously dropped my rant on the stupidity of ground Kobe beef and people paying more for it because Mommy Ryan bought ground Wagyu (American Kobe) despite my pleas not to do so. Lets just move on and pretend it's regular 85/15, OK?

With the ground beef mixed and the onions and mushrooms cooked, the burgers were ready for final prep before grilling.

Wow Tim, those look great! And it only took you 45 minutes of research and 30 minutes of cook time? Amazing! Can you blame Tim for wanting to start a blog about how awful I am at cooking?

I combined big spoonfuls of the onions and mushrooms and a thick slab of the duck liver mousse in a bowl and mashed together for each burger.

Pre-mashing. On it's own it looks decadent, then you remember it's heading inside of (Wagyu) ground beef. Diet still isn't going well, thanks for asking

On wax paper I flattened out large thin patties of the ground beef to roughly the same size.  The idea was that two patties would surround the filling and be pinched together at the edges.  Each burger got a hefty spoonful of the filling.

Burger #1. You know that looks absurdly delicious, even if you're not a huge poultry liver fan

Burgers #2 and #3. They weren't just for Tim and I, Mommy Ryan was extremely into the idea as well. Kristi sat out, she's still not on the liver bandwagon

Throw the 2nd half on top, pinch the corners, and you have what looks like an innocuous normal burger.  Albeit an extremely large one.

Even without seeing the size of the plate you can tell these burgers were enormous. That plate is the equivalent of the tags on my shirts

The three stuffed burgers went onto a hot grill along with three normal burgers (Tim and I both wanted the best of both worlds).  Big error was putting them all on the grill at the same time since we only wanted the stuffed ones to cook well done with the lid down.  Pretty stupid; the regular burgers ended up medium-well, which is how you narrowly avoided this being my preachy post about a correctly-made real hamburger.

A little perspective on the difference in size. Also, I should give credit where credit is due, Tim really pushed his Wellington burger into a different world (of unhealthiness) with that handful of blue cheese on top. I was extremely jealous once I had time to think about it

From the grill directly onto the essential toasted Martin’s potato rolls, served along with extra condiments and toppings as needed.

Added a little mayo for richness on the Wellington burger. Also, because mayo is awesome. Look, these love handles weren't going to maintain themselves. Wait, what? I already did that one? Dag, how long ago? Oh well

I had to slice into the Wellington and check it out, it would have been less enjoyable without doing so.

I wanted the filling a little more runny for picture purposes but it was warm and mushy throughout. In a good way. Best part was that the filling ran up to the edges of the burger

Despite my previous complaints about traditional Beef Wellington, you can’t combine this many delicious ingredients, in this type of preparation, and have it come out poorly.  The flavor was rich, very decadent, and delicious.  A stuffed burger is the only case where well-done is an acceptable temperature because the contrast of textures is great and the meat stays moist from the filling.  Really amazing, but not really a hamburger.

Next week will either be the crazy surf and turf I referenced previously or something else.  I pickup a cooler full of cow organs this weekend courtesy of Uncle Billy, so, you’ve got that going for you.

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Pete’s Recipes: Pulled Chicken

As any reader of this blog can tell, I use a lot of guessing when cooking and tend to make it up as I go along.  Along those lines, I don’t have that many recipes that I use consistently but there are a few.  In the interest of mixing up the content of the blog, and with Super Bowl parties coming up, here’s an easy recipe for pulled chicken.  I think its delicious and it tends to be a decent crowd pleaser.

Total prep time is around 15 minutes, cooking time is three+ hours (though you’re only actively cooking for 20 minutes of those three hours).

Here’s what you’ll need:
6 pounds of boneless chicken breasts and thighs
16 oz. apple juice
2 oz. apple cider vinegar
12 oz. beer
32 oz. chicken broth
6 oz. V-8 (optional)

Dry rub:
3 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry ground mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon black pepper

That dry rub is a take on a Food Network recipe I have been using on my pulled pork for a couple years now.  I’ve experimented with adding cumin, onion powder, and chili powder at different times but the rub noted above is the best variation, I think.  First step is to combine the dry rub ingredients in a bowl and make sure they are well mixed.

