What’s a burger between Roomies?

I’ve had a lot of exceptional roommates over the years, some not so exceptional but we won’t whisper their names. My current roomie is Zena, yes, Zena. No she’s not a warrior princess but she does dance like a pro. As I recall the story goes as such, her parent’s had something benign like Elizabeth picked out, but her mother, of whimsy spirit, met a wonderful and unique woman, Zena, and there you have it.

I think Zena would agree that we coexist rather gracefully most days. There always tends to be something in the fridge to cook or consume. The other week I made far too much hummus before leaving on vacation for a week and left it for her to demolish. We both love cheese and ice cream so you’ll usually find upwards of 5 cheeses in our fridge and more than a couple pints in the freezer.

Zena is mostly a pescitarian, not that she would call herself that, but about once a month she likes to make herself a real burger. On the last burger occasion she left me enough to make one as she raced out of the city, probably to Rhode Island to catch some waves.

The burger was tasty tasty!

Burger-tastic

Summer Burger:
(I don’t have an outdoor space unless you count the fire escape so no grilling for me, but feel free if you have the luxury. I found a cast iron pan does quite well.)

6-8oz ground beef
1-2 slices of salami
1 sliced peach (I happened to have a white peach)
1 kale leaf
1 slice of crusty bread
crumbled feta
Dijon mustard

Heat the skillet over medium high heat. Add salami in the pan and cook until it releases some oils and begins to crisp a bit. Drizzle the bread on both sides with a little olive oil and griddle in the hot pan. Remove bread and add beef patty. Season each side of the patty with s+p and cook about 3-4 minutes on each side or until you’ve reached your desired temp. Meanwhile, start building your burger. Slice bread in half and apply mustard, then salami, and feta. I put the feta under the burger because the weight and heat of the burger might just soften it better that if it were on top. After removing your burger, let it rest a second while you griddle the peaches. Turning the heat to high cook the peaches in the meaty pan until the have a little color. Put it all together and devour.

tip: Raw kale is yummier if it is dressed a little, allowing the acid to soften the leaves. When I made this burger I pulled some kale from a left over salad. To make this again, I would first dress the kale with a little lemon juice, olive oil, s+p and allow it hang out while proceeding with the rest of the prep.

One Man’s Trash is This Girl’s Dinner

It’s snowing. I’m in a cab with one of my oldest friends crossing the Manhattan Bridge with a smoked turkey carcass in a trash bag on the seat between us. One of many statements I never thought I’d say.

My friend Katie worked at a gallery for several years, and this past December she assisted the eccentric owner is throwing the annual holiday party. Never turning down free food, I was there beer in hand, helping put out the mountains of mini quiche and spring rolls. The pièce de résistance being two smoked turkeys from Fairways, an awesome local grocery store. After several more beers and dancing to the live music I see a familiar face out of the corner of my eye. Michael Stipe. THE Michael Stipe. Photographer Michael Stipe. U2’s Michael Stipe. Michael Stipe y’all! Hanging out in the middle of the room. I didn’t say hello, I’m far too awkward to talk to most regular strangers, let alone famous strangers.

But I digress, this is a story about turkey. Yes. Turkey. The night waned on and I stayed to help my friend clean up the empty platters and glasses. And there on the back table sat the turkey, picked over and ready for the garbage, unless you’re me.

I asked Katie what they were going to do with the carcass:
‘Toss it probably’
‘Umm could I take it home’
‘Home? Sure, why not’
‘Uh do you have anything I could put it in? A trash bag maybe?’
‘Yeah, sure Stace’

And thus, the double bagged bird came with me back to Brooklyn.

 The bird went into the freezer until January when I returned from Christmas in VA. This smoked turkey made the most delicious stock. Super soups I tell you! (I also discovered one of my new favorite guilty pleasures, fancy ramen, recipe to come) below is how I make stock, pretty basic really, but it is a basic so there you go. What once is old is made new again, with a stock pot and some root veggies.

Turkey Stock
1 cooked turkey carcass (let’s say about 12-14lb bird originally)
3-4 medium onions chopped a bit
4 carrots, peeled or cleaned well and roughly chopped
5 stalks of celery (sometimes fennel if I’m feeling adventurous), chopped

Parsley, Thyme and Bay are traditionally used to season. Very often I only have Bay leaves in the kitchen so I’ll throw two in and season the soup or whatever it is when I’m cooking with the stock.

tip: Often times I end of freezing the bird mostly because I’m lazy and make the stock when I have the time, but I find it helps in keeping the stock clearer and less cloudy.

Lightly sauté the vegetables together in a little olive oil and season with s+p. When the veggies have softened a bit it’s time to add the frozen carcass. Also, add 2 trays of ice cubes and enough cold water to cover the bones. Colder the water, clearer the stock.

It will take some time for it to come to a boil. I usually raise the heat a bit. As soon as it comes to a boil turn the heat down and simmer. You will start to see scum forming on top, skim that off to produce a clearer stock.

Next, do something fun in the other room and simmer for about 2 hours. Strain the stock when it’s good and ready. I like to reduce the strained stock at this point over low heat to concentrate the flavor. When done cool it down, seal it up, and freeze what you’re not going to use for up to 3-4 months. Soups on!

So this is the beginning

Sometimes being a broke 20-something food lover brings you down some interesting paths. I moved to Brooklyn a year ago from Chicago without a job, an apartment or apparently much common sense. You see I was experiencing some form of a quarter-life crisis, which sounds like a whole lot of whoo-wee, I know.

I found a couple of jobs and a small space to call my own. Truth be told cooking is what kept me on my toes and calmed my nerves this past year which really shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The first year I lived in Chicago it was so cold for my Virginia bones that I hibernated, only to wake and literally bake. Cupcakes, scones, muffins, quick breads, donuts, they all piled up in the kitchen I shared with my college expats. This led to pastry school and some stints working in Chicago kitchens.

Like many, most of my fondest memories revolve around food. Hobo Thanksgivings in Chicago with friends, like me, whose families lived to far away to go home. The year my friend Stepher and I decided to make brisket (because it was cheaper than a ham) for our Easter-we-all-have-a-day-off-together-so-let’s-eat-and-drink-too-much wine-Dinner that ended up tasting more like a delicious beef jerky than a tender slow-cooked piece of heaven. Helping make the hors d’oeuvres trays for my friends Matt and Morgan’s wedding with her whole family, thus becoming an honorary ‘Kitchen Slut’ (a true honor if you’ve every met that brood.) Traveling back to my parent’s home in Virginia to be greeted by bowls of my Dad’s meatballs paired with a Maker’s on the rocks and talking with my parents, brother, and sister-to-me Laur until the wee hours, bellies full and eyes glassy.

Food and cooking have apparently turned into a thang for me. As it seems, it’s the calm in my storm and one of the easiest ways to put a smile on my face. Turns out some of the tastiest treats are also stupid easy to make, like, um, homemade ricotta, who knew?! I hope to explore here some of my favorites, some of my challenges, and most definitely all of my (mis)adventures.

-Stacey