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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

11/07/2018

~ Triple Chocolate & Peanut Butter Frosted Brownies ~

IMG_5057In a nutshell, the problem with loving the combination of chocolate and peanut butter is you can't eat Reese's peanut butter cups with your morning coffee -- well, you can, you just can't admit to it. These brownies, inspired by a version my mom used to make using a Duncan Hines brownie mix, are a pitch-perfect reason to skip waffles and pancakes and start the day with a brownie.  Back in the days when no one ever heard of a peanut allergy, they made great lunch box treats too.

A rich triple-chocolate layer, &, a thin salty peanut-butter layer sandwiched between dreamy peanut-butter cream-cheese frosting.

IMG_5053Things I know:  I know I will always choose a chocolate brownie over a slice of chocolate cake.  I know I will always choose chunky over smooth peanut butter too.  I like the informality of the pick-up-and-eat moist and cohesive user-friendly brownie over the refined use-a-fork-and-don't-get-any-crumbs-on-my-floor, moist and grainy cake.  As for peanut butter, I choose Jiffy over Skippy, never was a fan of Peter Pan, and I adore the flavor and texture that roasted peanuts add to it.  I know that chocolate and peanut butter is an irresistible combination.  Put peanut butter frosting on a chocolate brownie and I'll follow you anywhere -- right after I eat one, two or three.

The brownie is an all-American chocolate confection, and, the first printed recipe referencing a "brownie" to describe a mildly-chocolate cake-like dessert appeared in 1896, in Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking School Cookbook.  By 1910, the brownie had taken on its current form and the word "brownie" was the term used to describe a rich, dense, chewy, fudge-esque, chocolatey dessert that is eaten out-of-hand -- a sort of cross between a small cake and a very soft cookie. 

IMG_4934For the dry ingredients:

3/4  cup unbleached all-purpose flour (12 tablespoons)

3/4  cup unsweetened cocoa powder (12 tablespoons)

1/2  teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

For the wet ingredients:

2  extra-large eggs

3/4  cup light-brown sugar

1/4  cup granulated sugar

2  teaspoons pure chocolate extract

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the chocolate add-ins and salty peanut butter layer:

8  tablespoons salted butter (1 stick)

6  ounces semi-sweet chocolate morsels (about 1 cup)

3/4  cup crunchy peanut butter

IMG_5017For the crunchy peanut-butter cream-cheese frosting layer:

1  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1  stick)

1  cup cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft (1, 8 ounce brick)

1  cup crunchy peanut butter (4 ounces)

1  cup Confectioners' sugar 

IMG_4938 IMG_4940Step 1.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut an 8"-square of parchment.  Spray the inside of an 8" x 8" x 2" square baking pan with no-stick cooking spray, place the parchment in the bottom, spray the top of the parchment and set aside.  

IMG_4951 IMG_4951 IMG_4951 IMG_4951 IMG_4951 IMG_4951~Step 2.  In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients:  the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients:  the eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar and both extracts.  In a double-boiler with 1"-1 1/2" of water in the bottom, placed on the stovetop over medium heat, melt the butter and chocolate, whisking throughout the process until both are thoroughly combined.

IMG_4972 IMG_4972 IMG_4972 IMG_4972 IMG_4972 IMG_4972~Step 3.  Using a large rubber spatula, add and fold all of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, just until moistened.  Add the melted chocolate and continue to fold until thoroughly combined and a thick batter has formed.  In microwave, heat the peanut butter to a drizzly consistency, about 30-40 seconds.

IMG_4990 IMG_4990 IMG_4990 IMG_4990 IMG_4990 IMG_4990~Step 4.  Transfer batter to prepared pan and use the spatula to spread it evenly across bottom and into sides.  Drizzle the peanut butter over the top. Using the tip of a paring knife and a light touch, create some swirls across the top, to spread it evenly across the top of the batter and into the corners.  Bake brownies on center rack of 350º oven, 25-28 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into center.  Place on a wire rack to cool, about 1 hour, prior to removing bottom from pan and cooling completely.

