Meat

THE MEMOIR OF A BEEF BURGER

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MY grandfather was a mysterious man.

Not much is known for facts but there are certainly many stories about him, speaking of a skinny, humble working-class man often seen in between two slices of bread trying to make a buck or two at food fairs back in the late 1800’s. Who his ancestors were and where they came from, is still up to this day, my most intimate wonders. Were they even named a Burger? And whatever stories, legends even, being told about his tale of becoming the untoppled icon of a nation’s food-identity, remain exactly that, just stories. But if there is one thing indisputable about those stories, the truth that inspired the myth, or at least so everyone says, it’s that he was a fine and proud citizen of America. And that’s fine enough by me.

Truth is, I was never too held up on who my grandfather was. After all, I’m pretty sure, I am nothing like him. I am more of the making of my father, who’s the heir of an idea and the product of the industrial revolution, who, all together, turned what my grandfather left him into an empire that forever changed how a country eats, the world even, for better or worse. In various steps and establishments, he invented a new era in America called the fast food around the 1940’s, who defined and made our family name, Hamburger, known to literally every man, woman, child, some lucky dogs and city pigeons around this world. Most adore him. Many don’t. History will decide wether to side with him or not, but one thing for sure is that he is a great, historic man, and I am, his legacy.


MY FATHER IS A GREAT, HISTORIC MAN. AND I AM, HIS LEGACY


My father is a man of few words… for that I don’t know what aspirations, if any, he has for me. Yes, has. I didn’t say he dead. In fact, he is at the height of his prime at expanding his already mega dollar-making machine through every human-occupied corners of this world. Right, loaded. That we are, too. Perhaps it’s precisely because I grew up accustomed to the security and comfort of a family establishment, I became something you would call, a rebel. I have no desire to follow my father’s footsteps in the advancement towards industrial fooding. It’s a fortune yes, but nonetheless a fortune made on basic, unornamented commodities that lack glam and artistry. Like the rest of my own kind, the third generation of a traditional empire who has too much to prove for themselves, I am, above all else, eager to redefine.

And boy, redefined I have.

Somewhere in the last decade was the ignition of my own torch to pass down, and it’s burning brighter than ever. My grandfather would never in his wildest dreams, the flappy white toasts and leftover ground meat that he was, imagined the burger that I am today. A long way from being a mere necessity in the 1800’s, or the cold counters of soulless assembly-lines in the 1900’s, I am the poster child of the modern American food-scene, attended with almost obsessive care, even labeled black, served to the most stellar eaters in the country. I carry myself with prestigious cuts of beef, in the company of top knives in the industry similar to that of places like Weston Biltong Company. I am more than food. I am porn. Some even say, better than sex. I wouldn’t know. I’m just a burger.

But that was the hubris of my youth. Looking back at when we used to be kids playing in the kitchen, to now finding myself part of the culinary world and taking more of an interest in food, it is interesting to see the progress, even if I did used to just mess around and not know what I was doing. Today, I am an older, wiser man. In the settlement of fireworks and egos, I have grown enough confidence to tell you that mastering me is only as difficult as the industry would like you to believe. With simple tips and tricks, I am not, unlike my grandfather, a mystery.

And maybe, who knows, that you’ll be the next human to reshape the future of my family.

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To home-grind your patty, or not to home-grind your patty? Well, there are pros and cons on both sides.

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  • PROS on grinding your own beef:
    • You get to be as fancy as you’d like with the cuts. A combination of aged rib-eye, skirt steak and brisket is said to be the blend of supremacy. To achieve such supremacy you’ll want to be using a suitable grinder though, so make sure to look around into differing manual meat grinder reviews to ensure you know what you’re purchasing. The secret on the ratio is a highly guarded, overrated marketing gimmick in my opinion. You pretty much can’t go wrong with these cuts, as long as you don’t included unwanted tendons and excess connective tissues. Whatever the combination is, I like to result on a total 30% of fat just because we are on the subject of lusciousness
    • Update on 2014/07/13: A reader reminded me that adding seasoning and spices directly into the ground meat (like making sausages) is also another pros! Because mixing already-ground beef can make the meat tough.
  • CONS on grinding your own beef:
    • Most people will default to a food-processor for grinding at home. But if your food-processor is a less robust machinery, it can result in uneven, chewy bits of fat and connective tissues that aren’t cut properly. Running the machine for too long will give you a pasty, woody ground which is no better than store-bought ground beef, not to mention a waste of money.
    • The consistency of a food-processor ground beef is still, more or less, different than from a meat grinder. The meats are cut into tiny tiny pieces that resembles ground meat, but has a “chunkier” texture. Some prefer it. Some don’t. For example, you can compare the difference in texture between the top-left picture (food-processor ground) with the top-right picture (store-bought meat grinder).

