Monday, July 25, 2011

Cannibal Burger a.k.a. Steak Tartare

While working on my Mom’s recipes, I suddenly realized that I had to include her recipe for “Cannibal Burger.” My father and his family just loved this raw meat appetizer. Later in life while on the road, I discovered “Steak Tartare.” The only difference between the two was that the “Steak Tartare” was made with tenderloin and “Cannibal Burger” was made in our house with round steak
Today, eating raw meat or uncooked eggs is a risky idea and should be avoided. I’m talking the 1960s and early 1970s when almost every grocer had a butcher on- site. The meat was from the local stockyards (Chicago) and about as fresh as you could get anywhere in the country. 
 To complete Mom’s recipe, I had to actually make the “Cannibal Burger” so that I could take pictures of the recipe process. This was one of those bottom of the pile recipes that just kept coming to the top. Now at that time, I had become a big fan of Jaime Oliver and his “Food Revolution” TV series and had just seen an episode on something called “Pink Slime.” After watching this show, the chances of me actually eating Mom’s “Cannibal Burger” were dwindling fast. 
I decided to do some research on the subject. Just type in the words “pink slime” into your web browser and you will be amazed. Better yet, go to Jaime Oliver’s site and sign up for his Food Revolution if you care about the food we eat, or our children eat. I did!         
As I said before, in the good old day’s butchers would trim and pack meat all day at their stores. At the end of the day they would make ground beef, hamburgers, mock chicken legs, and chopped sirloin steaks. It was amazing that the ground meat flavor was better on some days than on others. The butchers might be cutting Porterhouse, T-Bone’s, or Strip Steaks on one day, and less expensive cuts another. Often butchers would tell customers that they had some “really great hamburger today” and they were right. On other days they might be trimming less flavorful cuts and you could taste it in the ground beef. 
I decided to talk to some local butchers to find out where, oh where their ground beef came from, or if they knew what additives, if any, were in it. I asked one local butcher from a large grocery chain if the ground beef or sirloin was made in-house, or if it came in from outside sources. To my amazement he took me to the refrigerated case and picked up a package of ground sirloin. The sirloin was on a more expensive white plastic tray. That means the meat is from an outside source. He picked up another tray and the meat was on a foam tray. He told me that this ground sirloin was made from trimmings that they made in house. I asked one simple question— “Which one would you eat?” He threw the expensively packed sirloin back into the case and handed me the in-house made sirloin.
I couldn’t stop there. I called our local, family owned small grocery chain and spoke directly with the butcher. I told him that I was making Steak Tartare and wanted to know where their ground meat came from. His answer, “we make it ourselves.” I asked if he would eat raw meat from his store and was told yes. He did however go on to tell me how much raw meat they sold for this purpose when Steak Tartare was fashionable, and considered safe to eat. Now the disclaimer was that to limit the possibility of getting sick, I should call them in the morning and they would cut it and grind it fresh. I had decided!
My Dad would go to the butcher and pick out a great looking round steak, asked him to cut off all of the fat and grind it not once, not twice, but three times to get the proper consistency. Remember he wasn’t using tenderloin. He was making “Cannibal Burger,” or “Raw Dog.”
The next day I ordered the meat as directed and went to the store. I picked up some onions (I used scallions), pasteurized eggs (I wasn’t taking any chances), Rosen’s rye bread and finally the ice-cold meat. With my supplies in hand I went home to prepare Mom’s “Cannibal Burger.”
Before proceeding any further, I must tell you that when my Mom made this the adults just loved it. We watched as they consumed the raw meat, hoping they would not eat it all. Let me explain, if they didn't eat it all, Mom would spread butter on a slice of rye bread and then spread a thin layer of Tartare on top of the butter. The smear of butter kept the meat juices from sinking into the bread. She placed the Tartare on rye slices under the broiler and cooked them to medium rare. We just loved it this way. 
So, upon arriving at home, I placed the meat directly into the refrigerator and a mixing bowl into the freezer while I pre-prepped my ingredients. 
Kid size portions
I then called my wife to tell her what I was about to do and if for any reason I got sick, she would know what to tell the doctors in the ER if I had to go. After preparing the meat according to the recipe, I mounted the egg on top for the picture and added some capers. Mom mixed the egg into the meat and never on top, and I don’t think she ever had capers. I wanted a good photograph. When I sent the recipe to my sister for an edit she called and asked me if Mom ever put capers on the “Cannibal Burger.” With the pictures out of the way, I spread some butter on the rye bread, followed by some of the meat and finally more pepper. Throwing caution to the wind I took my first bite. I think today they say “OMG,” and it was. Not being completely reckless, I then buttered a second piece of rye, smeared some of the beef on it and placed it under the broiler. The butter acts as a barrier to keep the raw beef juice from saturating the bread. This is the memory I was looking for. A small taste of my childhood. Today I think that I would serve it broiled as an appetizer. 
Much to my amazement many restaurants still serve Tartare today. Mostly they serve Tuna Tartare, but some still serve Steak Tartare.  