IMG_5021 IMG_5026 IMG_5026 IMG_5026~Step 5.  To prepare the frosting, in a medium bowl, on medium-high speed of mixer, cream the butter, cream cheese and peanut butter.  Add Confectioner's sugar.  On low mixer speed and working your way up to high, beat until frosting is smooth and creamy, about 1-1 1/2 minutes.  

IMG_5036~ Step 6.  Transfer frosting to top center of brownie.  Using a butter knife, working from the center out, spread frosting evenly toward the edges. Technically brownie is ready to slice and serve.  That said, I put it in the refrigerator to chill for several hours, to firm the frosting up. This makes for clean cuts and a pretty presentation.  Serve cut brownies at room temp.

Store in refrigerator.  Serve at room temperature.

IMG_5060Chocolate & Crunchy Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies:  Recipe yields 16, 2"-square brownies.

Special Equipment List:  kitchen shears; parchment paper; 8" x 8" x 2" baking pan, preferably with removable bottom; whisk; large rubber spatula; sharp paring knife; cake tester; wire cooling rack. 

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c93bc544970bCook's Note:  As a chocolate and peanut butter lover, if you prefer cookies to brownies, allow me to suggest you try my ~ Over-the-Top Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies ~.  They don't imitate the taste of Reese's peanut butter cups, they're topped with Reese's cups.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

11/05/2018

~Bonjour French Onion & Swiss Smashburger Sliders~

IMG_4854For a straight path to my heart:  put onions on it.  In my food world, with rare exception, a sandwich sans onion is incomplete -- unfinished.  Under the right circumstances, if caramelized onions are an option -- tick tock.   I finally met my mouthwateringly onionalicious match -- the double French onion and Swiss Smashburger: Two juicy-drippy sublimely-seasoned smashed 'burger patties, piled high with shaved and sweet caramelized onions, served on an onion roll that has been slathered with (oh yum) a mayonnaise-based French onion spread.  Because a double smashed 'burger is too much food for me, I'm downsizing to sliders, and even they are huge.

 Smashburger, smashing 'burgers, &, my smashed 'burgers:

IMG_4777If you ate in some of the mom and pop establishments I grew up eating in (in the small towns of Pennsylvania and New Jersey), I am here to tell you, the concept of smashing 'burgers isn't new -- it has merely been revisited and remarketed.  As a kid living in the pre-McDonald's food world, I watched many grill-cooks grab and slap an ill-formed ball of ground beef onto a seething-hot flat-top-griddle, give it a solid whack with a big, heavy all-purpose spatula to smash it into a patty, then quickly season it with salt and pepper.  Juices would bubble up around the sides, but, they cooked so fast there was no reason to worry that might be cause to dry them out -- they were drippy-juicy to a fault.

SmashburgerSmashburger is an American 'burger chain that was founded in Denver, CO, in 2007.  It currently has over 370 franchises in 37 states and 9 countries.  The name explains what they do, as they literally smash secret-seasoned 'burgers on a flat-topped griddle over high heat, so the fat and juices stay trapped inside. American cheese gets melted over the top, then, crusty and cragged-edged, they are served with various customized toppings on a soft, sweet secret-sauced bun.

Screen-Shot-2015-06-17-at-7.48.45-AMWhile the technique for the 'burgers is precisely the same in all locations, everything else is open to interpretation.  To  avoid the stigma of a fast-food chain, after doing localized market research, every menu includes a signature 'burger crafted for the locals.  Colorado locations serve 'em topped with roasted green chiles; Miami's come with grilled chorizo; in Minneapolis, which has a big Scandinavian populous, Swiss and caramelized onion goes on; Oklahoma features fried-pickles, and, in Boston, it's onions and cranberry chutney (supplied by Ocean Spray).