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  • PROS on store-bought ground beef:
    • Well, convenience. And cheap.
  • CONS on store-bought ground beef:
    • Most of supermarket’s ground beef is run through a fine-grind setting, resulting in a bit of “mushy” texture. It is better to ask the butcher, if you have one, to grind the beef on demand through a coarse setting on the meat-grinder.
    • Obviously you’ll have less control over the fat-content and cuts of the beef. The fat content will affect how much the patty will shrink during cooking (more details on shaping the patty in the recipe). Some supermarkets do label the fat-contents of the meat, some don’t. But is this going to present a huge problem for you? Not really. The shortcomings of store-bought ground beef can be made up with some flavouring tricks that will turn it into a great burger as well.

Whether or not your patty is of a fancy cuts of beef or down-to-earth store-bought, it should be treated with the same care and details.

There’s a few things here that is a bit unorthodox. First, is stuffing butter inside the patty. This recipe is one of the rare cases where you want o use salted butter, instead of unsalted butter. The salted-ness will flavour the center of the patty where you otherwise can’t (mixing the ground beef in order to season it, will toughen the meat). The butter will melt and run through the ground meat during cooking. Even though you may loose most of the butter, the result is a more flavourful and juicier patty. Update 2014/07/13: Using herbed/seasoned butter can be a good way to introduce added flavour to store-bought ground beef without having to mix it. A reader suggested using frozen butter to prevent melting too fast during cooking. Let me know if anybody has tested this theory :)

Then, the dusting of seasoned flour on both sides of the patty can seem quite weird. But I think it encourages caramelizing and the forming of a “crust”. Just a whiff-y thin layer of seasoned flour will not taste like “breading”, but instead, a deeper… nuttier and crustier surface.

Then, I like toasting the buns in the same skillet as the patty is cooking. They will pick up the rendered fat and browned bits. Overall, more flavourful.

This burger is kept simple, just a great patty, great bun, caramelized onion and Dijon mustard. I’m not including any measurements/weights for patty because it will vary greatly based on the size of the buns using. You should measure the patty based on diameter and thickness. And I’m using these potato rolls. I’m not going to include instruction for caramelized onion because it’s already widely available. But adding a few halved cherry tomatoes while cooking the onions (let them caramelize together) will add good flavour.


To grind your own beef: Choose a combination of cuts between rib-eye (for fat and flavour), skirt steak, chuck or brisket (for beefy flavour) with the total ratio of fat at about 30% (I used only rib-eye). Remove a small piece of fat from the steak and reserve for cooking, then cut the rest into small chunks. Cover with plastic-wrap and flash-freeze for 1 ~ 1:30 hours until hardened (but not stone-hard). Transfer them into the food-processor, filling it only 1/3 of the way at a time, and pulse until the meats are cut/ground into very tiny pieces, resembling ground meat. If not using immediately, transfer the ground beef onto a paper towel-lined baking sheet (to absorb excess liquid) and keep cold inside the fridge.

At 30% fat, the patty will shrink during cooking as fats are rendered down. So you need to calculate the diameter of the patty at 15% larger than the diameter of the buns, and each patty should be 3/4″ thick (about 2 cm). I highly recommend using a round biscuit-cutter to help forming uniformly shaped patties! It makes a difference.