© Tmelle 1998-2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Up North

Chateau au bord du lac
In our family, we are fortunate to have had a Grandfather who had a summer home in Woodrufff, Wisconsin. In case you don't know, Woodruff is, it's about seven hours north of Chicago. Every summer we would make at least one trip a year to this area for our summer vacation. It was while on one of these vacations that I first heard restaurants referred to as supper clubs. After a hard day playing in the sun, we would get cleaned up and head off to a local supper club.
Friday Night Fish Fry 
It was at these supper clubs, our parents would meet friends they met over the years and enjoy some cocktails with. For the children it was not uncommon to find some games, or a a complete game room to keep them busy while the parents were in the lounge. 
These supper clubs didn't have extensive menu's like Chicago restaurants did. They did have what I called "North wood's favorites. I was first introduced to the Friday night "fish fry in  Minocqua, Wisconsin." What did I expect, we were in fishing country. What was amazing is that the fried fish was generally not from the local waters, but from as far away as Iceland. Generally it was either Cod, or Haddock. It was almost always fried, although some places offered a broiled or baked version. In most cases the fish fry was an all-you-can-eat affair, served with Cole slaw and French fries. Unlike many of our friends back home, fish was something that we really enjoyed eating. My Dad liked it because it was cheap.
Prim Rib of Beef  on the grill
The other Supper Club staple "Prime Rib" was something that I had never heard of before. Prime Rib is one of the most tender pieces of meat that I have ever tasted. Generally served with a baked potato and a sauce called "au jus," served in a small cup. The owners of these Supper Clubs must have a regional recipe because it was always delicious.
Can I cut a piece for you?
One of our friends from our home town moved from the Chicago suburbs to Woodruff, where her parents owned a restaurant, or supper club. Her father and mother brought a little of the taste of Chicago with them.
BBQ Ribs
We were also fortunate that our Father was able to purchased a summer home in Minocqua, Wisconsin. I was already married but still looked forward to those one or two week vacations up North.
Aah life is good

© TMelle 1998-2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When the weather's hot and sticky...

In the shade

It's time to make pizza on the grill. I'm serious! All you need is a 3-4 burner gas grill, a pizza stone, cornmeal, a sturdy pizza peel, and some fresh home-made pizza. Place the stone on the grill and turn on all of the burners except the one(s) directly under the pizza stone. Don't ever put the stone into a hot grill, or directly over a burner. If you do there is a very real possibility that the stone will crack. When the grill reaches 350 degrees sprinkle the stone with cornmeal, slide the pizza in over the cornmeal with your peel and close the cover. It takes just as long to cook as your home oven. Hot town summer in the city...
Cheese and Sausage Pizza  
© Tmelle 1998-2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

1 Sauce 3 Meals

Stir flour into melted butter
I’m sure that you all know what a white sauce is, Right? If not there are many recipes on the Internet to show you how to make a roux. My mom was a master of white sauce. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I ever heard it called Béchamel sauce. It is also one of the five Mother sauces in cooking. How did my Mom know that it was a Mother sauce. Since we’re talking about retro food on this blog, I will refer to it as white sauce. There are three thickness’s of white sauce; they are thin, medium, and thick. Mom made hers somewhere between medium and thick.  
Add milk to roux
So what did she do with this magical white sauce? Her white sauce trio consisted of Chipped Beef on Toast (SOS), Chicken a la King, and finally Eggs a la Goldenrod. I don’t know her motivation for serving this but during the 50’s and 60’s it was filling, hot, and affordable.
Chop Beef
Add beef to sauce
Add Leseur peas
Mix beef and peas into white sauce
Serve SOS on toast
My Dad was not a big fan of Chipped Beef on Toast. He said that when he was in the Army WWII they ate a lot of it. They only knew it by the name “Shit on a shingle,” or SOS. It was not a meal that he would call comfort food. We all liked it and we were on a budget.   