To make my Smashburger-style double-decker (two patties) French Onion & Swiss Smashed-'Burger Sliders:

IMG_4691If you're thinking a smashed 'burger is a thin, scrawny, bordering-on-dry-edged 'burger, you'd be wrong. Smashed 'burgers are thickish and juicy crispy-edged perfection.  The only thing that can change that is if YOU overcook this all-beef plus American-cheese patty served on a Brioche roll topped with secret sauce, sweet pickle chips, acidy tomato slices, shaved red onion, and, soft Bibb lettuce leaves.  

One more noteworthy point:  In order to maintain the perfect temperature of 385º in the home kitchen, I turn to my trusty flat-surfaced 16" electric skillet to cook them and it works perfectly. While I am demonstrating one slider (two patties) today, the skillet is large enough to easily make two-at-a-time (four patties) -- or four sliders if you don't want to serve double deckers.  On a cheese-melting note, I have two cheese-melting domes which I can maneuver to accommodate four patties, but, there's no need for them -- just put the lid on the skillet and the cheese will melt.

IMG_4807For each double French-onion smashed-'burger slider:

2  3-ounce loosely-packed balls of meat mixture, prepared as directed below

1 1/2  teaspoons salted butter

1/3  cup shaved sweet onion, prepped as directed below

4-6  generous pinches Mel's seasoning blend, prepared as directed below

2  slices Swiss cheese, one slice per meat patty

1  3"-round slider-sized onion roll, sliced in half horizontally, toasted or not, your choice

1  tablespoon Mel's French onion sandwich spread, prepared as directed below

IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4670 IMG_4670 IMG_4670~Step 1.  Place 2 pounds ground beef (32 ounces) in a large bowl.  Cut 1 pound flank steak (16 ounces) flank steak into 1 1/2" chunks.  Place the chunked steak in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade -- depending upon the size of the food processor, working in two batches may be necessary.  Using a series of 30 rapid on-off pulses, process/grind/mince the meat.  Place the ground steak in the bowl with the ground beef.  Using your hands, thoroughly combine the two.

IMG_4642 IMG_4642~ Step 2.  Peel 1  large, 16-ounce Vidalia onion. Slice the onion in half.  Using a very sharp chef's knife and a precise hand (or a mandoline if your knife skills aren't sharp), slice/shave the onion into almost see-through half-moon shapes. The thinner the onions, the quicker they cook -- and smashed 'burgers are all about express (fast) cooking. There will be about 3 cups shaved onion -- you will need a generous 1/3 cup per slider.

IMG_4655For my seasoning blend:

2  teaspoons fine sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon onion powder

1  teaspoon beef boullion

IMG_4658Stir spices together. Makes a scant 2 Tbsp.

IMG_4793For my French onion spread:

1  cup mayonnaise

1  packet Lipton onion soup and dip mix 

1  teaspoon dehydrated onion

1  teaspoon dehydrated garlic

1  teaspoon cracked black pepper

IMG_4799Whisk or stir all ingredients together, cover and refrigerate 1 hour.  Makes 1 cup.

IMG_4706 IMG_4706 IMG_4803 IMG_4808 IMG_4810 IMG_4810 IMG_4810 IMG_4810 IMG_4822 IMG_4822 IMG_4822 IMG_4822 IMG_4834 2 IMG_4834 2 IMG_4834 2~Step 1.  To cook the 'burgers and onions, in electric skillet, melt butter over low heat.  When melted, using a pastry brush, paint bottom of skillet.  Increase the heat to 385°.  For every slider you plan to cook, scatter a generous 1/3 cup of shaved onion in the skillet.  Place two-to-four lightly-compacted 3-ounce balls of meat mix on the skillet.  Using the grill press, smash them down, lifting and lowering the press to make sure the entire surface has been evenly smashed (into free-form, craggy-edged 3"-3 1/2"-sized patties).  Lightly-season tops of 'burgers and onions.  Sauté for 2 minutes, using a spatula to keep moving the onions around during this time.  Flip 'burgers over, then scrape up and transfer the caramelized onions to a small plate or bowl.  Top each' patty with a slice of Swiss cheese, place cheese domes on (or lid of electric skillet) and cook for another 1-1 1/2 minutes (1 minute for rare-ish, 1 1/2 minutes for medium-rare-ish).  Turn the heat off.  When the butter-sputtering stops, use a spatula to transfer 'burgers to rolls and top as directed below.