Choose a round cutter with the right diameter for your patty. Put a layer of ground beef down and make sure it conforms tightly to the shape of the cutter. In the center of the patty, put a slice of salted butter that’s about 1 tsp, then top with another layer of ground beef. The whole patty should be 3/4″ thick. Again, make sure that the meat conforms tightly to the cutter, as well as sticking soundly to the bottom layer of meat. Slowly remove the cutter/mold, then transfer the patty to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the rest.

To use store-bought ground beef: Store-bought ground beef usually ranges from 10% to 20% fat, sometimes up to 25%. The leaner the beef, the less it will shrink during cooking, so pick a round cutter/mold that’s 5% larger than the buns. Repeat the making of patties as instructed above.

To cook the patty: Mix 1/2 cup (63 grams) of flour with 1 tsp of salt and 2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper. Lightly pat both sides of a patty with the flour mixture, and dust off ANY excess. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Rub the reserved beef-fat on the surface of the skillet until you have a thin layer of oil (or use bacon-dripping). Gently place the patty on the skillet, and toast the cut-side of the buns on the side. Don’t move the patty until you see a browned crust has formed on the bottom of the patty, then flip it over (the interior butter will ooze out, it’s ok)(remember to remove the buns once they are toasted!). Re-seaon the patty with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper during cooking. Never cook the patty all the way through. The best doneness, I think, is medium-well done. The patty should have deeply caramelized crust on both sides, but you’ll still see pinkish juice oozing out from the mid-section. The skillet needs to be hot enough to achieve this.

Transfer the patty over to the bun that’s already smeared with Dijon mustard on both sides. Top with caramelized onions and let rest for 5 min, then serve.

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OLD BEIJING LAMB SKEWER

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THERE are many virtues about Beijing, and as far as I’m concerned, they are all true.  The widely studied, highly evolved lung-capacity of its residence to withstand extremely volatile air molecules is among the most celebrated.  The profound unity and rewardless participation in the national sport of competitive spitting, for god and country, is none but true patriotism.  Then, perhaps the most famous although not as extraordinary as the former points, that it’s true, these fine citizens do know how to roast a damn duck.

Like actually actually.

But the most extraordinary things are those that go unadvertised.  The best-kept secret, the silent do-er in this fine metropolis is tucked away in every unknown streets and corners, and I mean every streets and corners.  It’s the most note-worthy and representative of Beijing street-food scene, and as far as I’m concerned, it is this word – 串.

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THREE CHEESE MAZEMEN

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  MIGHT AS WELL CALL IT, A-MAZEMEN

SOMETHING truly unexpected happened this morning.

Something that, as far as I can remember, has never before happened to this under-exercised but nonetheless, well-conditioned casing of white-meat.  In the wee hours of this morning as a standard procedure, I rolled over in a complex twist and tango with my blanket and pillows as how it’s been professionally done in the past three decades, and in a turn of event, inexplicably…

… pulled my neck.

How the hell did that happen I have no idea, but I’m now muscularly decapitated.  Not only speaking to you with the non-photogenic side of my face in a zombie-like tilt, but perhaps it’s worth mentioning as well, feeling… understatedly uncomfortable.

This is very untimely indeed.  Because I have something that’s worth my every bit of literary effort to advertise, but somehow, sitting stiffly in front of a computer screen sounds and feels like a very bad idea right now.  So if I seem… out of words about this absurd, three cheese mazemen, inspired by Ivan ramen no doubt, don’t think of it as I’m slacking off.  Instead, think of this recipe as – and it truly is – beyond the reach of mortal vocabularies.

This recipe is actually a symptom of a condition that I’ve been suffering since I left New York, called cultural separation anxiety.  Compared to a relatively chilled attitude towards culinary fads and hypes while I was still in New York, I’m now constantly obsessed about what’s happening in a food-scene that I’m no long a part of.

And recently, it sounds like this Ivan guy is creating a lot of ruckus.