Moms Chipped Beef on Toast
6          T.                  Butter
6          T.                  Flour
3-1/2    C.                 Milk
4          pkg.              Corned Beef (Budig brand)
1          8.5 oz. can   Peas (drained, Leseur)
to taste             Salt and pepper
8          pcs.              Toast or English Muffin*
NOTE: *As we grew older and Mom was expanding her culinary universe, she discovered Puff Pastry Cups (Pepperidge Farm brand). We never had SOS on toast again. 
You may use toast, English muffins, or pastry cups. Prepare puff pastry cups according to package directions. To make the sauce, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat melt the butter and stir in the flour to make a roux. Continue stirring until the roux bubbles. Stir for 1 minute more and remove the pan from the heat. Continue stirring as you add in about 1 cup of milk. Return the pan to the heat and stir in the remaining milk. Continue cooking until sauce thickens. Chop the beef into squares about 1/2” by 1/2”. Drain peas and stir the beef and the peas into the white sauce. Bring this mixture to a hot serving temperature while stirring often.
To serve, remove the center round from the pastry cup and set to the side. Place the cups on serving plates and fill each with the beef and pea mixture until it is sliding down the outside of the pastry cup. Place the pastry circle on the top and enjoy. This recipe is good to fill 8 cups and will serve four people 2 cups each, or 8 if serving 1 per person as a course. ENJOY!  
NOTE: The remaining two recipes using white sauce was my Moms “Chicken a la King and Eggs a la Goldenrod. Keep checking back for those two recipes.   
Chicken a la King
Eggs a la Goldenrod

© TMelle 1998-2011

Recipes and Cook Books

People are constantly asking me why writing my cookbook is taking so long. The answer is simple...I'm doing it myself; I'm working from recipes that have been given to me by other people, and even my Mom.
The problem with other people’s recipes is that often they are simply an outline of something that they make all of the time. The problem starts when you pass your recipe on to someone else. I made a hash brown bake just yesterday and came to a point, just after mixing the ingredients together when I did not know what to do next. I had to call the person who gave me the recipe and ask a couple of questions. Now that it's mixed what do I do with it? You bake it was the persons response! In what size casserole dish? Is it greased, buttered, sprayed or prepared in any other way? What about the casserole toppings? Are they added before baking, near the end, 5 minutes before being done?
When I was getting married my wife was given a bridal shower and everyone brought five of their family's favorite recipes. These recipes were fantastic, but for the most part not written clearly. So when passing a recipe on make sure that you cover each and every step clearly and as if the person reading it is conceptually challenged.
In Microsoft Word when you do a spell check it gives you a "Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level." If your recipe is 7 or over don't use so many big words. Don't worry about fragmented sentences. Write down each and every step of the recipe, even if you've made it 100 times before. So when writing a recipe to pass along, remember "KISS" (Keep it simple Stupid)! 
What are the best cook books to buy? I like the fundraiser cookbooks often written by church groups and family cooks consisting of everyday meals, for real families, eaten by real people. I have many celebrity chefs’ cookbooks that are great if you want to put on a gourmet dinner or do a food show. Don't trust all online recipes because many of them are not accurate and often have a disclaimer attached to them. 
© Tmelle 1998-2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Changing my theme

and color options after a few comments saying that the white text on a black background was difficult to read. Sorry for the changes but will be done soon. Until then enjoy
© Tmelle 1998-2011

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bread Rolls

Sometimes we just don't have time for breakfast. I just love Kaiser rolls. Often, if not eaten right away Kaiser rolls start getting hard. When that happens just slice them in half, butter each side and put them into a hot skillet until golden.
For a real treat spread your favorite jelly, jam, or preserves on your Kaiser. This beats the hell out of toast. Finally, and I hope my doctor isn't reading this, add a smear of cream cheese before the jelly.
Whenever my family went on vacation to Wisconsin my dad would get up very early and go into town for fresh bread rolls that had a crisp crust, was very soft on the inside, had a crease down the center like a baby's butt, and we called shinkin rolls. They are more commonly known as split rolls.I just can't find a recipe for the Wisconsin type. They look like this:
Shinkin Roll
I came across a recipe for a French split roll called a Pistolet, but I'm not sure that this is it. If anyone knows what the Wisconsin version is and how to make it, drop me a comment and a recipe if you have it.
In my early years (over 30 years ago) I had many jobs working in restaurants, mostly as a breakfast grill man. Two of the most requested quick snacks to go with coffee was the butter toasted Kaiser roll and the the butter toasted caramel pecan roll. The butter toasted caramel pecan roll was often dunked in coffee to soften it and add the coffee flavor. The butter only enhanced the caramel flavor. When I first saw this I was horrified at the thought of dunking this nut crusted roll in my coffee. Finally a customer suggested that I try it. Having no reference to compare it to, I was amazed at how really good it tasted. The trick was to dunk just long enough to absorb some coffee, but not long enough to have the pecans fall off in the coffee. Today I can tell you that it tasted like a caramel latte found at many expensive coffee shops. It just wasn't nearly as sweet as it is today. Why didn't I jump on that coffee and caramel idea? If you snooze you loose.