IMG_4842 IMG_4842 IMG_4842 IMG_4842 IMG_4842~Step 2.  Slice onion rolls and lightly-toast, if desired (mine were placed on the rack of my toaster oven for less than 1-minute -- to ever-so-slightly toast the surface and gently heat the roll).  Place the bottom of the roll on a plate and slather 1 tablespoon French onion spread over the surface. Place and stack two smashed 'burger patties atop the sauce. Top with the caramelized onion and put the top of the roll on.  Serve (with napkins) and eat immediately.

French Onion, Swiss & Caramelized-Onion Smashed-'Sliders:

IMG_4860They're about as French & onion-loving as a 'burger can get:

IMG_4910French Onion Soup & Swiss Smashburger Sliders:  Recipe yields meat mixture for 8 double-pattied  sliders or 16 single-pattied sliders (3-ounce-size patties)/2 tablespoons secret-seasoning/1 cup French onion dip/instructions to smash, cook and top smashed-'burger sliders. 

Special Equipment List:  ramekin; 1-cup measuring container; small whisk; cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; kitchen scale; 16" electric skillet; pastry brush; 'burger press; cheese-melting dome; wide spatula; serrated bread knife; toaster oven (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39dd8d6200dCook's Note:  Armed with the right equipment (a skillet, a lid, and a heat source) hamburgers or cheeseburgers can be made anywhere, anytime -- even under the worst of circumstances.  My recipe for  ~ The  Iwatani 12-Minute Tornado Cheeseburger ~ is proof that just because you have no electricity for a week, is no reason to not eat great food.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary & Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

11/03/2018

~ For the Love of Hamburgers: The Smashed Burger ~

IMG_4777I have always contended that hamburgers cooked in a skillet or on a flat-topped griddle are the best.  I won't turn down a hamburger hot-off-the-grill, but, sorry my friends, it's just not as moist and juicy as a hamburger that seared in its own juices.  As a 'burger lover, I'm always looking for and open to a new-to-me 'burger combination.  I wasn't, however, expecting to come across an old method for cooking 'burgers touted as a new method for cooking 'burgers.  Huh?  Read on.

If you ate in some of the mom and pop establishments I grew up eating in (in the small towns of Pennsylvania and New Jersey), I am here to tell you, the concept of smashing 'burgers isn't new -- it has merely been revisited and remarketed.  As a kid living in the pre-McDonald's food world, I watched many grill-cooks grab and slap an ill-formed ball of ground beef onto a seething-hot flat-top-griddle, then give it a solid whack with a big, heavy all-purpose spatula to smash it into a patty.  A few juices would bubble up around the sides, but, these 'burgers cooked so fast there was no reason to worry that might be cause to dry them out -- they were drippy-juicy to a fault.

Hold the presses:  I'm adding the Smashburger to KE today.

SmashburgerSmashburger is an American 'burger chain that was founded in Denver, CO, in 2007.  It currently has over 370 franchises in 37 states and 9 countries.  The name explains what they do, as they literally smash secret-seasoned 'burgers on a flat-topped griddle over high heat, so the fat and juices stay trapped inside. American cheese gets melted over the top, then, crusty and cragged-edged, they are served with various customized toppings on a soft, sweet secret-sauced bun.

SmashBurger-logoFounders, Rick Schaden and Tom Ryan are veterans of the restaurant-chain  world, with Ryan inventing some legendary items.  At pizza hut, he was behind the Lover's Line of toppings, and, the Stuffed Crust.  At McDonald's, the Dollar Menu, McFlurries  and McGriddles are all his.  At Quiznos he played a leading roll in developing Steakhouse Beef Dip and the Prime Rib Sub.