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Aside from the more familiarized styles of ramen that’s served in soup, or tsukemen as cooked noodles served with a dipping “soup-sauce” on the side, he seems to be popularizing a new style-hype called, mazemen.  What the hell is mazemen, and why is it legit?  Not only legit, but ingenious actually.  It snugs comfortably between a soup-ramen, and dry ramen (noodles dressed with just enough sauce to coat), making it kind of like a one-bowl tsukemen, where noodles are sitting in a generous amount of intensely flavoured “soup-sauce”, plus toppings.  It solves the eternal struggle of ramen-chefs and customers alike, to witness a good portion of the precious broth – the liquid soul of a chef who might have spent days forging out of his cradle of passion – being left wasted in the serving bowl… like a puddle of dead water, after everything else that took much less effort was otherwise consumed.

That shit hurts.

But with mazemen, just the right amount of highly flavoured soup is spared with each portion of noodles.  Highly flavoured as in, things that would otherwise make a “soup” too intense to drink, is being unleashed in an all-out ramen-extravaganza.  Like say, a soup infused with a three cheese combo?  Seriously, ingenious!  Might as well call it, a-mazemen!

But of course I understand that for most of you out there, the cradle of passion may not rock as violently as a ramen-chef.  There’s no shame in that, right, speaking from a person who published a completely pirated version of the sacred spicy miso ramen, and this time, without even consulting Ivan’s cookbook,  I’m not sorry to do it again.

Although this recipe may seem labour-intensive, believe me when I say that it’s already simplified and streamlined in 10-folds compared to a full-blown ramen operation (trust me, I have a book on that, and if you’ve read it, too, you’d appreciatively lick every single drop of soup from your ramen-bowl from now on).  A relatively easy and cheater-base stock is created in a speedy 4-hours time (hey, compared to say… 2 full days?).  Then every cheating soup-flavouring protocols known to noodle-pirates are implemented to bring this bowl as close to the real deal as I possibly can.  Is it at least, inarguably awesome, as far as noodle-pirates are concerned?

You bet it is.  I’m putting my neck on the line…

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The stock-technique of Japanese pork-based soup ramen will conflict everything you think you know about making stocks, that’s if you were French at least.  Forget what you know about low-and-slow of a bare simmer aiming at a clear stock.  It’s all about boiling the mixture into submission and get it to a milky and opaque state.  Then of course, lots of other steps and flavour-layering come after that (adding bonitos, konbu, dried anchovies and whatnots) but, we’re gonna cheat by using Japanese soup base.

It’s important to note that I start the base stock with homemade, unsalted chicken stock (flavoured with onions only) because I almost always have it in my freezer.  If you are going to use store-bought, it’s paramount that you buy chicken stock without salt, AND without the flavourings of thyme, rosemary, parsley, bay leaf or any other western herbs.  When in doubt, buy canned stock from an Asian brand.  But then again, it’s quite difficult to purchase stock that’s completely salt-free.  So if you want to just use water for the base stock, then add to the recipe of base stock: scrap-bones from 1 whole chicken, or 8 chicken wings.

The recipe for base stock will make for 8 servings, and can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept in the fridge in an air-tight container, as well as most of the toppings.  However, the final preparation for the actual three-cheese-broth has to be done right before serving, so I only documented the amount for 2 servings.  If you’re making for 4 people, double the three-cheese-broth recipe, and so on and so forth.

Most ramen restaurants like to serve ramen with sliced chashu (roasted/braised pork), but I beg to differ.  I like minced pork.  It’s kind of an accidental epiphany after my spicy miso ramen-express experiment, and I think it just incorporates better into the overall dish.  But if you like large slices of pork, I also included a quick recipe for that.


For three cheese mazemen: Inspired by Ivan Ramen

  • For base stock: (will make 8 cups, enough for 8 servings)
    • 3 pieces of pork back-gone + 3 pieces of pork shank-bone (total weight = 815 grams/29 oz)
    • 3 large scallions, cut into segments
    • 3″ of ginger, cut into chunks
    • 12 cups (3 litres) of unsalted chicken stock
    • 6 ~ 7 small Asian shallots, peeled and cut in half
    • 1/2 of a medium carrot, cut into chunks
    • 1/2 tsp of black peppercorn
  • For three cheese broth: (for 2 servings only)
    • 2 cups (500 ml/approx 500 grams) of base stock
    • 1/4 cup (15 grams) of dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and cleaned
    • 2 ~ 3 small Asian shallots, grated
    • 3 cloves of garlic, grated
    • 2 tbsp of Japanese hon tsuyu (soup base)
    • 3/4 tsp of sea salt, plus more to adjust
    • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper, plus more to adjust
    • 2 tbsp (35 grams) of cream cheese
    • 2/3 cup (80 grams) of soft white cheddar cheese, grated
    • 1/2 cup (30 grams) of Parmigiano cheese, grated
    • 1/8 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for topping
  • 2 servings of fresh ramen noodles
  • Toppings recipe follows

