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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
Sat May 10, 2014
I was sitting in the world’s very first “Margaritaville” around 1985 with my friend and business partner Proal Perry. It was and is located on Duval Street. Jimmy Buffett happened to be at his new foray in the restaurant world saw us and sat down at our table We were just receiving our cheeseburgers yes.. in Paradise when the singer who always seems to be on the edge of a smile asked me.. “Chef. Would you go with red onions or the white ones if it were up to you?” I studied the color contrasts it would mean thought of our proximation to Bermuda and answered, “Red for me Jimmy”. His smile bloomed and he tipped back his cocktail.
Burgers. I have cooked and consumed my share. I will declare a winner in the ‘best ever’ category and say that my wife, Janet, makes the best I’ve ever had. That doesn’t mean I won’t keep sampling other versions. She scoffs after so many years of holding the crown but that is the nature of a champion.
There is a chef now working in New York City originally from somewhere else .like about half of that teeming town which is also why it’s our most amazing food city in America! He happens to be from the Philippines. Now he operates what he calls a Filipino Gastropub in the East Village. His name is Miguel Trinidad and his place is named “Jeepney”. Jeepneys were basically jeeps that were left behind at the end of World War II. They were stripped down and customized by the locals; metal roofs were added for shade; and they decorated the vehicles with riotous tropical colors. Another item left behind from the American occupation of the Philippines during wartime was a lust for burgers! Miguel distinguishes his burgers with a pork sausage he crowns his otherwise beef burger with. He denies cheese on his burgers but supplies a nice fatty bump with his home-cured longanisa styled sausage. He makes his by massaging freshly ground pork and pork fat with garlic, paprika, salt, brown sugar, white wine and something he may have skipped telling us for 24 hours before forming it and laying it on some ground beef he presses into a cylindrical mold. What moves me once again to seek him out next time we are up that way will be the banana ketchup he created to serve on them. You see tomatoes were not part of the Philippine pantry really so they got creative with what they have. Love that. And to boot he bumps it all with a mayo made with garlic and soy sauce so you know you are in different realm.
Long ago I worked in a joint that featured standard working class fare. “Compliments to the Chef!” was not a phrase to expect in that place. But one day Sally our sweet if pixilated waitress sauntered back to my window we shoved our plates onto when they were ready for pick up and said, “Hey guess what?! The guy out here on table 3 said your cheeseburger was the best he ever ate!” I chewed on that a moment and thought wow that is pretty huge I mean how many would a person have eaten in their life to choose ONE as the ‘best’. It wasn’t like I’d made him sweetbreads and capers which he might have had it ONCE before and mine didn’t even have banana ketchup!
THE MUSHROOM STUFFED WHAMBURGER
This burger was created by my wife, Janet and named the Whamburger by her. Rightfully so…
- 1/4 Cup blended oil
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pound of “Button” styled mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thinly
- 1/4 Cup Spanish Sherry Vinegar
- 2 Ground Chuck
- kosher salt and black pepper, as desired
- 1 1/2 Cups BBQ Sauce
Put the oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, sauté the mushrooms and cook until tender. Add in the vinegar and stew the mushrooms for a few minutes. Strain off into a bowl. Reserve the mushrooms.
Pour the liquid back into the pan and reduce until it until syrupy. Now add it to the reserved mushrooms. Let that cool completely.
Now divide the ground chuck into 4 equal amounts. Divide each of those into 2 patties. On 1 patty put 1/4 Cup of the stewed mushrooms, top with the other patty, crimp the outer edges tightly and smooth over the edges with your fingers. Refrigerate to help seal the edges for one hour. Season with salt and pepper.
Best cooked on a grill to desired temperature. Spoon or brush the BBQ early in the cooking. The burgers will take 10-15 minutes since they are that large.
Add any favored cheese to melt on top if you like.
Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food