4-smasher-smashburgerAt Smashburger, Ryan put his PhD in Flavor and Fragrance Chemistry to use.  Every burger is made the same, using never-frozen chuck & steak trimmings, which resemble being chopped or food processored rather than ground.  Loose balls of meat, not patties, go on on a butter-brushed 385° flat-top griddle, and smashed with his invention, the multismasher, to create almost-instant crusty-caramelization.

The patented multismasher at Smashburger, with about 3/8" lip of headspace to insure consistent thickness, makes four burgers at one time.  The loose texture of the meat being smashed below its weight allows meat juices to bubble up, creating and trapping steam. After 90 seconds of additional cooking, the burger gets flipped and it's finished cooking in three total minutes.

Smashburger isn't another cookie-stamp fast-food chain.

Screen-Shot-2015-06-17-at-7.48.45-AMWhile the technique for making the 'burger is precisely the same in each and every location, everything else is left open to controlled interpretation.  In order to  avoid the stigma of a fast-food chain, after doing extensive localized market research, every menu includes at least one signature 'burger crafted for the locals.  For example:  Colorado locations serve 'burgers topped with roasted green chiles; Miami's locations serve 'em with grilled chorizo; in Minneapolis, which has a big Scandinavian populous, Swiss and caramelized onion goes on;  Oklahoma features fried-pickles, and, in Boston, it's onions and cranberry chutney (supplied by Ocean Spray).

The bread and sauces on the signature 'burgers are also regionally inspired:  Sourdough in San Francisco; telera rolls in California;  pretzel buns in Chicago, onion rolls in Minnesota, and; brioche in New York.  In Michigan the bread is slathered with cherry barbecue sauce; in Chicago, Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce; in Tennessee you'll get Jack Daniels barbecue sauce; Florida's sauce contains orange juice;  New Orlean's makes theirs with Barq's root beer syrup, and: in Utah (The Behive State), it's honey barbecue.  One more tidbit:  In 2012 a program to partner with regional craft beer breweries to pair and serve local beers was launched too.

For my basic smashed-'burger seasoning, sauce & beef:

IMG_4695Both the Smashburger seasoning and Smashburger sauce are pretty well-guarded secrets.  That said, research reveals the seasoning contains:  salt, black pepper, garlic powder and granulated beef flavoring.  Research also reveals the sauce contains:  mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles and lemon juice.  Armed with that information, I simply concocted my own versions, to my liking.  As for the beef, I've been grinding my own in the food processor for decades -- there is indeed a discernible difference between its texture and traditional ground.  For my smashed 'burgers, I am using a 2:1 ratio of 85/15 (85% lean/15% fat) ground beef and food processor ground flank steak. Feel free to use all 85/15 ground beef -- they'll taste great, but the texture will be different.

IMG_4661 IMG_4665 IMG_4665 IMG_4665 IMG_4670 IMG_4670 IMG_4670~Step 1.  Place 2 pounds ground beef (32 ounces) in a large bowl.  Cut 1 pound flank steak (16 ounces) flank steak into 1 1/2" chunks.  Place the chunked steak in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade -- depending upon the size of the food processor, working in two batches may be necessary.  Using a series of 30 rapid on-off pulses, process/grind/mince the meat.  Place the ground steak in the bowl with the ground beef.  Using your hands, thoroughly combine the two.

IMG_4655For my seasoning & the sauce:

2  teaspoons fine sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon onion powder

1  teaspoon beef boullion

IMG_4658Stir spices together. Makes a scant 2 Tbsp. 

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2e448b8970c1  cup mayonnaise

1/4  cup each: ketchup and sweet pickle relish

1  tablespoon yellow mustard

1  teaspoon white vinegar

1/2  teaspoon each:  garlic and onion powder and paprika

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2e4490f970cWhisk all ingredients together, cover and refrigerate 1 hour.  Makes 1 1/2 cups.

To make my basic Smashburger-style smashed 'burger:

IMG_4691If you're thinking a smashed 'burger is a thin, scrawny, bordering-on-dry-edged 'burger, you'd be wrong. Smashed 'burgers are thick and juicy crispy-edged perfection.    The only thing that can change that is if YOU overcook this all-beef plus American-cheese patty served on a Brioche roll topped with secret sauce, sweet pickle chips, acidy tomato slices, shaved red onion, and, soft Bibb lettuce leaves.  