To make the base stock (can be done up to 3 days ahead):  Combine pork back-bones, pork shank-bones (and chicken bones or wings if you are using), scallions and ginger in a large pot.  Cover with cold water and set on high heat to bring to a boil.  Cook for 4 ~ 5 minutes after boiling, then careful pour everything into the kitchen sink with cold water running.  Wash/scrub off any scums and impurity from the bones (and chicken bones/wings if you’re using), as well as thoroughly clean the pot.

Return the cleaned bones to the cleaned pot, then add 12 cups of chicken stock (or water if you’re adding chicken bones/wings), shallots, carrot and black peppercorns.  Return to high heat to bring to a boil, then lower the heat down to medium to maintain a constant (but not splattering) boil.  Cook the stock for at least 3 hours, to 4 hours (depending on what you can manage.  the longer it cooks the milkier it gets).  Shred and break up any bones/meats during cooking once they have soften (to release more flavour), and every time the liquid is reduced below 2/3 (meaning less than 8 cups left), add 2 cups of water to bring it back.  When you’re done, the base stock should be milky and opaque with bits of marrows and fat floating on top.

Strain the base stock through a sieve, and press on the scrap-meats and vegetables to extract as much liquid as you can.  You should have 8 cups of base stock.

To make the three cheese broth (for 2 servings only):  This has to be prepared right before serving.

Heat 2 cups of base stock with dried porcini mushrooms over medium heat.  Cook for 5 min until the mushrooms have completely soften and released the flavours into the soup.  Meanwhile, cook the fresh ramen noodle in another pot in boiling water.  Add the grated shallots, grated garlic, Japanese soba sauce base, sea salt and black pepper to the broth and cook for another min.  Then add cream cheese, grated white cheddar, grated Parmigiano cheese and fresh nutmeg, and whisk until the cheese has evenly melted (there may be stringy cheese that doesn’t fully melt, it’s ok).  Taste and re-season with sea salt if need be (note that this is more of a “sauce” than “soup”, so it has to be boldly seasoned).

To take the sharp edge off raw scallions, soak the thinly sliced scallion in water for 1 min then drain.

Transfer the broth evenly between 2 bowls.  Add the cooked ramen noodles, then top with pickled bean sprouts, thinly sliced scallions, parmesan and sesame pork, and a hot spring egg or poached egg (I’m using poached egg).  Grate more fresh nutmegs on top and drizzle with togarashi oil.

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To prepare the toppings:

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PARMIGIANO AND SESAME MINCED PORK: (enough for 4 servings)(can be made up to 3 days ahead)

  • 10.6 oz (300 grams) of ground pork-shoulder
  • 2 tsp of cornstarch
  • 1 tsp of black sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp of white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup (30 grams) of grated Parmigiano cheese

Mix ground pork-shoulder, cornstarch, black and white sesame seeds, and salts together until even.  Heat the toasted sesame oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the ground pork until no-longer pink, and break it up as finely as you can with a wooden spoon.  Add the grated Parmigiano and keep cooking until the cheese is caramelized and browned.  Set aside until needed.


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SOY SAUCE GRILLED PORK NECK: (enough for 8 servings)(can be made up to 3 days ahead)

  • 2 pcs (13 oz/370 grams) of pork neck meat
  • 2 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 2 tsp of brown sugar
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed

Pork neck is an Asian-specialty cut.  There’s only one small piece from every pig near the jaw, that’s perfectly marbled between fat and muscle.  It’s the short rib of pig.  But it can be hard to find, so if unavailable, you can substitute with pork belly (but trim most of the top slab of fat off).