For the chicken, I like using 2/3 breast meat, 1/3 thigh meat but it’s totally up to the cook.  I think thigh meat tastes a little funky in leftovers which is why I like using less of it.  Trim all excess fat off of each piece of chicken and place the meat in a bowl.  Add the dry rub and make sure it coats all of the meat.

The paprika makes this meal look 10-15% more appetizing

The prep part of the cooking can be done 24 hours in advance which is what I usually like to do.  The meat takes on the flavors of the rub a little better when I’ve done that.  However, if you didn’t plan ahead it can be done 5 minutes before cooking; 6 pounds fits nicely into a gallon freezer bag for storage if you do go the 24 hour route.

Once you’re ready to start cooking the chicken, preheat the oven to 300F and put a large heavy pot on the cooktop over medium/high heat.  I use my Le Creuset dutch oven which, coincidentally, makes every person between the ages of 10 and 40 giggle like they are ten years old when it is referred to by name.  Once the pot is heated up, add your chicken and brown it for 5-10 minutes.  You can use a little cooking spray or a tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of the pot to keep the chicken from sticking.

The smell from this is strong due to the spices in the rub. It woke people up from a New Years day nap when I cooked it most recently

While the chicken is browning, get the braising ingredients ready to go.  Here’s the lineup:

Those little cans of V-8 are great to keep around for cooking purposes

For the beer, I like to use any non-light beer that is in the fridge.  Or, in this case, the least desirable non-light beer in the fridge.  That Michelob Winter Bourbon Cask Ale was disgusting as a beverage.  Beer goes in first, cooks for a minute or so, then the 16 ounces of apple juice, 2 ounces of cider vinegar, 6 ounces of V-8, and the quart of chicken broth.  Heat the pot on the stovetop until it gets to a near boil.

The smell becomes less strong and quite nice at this point

Now place the lid on the pot and put it in the 300F degree oven for 3 hours.  I like to spend this time napping, stressing about whether the chicken will cook correctly and badgering friends into being on time for when it comes out of the oven.  After three hours, take the pot out of the oven and here is what you’ll have:

Best thing about Le Creusets is how easily all of the charred sugars on the sides cleans off in the sink

Transfer all of the chicken to a clean dish, preferably oven safe so you can keep it warm if not eating right away.  Although I am using tongs, a large slotted spoon is better since the chicken will be falling apart when you move it.

The chicken ends up very tender

Once all the chicken is transferred, use two forks to shred it.  If everything has gone right, this should be very easy and you can get through all six pounds in about five minutes leaving you with this:

Very similar looking to pulled pork. Flavor is close too

After the chicken is shredded I like to pour a couple ladles of the braising liquid over the top for flavor and moisture then cover with tin foil until its time to eat.

The liquid adds some of the sweetness from the apple juice to the finished product

For garnishes, its mostly up to the cook.  I like to serve with dill pickle slices and a red onion relish.  The red onion relish (which you can kind of see in the background above) is a chopped red onion caramelized for a bit before adding crushed red pepper, light brown sugar, a splash of apple cider vinegar, and a little salt.  Turn the heat up after adding the spices and cook until the liquid has cooked off and it looks relish-like.  Whatever that means.

For the BBQ sauce, I let everyone put their own on their sandwich since everyone likes a different amount.  You really can’t go wrong with any of the Sweet Baby Ray’s sauces (Hickory Brown Sugar is my fave thing) but if you want to make something a little less traditional, here are my two go-tos:

Putting your sauce in mason jars makes you feel like a real chef. Then putting Classico tomato sauce lids on the jars makes you feel less-so

The one on the left is a Tim Ryan recommendation that has some Asian flavors due to the use of rice vinegar and soy sauce (which I recommend over the Worcestershire sauce option noted in the recipe).  Recipe can be found here.

The one on the right is a mustard-based sauce that is very strong and best when combined on a sandwich with a little honey BBQ sauce.  Combine the ingredients below and heat over low heat on a stove top for 10-15 minutes whisking occasionally.

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Final tip: always serve your pulled chicken on Martin’s Potato Rolls.  Everyone likes them and even if they don’t like the chicken or sauce they will enjoy the sandwich just because of the roll.  Good luck!