One more noteworthy point:  In order to maintain the perfect temperature of 385º in the home kitchen, I'm turn to my trusty flat-surfaced 16" electric skillet to cook them and it works perfectly. While I am demonstrating one today, the skillet is large enough easily make two-at-a-time.  On a cheese-melting note, I have two cheese-melting domes which accommodates both 'burgers, but, there's no need for them -- just put the lid on the skillet and wait for the cheese to melt.

IMG_4681For each smashed 'burger & cheese:

6  ounces Mel's-meat mixture per sandwich, prepared as directed above

2  pinches Mel's-'burger seasoning blend per sandwich, prepared as directed above

1-2  slices yellow American cheese, 1 or 2, your choice

For the rolls & the toppings for each sandwich:

1  4"-round brioche hamburger roll, sliced in half horizontally

1-1 1/2  tablespoons Mel's-'burger sauce per sandwich, prepared as directed above

4 sweet pickle chips per sandwich

3  thin slices Campari tomatoes per sandwich

10-12 thinly-sliced red onion pieces (half-moon shapes) per sandwich

3-4  small, soft Bibb lettuce leaves per sandwich

1 1/2 teaspoons salted butter, for preparing electric skillet or flat-topped grill

IMG_4694 IMG_4694 IMG_4694 IMG_4694 IMG_4716 IMG_4716 IMG_4716 IMG_4716 IMG_4726 IMG_4726 IMG_4726 IMG_4726~Step 1.  In electric skillet, melt butter over low heat.  When melted, using a pastry brush, paint bottom of skillet.  Increase the heat to 385°.  Place a lightly-compacted 6-ounce ball of meat mix on the skillet.  Using the grill press, smash it down, lifting and lowering the press 2-3 times to make sure the entire surface has been evenly smashed (into a free-form, craggy-edged 4"-4 1/2"-sized patty).  Lightly-season top of 'burger.  Sauté for 2 minutes.  Flip the 'burger over, top with 1-2 slices of cheese (one is traditional, two is additional), place cheese dome on and cook for another 1-1 1/2 minutes (1 minute for rare-ish, 1 1/2 minutes for medium-rare-ish).  Turn heat off.  When the butter-sputtering stops, use a spatula to transfer to rolls topped as directed below.

IMG_4740 IMG_4740 IMG_4740 IMG_4740 IMG_4749 IMG_4749 IMG_4749 IMG_4749~Step 2.  Slice each brioche roll horizontally and place the bottom half on a plate.  Slather the bottom half of the brioche roll with 1-1 1/2 tablespoons of the secret sauce.  Plop a hot cheese-topped smashed-'burger on top.  Coming up next: four sweet pickle slices, three small Campari tomato slices, and, a scattering of red onion.  Finish these beautiful 'burgers with a few small, soft Bibb lettuce leaves.  Put the bun tops on and enjoy each and every drippy-juicy bite.

Once you've smashed a 'burger, you'll never grill a 'burger:

IMG_4767Enjoy each & every drippy-juicy succulently-seasoned bite:

IMG_4783For the Love of Hamburgers:  The Smashed Burger:  Recipe yields meat mixture for 8 (6-ounce) single-pattied 'burgers/2 tablespoons secret-seasoning/1 1/2 cups secret sauce/instructions to smash, cook and top smashed-'burgers. 