Marinate everything together for at least 2 hours.  Preheat the top-broiler on high.  Remove the mashed garlic, then skewer the pork neck length-wise to prevent curling-up during cooking.  Place 3″ under the broiler and cook until charred and caramelized on one side, then flip and repeat on the other side.  Let the meat rest until completely cooled before removing the skewer.  Slice before serving.


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PICKLED BEAN SPROUTS: (for 2 servings)(has to be prepared right before serving)

  • 1 1/2 cup (150 grams) of bean sprouts
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 3/4 tsp of rice vinegar

Gently mix bean sprouts with salt, sugar and rice vinegar.  Let sit for 10 min, then squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the bean sprouts.  Set aside.


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FOR HOT SPRING EGGS:  Recipes on here, here and a final comprehensive guide.

FOR TOGARASHI OIL:  Recipes on SPICY MISO RAMEN-EXPRESS.

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WORLD’S EASIEST SEXY RACK

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” I’M BRINGING SEXY RACK “

The 6-4 carnival stretches on… There are bloody evidence of its squanders everywhere, the skin and bones that the beast chewed and spat out, all over my jabbed and crippled internet. My brain is still scrambled from yesterday’s epic, titanic emotional meltdown. My eyes staring into the blinding whiteness on my browser in a futile effort to locate all the premeditatedly murdered URL. There are broken signals of my poisoned VPN. Now I can’t even watch my favorite shows online… I’ll have to resort back to my cable TV. These cable tv statistics source here will show me what channels I can access with television, though it’s certainly not as varied as Netflix. They occasionally wink back at me… I need to get a new antivirus software to scan my PC, got knows what’s on it! If you’re looking for a safe PC, you could check out websafetyadvice.com for any extra info.

But this is not where I put my head down. Even if it means I have to sit right here, on this uncomfortably designed chair that stings my ass, that I have to upload each and every single one of these photos, every fucking, excruciating hour at a time, then so be it. I’m going to get this done. That’s right you nasty spitting beast,

I’m bring sexy rack.

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This isn’t just a recipe for a roasted rack of lamb. When I first discovered its method – witnessing how Thomas Keller gave life and colour to a humongous chunk of rib-roast, too large and uniformly shaped to submit to any traditional browning techniques – it was a revelation. It meant beyond what the specific recipe was designed for. It meant that from then on, the path to a piece of meat’s medium-rare doneness, as well as a gorgeously charred surface, can be walked separately.

How many times have I tried to imitate a steak-house rib-eye at home – the kind that shimmers over its deeply caramelised crust with a properly pink and bloody interior – but instead found myself scrubbing down a grease-raped kitchen with the smoke-detector still screaming from the imposed horror, and worse, all for a flap of unevenly and under-browned meat sobbing over its own greyish and overcooked body? Too. Many. Times. But it could, and has, all stopped here. The moment when I stopped pretending that my kitchen could conjure the same level of scorching heat as a professional kitchen. The moment I realised my vent-hood couldn’t even eliminate cigarette smoke let alone the volcano clouds erupting from my cast-iron pan. Th moment when I discovered, that this could all be done, with none of these silly ruckus.

The answer is a standard, dependable blow-torch.

N…no… what, what is that you’re waving at me? That impotent little girlish thingy that came with the impulsive creme brulee-set I picked you picked up on your way to get shower-curtains through Bed Bath and Beyond? N… no, I’m talking about an actual, standard, torch burner that goes on top of a butane canister. It’s the ultimate fixer-upper in the kitchen, the air-brusher to make up for other cookery’s shortcomings. In fact it’s the first thing I would recommend if you ask me what’s a must-have in my line of gadgets. Get, an actual blow-torch. What it’s able to do, among other things, is that it can apply beautiful, glorious, and most importantly, even browning and caramelising to any specimen of meat no matter how big or small, or how uniformly and awkwardly shaped.

Such as, oh how coincidentally~ a rack of lamb.

