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~ The Iwatani Twelve-Minute Tornado Cheeseburger ~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d27ff4dc970cA not-so-funny thing happened last Monday.  Happy Valley, Centre County, PA got hit by a violent storm that rendered a great percentage of us without electricity, and in some cases water as well, for three days.  I've lived here for forty-three years -- this was longest we've ever been without power.  I'm no expert.  I can't prove it was a tornado that hit our street, but, I can't name one other "thing" that moves in a straight line snapping telephone poles and felling trees at their roots, doing virtually no other damage, except a tornado -- my deck and patio furniture didn't move an inch.

Not in the mood for my storm story?  Scroll through to the recipe!

IMG_8516As per our WTAJ news, "The storm will be in Bellefonte in about fifteen minutes and in State College in about half an hour.  It will come on fast, it won't last long, and, it will do damage." Unlike past severe storm warnings, this one seemed different.  All day, the air outside (which is hard for a layman to describe) had been warm and humid with a dry and chilly edge to it.  It was breezy with a mixture of clouds and sun.  At about the 25-30-minute mark, I started to wonder if we were going to get any storm at all, as nothing was happening outside my kitchen window.

IMG_8509I decided to go into my library to get another view.  The black mess coming over Mount Nittany was ominous -- the skies blackened quickly.  On my way back to the kitchen, I took a stop in the family room.  I've heard the sound of a tornado described as "the sound of an oncoming train", so, I stood still for a few seconds and listened.  It was hard to tell if the sound I heard qualified for "oncoming train status", but I did make a fast plan to take my three poodles into our lower level bathroom (a centrally located room) if it got any louder.  Moving along:

IMG_8521Back to my kitchen window -- to watch for  rain to start -- not a drop had fallen yet.  The WTAJ weatherman had spoken truth. This storm came on very fast, didn't last long and did do damage. From first second to last, the sky unleashed rain faster than I have ever experienced.  It was as if someone had covered my window with wax paper.  There was zero visibility.  In hindsight, it was super-stupid for me to stay standing in front of this huge window. Had debris been flying around in the air, it could have shattered the glass.  

IMG_8547Minutes later, through the last few raindrops, two things struck me:  #1) The damage, and; #2) The non-damage.  While poles were snapped, which caused power lines to fall, large trees were also felled from their roots, which blocked access to parts of Bear Meadows Road, yet, none of my deck furniture or anything surrounding my home was the slightest bit disturbed. There was no sleeping Monday night.  My puppies and I collapsed in comfort to listen to sirens and watch flashing lights.  We weren't scared -- relief works like that.

My perfectly-cooked, pan-seared, twelve-minute cheeseburger.

IMG_8571The next two days were "interesting".  Armed with a few pieces of just-in-case-of-emergency equipment (four battery operated lanterns, one battery operated AM/FM world-band radio and two Iwatani butane stoves), I read cooking magazines, listened to tunes, and, cooked.  My Sub-Zero freezers and refrigerators maintained their temperatures (seriously -- my ice cubes never melted and my butter never softened), and, the outdoor temperatures stayed a constant sixty-ish degrees, so, no food got tossed and heating or air-conditioning wasn't missed either. That said, my half-charged cell phone died early and I discovered that my garage doors, which have electric openers, have no handles to open them manually.  Hilariously, my digital bathroom scale and Shark cordless vacuum cleaner worked fantastic (oh joy).  All in all, we faired well.

IMG_8577 IMG_8586 IMG_8593 IMG_8601Meet the Iwantani 35F portable butane stove.  With 15,000 BTU's it's a high-quality workhorse that comes in a nifty protective carry case too.  If you've always wanted a gas stove but circumstances prevent it, this $75-$80 piece of equipment is, without compromise, as good as any residential gas stove and far superior to every electric stove.  It turns on and off with one easy click (which is why it's been given the nickname "click-burner" stove) and regulates heat perfectly. On high, it's hot enough to stir-fry like a pro, and, on low, it will keep sauce simmering gently without any boil overs or fear of scorching.  It runs on inexpensive butane canisters (about $20 for a case of twelve) which will last 45-60 minutes each, depending on how high the flame is set.

IMG_8616For 8 hamburgers (2 batches of 4):

3  pounds lean ground beef (90/10)

16  slices American or Velveeta cheese, or cheese of choice

ketchup and/or mustard, or condiment(s) of choice

diced onion (optional)

8  soft hamburger rolls

IMG_8620 IMG_8628 IMG_8638 IMG_8647~Step 1.  Divide the meat into 8, 6-ounce portions.  Form each portion into a 4"-4 1/2"- round disc, approximately 1/2" thick.  Place four in the skillet and season them with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Turn the "click burner" on and adjust the heat to medium high.

IMG_8661 IMG_8665 IMG_8668 IMG_8673 IMG_8675~Step 2.  Cook four 'burgers on the first side for exactly six minutes. Using a spatula, flip them over on their second sides (do not season the second sides).  Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook on second sides another six minutes.  Place two slices of cheese on each 'burger, put the lid on the skillet and turn the heat off until the cheese melts, 30-60 seconds.  Wipe skillet clean and repeat process.

Transfer to rolls & top each perfectly-cooked cheeseburger w/your favorite condiments.  I vote for ketchup & onions:

IMG_8687Iwatani-fried Ore-Idas? You bet -- a post for the next power outage!

IMG_8692The Iwatani Twelve-Minute Tornado Cheeseburger:  Recipe yields instructions to make eight perfectly-cooked pan-seared cheeseburgers in a cast-iron or nonstick skillet over any gas or electric range.

Special Equipment List:  kitchen scale (optional); 12" cast-iron or nonstick skillet w/lid; spatula; Iwatani butane burner (optional)

IMG_8005Cook's Note:  Let's face it, the weather affects how every cook cooks.  It's one of the reasons I refer to cooking as a sport.  Where I live, Winter weather affects us the most -- we plan for and are always prepared to cook the occasional pantry meal.  One of my favorite recipes ~ Snowstorm Steak (How Mel Broils Steak Indoors) ~ can be found in Categories 3, 16, 19 or 20.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017) 


Elaine -- I assume you were all in a similar "boat" in downtown Boalsburg. You should have popped over. I was here all by myself -- the company would have been appreciated and the cocktails were flowing! ~ Mel.

I should have known that you'd be prepared to cook in a power outage!

Teresa -- It was indeed a freakish experience. Joe was traveling this week so I was home alone. That, "alone" should tell you just how freakish it was. Love you girlfriend. ~ Mel.

How unbelievably freakish! I'm relieved to hear everyone is safe. After the shock passed I would imagine it was like luxury camping. :D xx

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