Special Equipment List:  ramekin; 1-cup measuring container; small whisk; cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; kitchen scale; 16" electric skillet; pastry brush; 'burger press; cheese-melting dome; wide spatula;  serrated bread knife

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d27ff4dc970cCook's Note:  Armed with the right equipment (a skillet, a lid, and a heat source) hamburgers or cheeseburgers can be made anywhere, anytime -- even under the worst of circumstances.  My recipe for  ~ The  Iwatani 12-Minute Tornado Cheeseburger ~ is proof that just because you have no electricity for a week, is no reason to not eat great food.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

10/31/2018

~ It's in the Name: Smashburger & Smashed Burgers ~

IMG_4761If you ate in some of the mom and pop establishments I grew up eating in (in the small towns of Pennsylvania and New Jersey), I am here to tell you, the concept of smashing 'burgers isn't new -- it has merely been revisited and remarketed.  As a kid living in the pre-McDonald's food world, I watched many grill-cooks grab and slap an ill-formed ball of ground beef onto a seething-hot flat-top-griddle, then give it a giant whack with a big, heavy all-purpose spatula to smash it into a patty.  A few juices would bubble up around the sides, but, these 'burgers cooked so fast there was no reason to worry that might be cause to dry them out -- they were drippy-juicy to a fault.

If you've ever longed for a drippy-juicy old-fashioned 'burger, you'd be wanting to check out Smashburger.

SmashburgerSmashburger is an American 'burger chain that was founded in Denver, CO, in 2007.  It currently has over 370 franchises in 37 states and 9 countries.  The name explains what they do, as they literally smash secret-seasoned 'burgers on a flat-topped griddle over high heat, so the fat and juices stay trapped inside. American cheese gets melted over the top, then, crusty and cragged-edged, they are served with various customized toppings on a soft, sweet secret-sauced bun.

SmashBurger-logoFounders, Rick Schaden and Tom Ryan are veterans of the restaurant-chain  world, with Ryan inventing some legendary items.  At pizza hut, he was behind the Lover's Line of toppings, and, the Stuffed Crust.  At McDonald's, the Dollar Menu, McFlurries  and McGriddles are all his.  At Quiznos he played a leading roll in developing Steakhouse Beef Dip and the Prime Rib Sub.

4-smasher-smashburgerAt Smashburger, Ryan put his PhD in Flavor and Fragrance Chemistry to use.  Every burger is made the same, using never-frozen chuck & steak trimmings, which resemble being chopped or food processored rather than ground.  Loose balls of meat, not patties, go on on a butter-brushed 385° flat-top griddle, and smashed with his invention, the multismasher to create almost-instant crusty-caramelization.

The patented multismasher at Smashburger, with about 3/8" lip of headspace to insure consistent thickness, makes four burgers at one time.  The loose texture of the meat being smashed below its weight allows meat juices to bubble up, creating and trapping steam. After 90 seconds of additional cooking, the burger gets flipped and it's finished cooking within three minutes.

Smashburger isn't another cookie-stamp fast-food chain.

Screen-Shot-2015-06-17-at-7.48.45-AMWhile the technique for making the 'burger is precisely the same in each and every location, everything else is left open to controlled interpretation.  In order to  avoid the stigma of a fast-food chain, after doing extensive localized market research, every menu includes at least one signature 'burger crafted for the locals.  For example:  Colorado locations serve 'burgers topped with roasted green chiles; Miami's locations serve 'em with grilled chorizo; in Minneapolis, which has a big Scandinavian populous, Swiss and caramelized onion goes on;  Oklahoma features fried-pickles, and, in Boston, it's onions and cranberry chutney (supplied by Ocean Spray).

The bread and sauces on the signature 'burgers are also regionally inspired:  Sourdough in San Francisco; telera rolls in California;  pretzel buns in Chicago, onion rolls in Minnesota, and; brioche in New York.  In Michigan the bread is slathered with cherry barbecue sauce; in Chicago, Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce; in Tennessee you'll get Jack Daniels barbecue sauce; Florida's sauce contains orange juice;  New Orlean's makes theirs with Barq's root beer syrup, and: in Utah (The Behive State), it's honey barbecue.  One more tidbit:  In 2012 a program to partner with regional craft beer breweries to pair and serve local beers was launched too.

For the Love of Hamburgers -- My Smashed 'Burger Recipe:

IMG_4767Double French Onion, Swiss & Smashburger Sliders:

IMG_4860"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)