You can’t brown a rack of lamb evenly no matter if it’s on the stove… in the oven… over the grill… under the broiler… or by whatever means you can think of (unless you’re prepared to deep-fry it in a bucket, in that case, I solute you). You just can’t. Especially with it’s variably thin strip of meat which, by the time you’re done nuking it, could have been disastrously overcooked. I didn’t say it will. I said it could, and uncertainly isn’t something I’d like to season with my pricy cut of meat. Especially when “precision” comes with so little effort. The thing with a blow-torch is, you can easily apply intense heat that chars the surface beautiful without penetrating deeper into the part where it deserves a gentler treatment, a treatment say, a slow and tender roast inside a warm oven until every section of the meat is brought to the same, even level of pinkish and juicy doneness. Almost sous-vede! Then after a proper, beauty-resting, you can give this rack another spanking of heat to get it hot again, without affecting the interior doneness of course. You rub its cheeks with a kiss of Dijon mustards, and pad it with a thick cake of spice-crust made with ground cumin and fresh mints. A few more flakes of sea salts before introduction… curtains down… and it’s show time.

Hey, nobody would think that this sexiness came without dropping a sweat amidst the summer? I say, that’s at least one thing to be cheered for, if you were me.

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Serves: 2 ~ 3 people

I have done steaks before with the same method, but a rack of lamb has even more reasons to benefit from it (evenly more awkwardly shaped). This is a typical 7-ribs lamb rack that weighs between 900 grams ~ 1100 grams (31.7 oz ~ 38.8 oz). It doesn’t really matter how big the lamb-rack is, the cooking method is exactly the same. And you can be really flexible about the herb/spice rub that goes on top. If you are not a big fan of fresh mint and cumin, feel free to substitute with parsley or etc.

Please DO NOT use those mini-torches that come with a creme brulee-set or something. They are only as good as a cigarette lighter. This is the exact torch-burner that I use, which is comparatively economical and practical. It goes on top of any butane fuel canister that you can buy almost anywhere, and each canister will last a very long time.

A note to pay attention to during roasting is that, the internal temperature will continue to climb about 8~10ºF/5ºC, after the lamb’s removed from the oven. So you have to calculate that into the desired doneness. 130~140ºF/55~60ºC is a perfectly pink, medium-rare. Anything else, I do not endorse.


Equipment:

Ingredients:

  • 1 rack of lamb that weighs between 900 grams ~ 1100 grams
  • 1 ~ 2 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ~ 3 tbsp of Dijon mustard
  • Herbs and spice rub:
    • 3 tbsp of finely chopped fresh mint
    • 2 tbsp of ground cumin
    • 1 tbsp of chill flakes
    • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper

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Start 1 hour before serving. Preheat the oven on 300F/145C.

Trim off some excess fat on the lamb rack if you need to. Place the lamb rack inside a baking sheet and set the baking sheet securely under the kitchen vent-hoods. Turn the vent on high. Evenly rub a few nubs of unsalted butter over the lamb, and with your torch-burner, start searing and caramelising the entire surface of the lamb rack. Keep basting the lamb with the melted butter and rendered fat, and make sure every inch of the surface on both sides (especially the fats) are deeply browned and caramelized. Some smokes and sparks will arise from the process, but don’t worry, it should be minor and dealt with by your kitchen vent.

Your lamb rack should now look as if it’s gorgeously roasted, but in fact, the interior is still completely uncooked. Now, season the lamb rack on all sides generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then set it inside the same baking-sheet with the meat-side facing up. Insert the meat-thermometer into the centre of the meat, then place it on the middle rack inside the preheated oven. Keep the thermometer facing outward so you can read the temperature without opening the oven. Slow-roast the lamb until the internal temperature reads 132ºF/55ºC (remember, the temperature will continue to climb later). This will take approx 30 to 40 min (there won’t be much happening in the first 20 min).

Once the lamb reaches desired temperature, remove from the oven and cover loosely with a foil and let rest for at least 8 min. DO NOT remove the meat-thermometer at this point. You will risk juices escaping through the hole before the meat is properly rested. Meanwhile, mix the “herbs and spice rub” evenly together. After 8 min, the temperature should have stopped rising and reads around 140ºF/60ºC (perfectly pink and medium-rare). Remove the foil (I usually like to briefly torch the lamb at this point to get it “sizzling” again. it won’t further cook the meat), then brush a thin layer of Dijon mustard covering the meat-side. Apply the rub over the Dijon and pat gently to help it stick.

Cut the lamb-rack in between bones and season with more sea salt. Serve immediately.

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CRACK SLURP PT 2 – MAH KHAO SOI

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THIS IS MAH-KHAO-SOI,
AS IN…
MY KHAO-SOI.

PERHAPS this doesn’t come as a shocker to anyone who’s been stopping by for awhile, but I would like to, for once at least as public record, to officially confess.

Before we shake hands, break breads and plan our next travelling itinerary together, it’s best that you know this about me…  That to a point of being almost overbearing, I have an unhealthy, perverted… RAPACIOUS fixation on anything and everything that falls under the category of – street foods.

You, too! I heard?  No.  No, unfortunately I’m afraid, not like this.

I’m talking about an uncurbed obsession that overwrites all hygienic senses.  It could lead to an unpleasant behaviours that I’m dangerously comfortable with, that I would look right at your fearful eyes with unaccompanied excitement, drag you if I must, to sit down on a randomly scouted location where flies are feasting on bodies of other flies, and jitter over a bowl of something that I just ordered purely through hand-signals, as looooong as it looks tasty.  Then as if completely clueless, I’d turn and ask you with concealed hostility… Is there something wrong with your food?  

At this point, you should know that you’re stuck with a madwoman who has no intention to eat anything under a proper roof.  Ask Jason, and his collaterally-damaged digestive system has got some tearful stories to tell.  I’m not proud… I’m not proud…

OK fine, I am.

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THAI HERBS AND PORK SALAD

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I’m determined to get a life during this Labour Day long weekend so let me quickly leave you with this.  Best.  Damn.  “Salad”.  You’ll.  Ever.  Have.  Period.  Period.

HOW COULD IT BE?  OH WAIT, IT’S THE PORK.

It’s a recipe I developed for Food52’s column “Half Way to Dinner“, and initially I didn’t write any measurements down because I wasn’t sure how open you guys would be towards a “ground pork salad”.  But it turned out, a few request for it came in and so I made it again the other night… and again… and again…

I was incandescently happy being lost in a sea of gushing green that I got confused for a moment.  How could be?  What’s happened to me?  The flavour between a few thinly sliced shallots, splashes of fish sauce and lime juice is practically addictive no matter what you mix it with, but still… am I a “salad” person now?  Oh wait… there’s the ground pork… lots of it.  Actually.  Well forget what I said then.

Best.  Damn.  “Meat salad”.  Ever.  Period.

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THE NEW YORK HALAL DRUNK FOOD

“CHANCES ARE, YOU’VE HAD SOME SORT OF PROMISCUOUS ENCOUNTER…  YOU JUST DON’T REMEMBER IS ALL”

You’re probably thinking, what in the world is this?  Or at least the 90% of you who has never traveled/lived in New York plus the 8% who has (completely made-up statistics..), but stuck disciplinarily to mother’s rule of never putting anything questionable from the street into your mouth, wouldn’t have the slightest clue what the hell this is.  But then… then there’s the rest of the 2% you.

Well, hello there, my friend.  You know you’ve been bad.

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MEXICAN CHORIZO + GARLIC SHRIMP BURGER

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“BOYS WILL BE BOYS?”

What happens when you practice general lawlessness between a 6-pounds white prince who has, for his entire 14-years of life, consistently mistaken himself as a Magnificent Pit Bull, and a 26-pounds mutt boy who, constantly subjected to his ambiguous status in the house, has quietly developed some sort of combative inferiority-complex?

Sibling rivalries? Boys will be boys? I don’t think so… there’s a hole on Dumpling’s neck right now that looks like my ultimate parental failure.

I know, I know, Cesar Millan, that it’s my fault and not theirs. So now allow me to present you this fresh pork chorizo burger with melted manchego cheese with garlic shrimps and paprika mayo, while I run off to to get some really dirty looks from the vets. Enjoy.

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