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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tangy Meatloaf Burgers

I love meatloaf.

I don't know if I'm supposed to though.  While it is a quintessential American comfort food, it's also equated with mystery meat and gauche cuisine.  But I think when it's done right, it's moist, tasty, and filling.  What's not to love?

My son loves meatloaf as well, not surprising, as it's, well, meat.  I do need to be careful about how creative and sneaky I get when it comes to ingredients, of course.  That boy can spot "relatively healthy" from ten miles away.  So when I saw this recipe in Food Network Magazine, I was psyched.  It can be made with meatloaf mix or with ground turkey.  Since we're a pretty pork-free home, we went the turkey route.  And they suggested a bunch of toppings but I didn't bother.  Not that they didn't sound great, but why waste the effort when the Little Critic would just toss them to the wayside?  But meatloaf with a yummy sauce between bread?  I'm in.

Tangy Meatloaf Burgers

1 small onion (1/2 sliced into rings, 1/2 diced)
1 pound meatloaf mix (ground pork, beef and veal) or ground turkey
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (preferably panko)
1 large egg
1 tsp sweet or smoked paprika
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup duck sauce (substitute 1/3 cup orange marmalade or peach preserves mixed with a splash of water if duck sauce is unavailable)
salt and pepper
4 rolls

1.  Preheat a grill to medium high.  Soak the onions rings in a bowl of cold water to keep them crisp.  Meanwhile, combine the meatloaf mix with the diced onion, parsley, breadcrumbs, egg, paprika, 1 tbsp each of ketchup and duck sauce, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Gently form into four 1-inch-thick patties; make an indentation in the middle of each.

2.  Brush the patties with olive oil and grill until marked on the bottom, about 6 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix the remaining ketchup and duck sauce in a small bowl for brushing; set aside.  Turn the patties, brush with the ketchup mixture and continue grilling until cooked through, about 5 more minutes. 

3.  Spread buns with remaining ketchup mixture.  Drain onion rings.  Serve patties on buns with onions.

The Verdict:  Hello, my name is Chef Blunderbutt and I'm just going to toss random crap into ground meat, type it up as a recipe, and have a magazine print it, mmmkay?

It wasn't gross, but it was...busy.  You've got very herbal fresh parsley, the smoky taste of paprika (if you went the smoked paprika route), and because I wasn't buying a jar of duck sauce only to use a quarter of it, orange marmalade.  It's a bit of an arbitrary mix that just doesn't quite marry in the end. 

My poor son sat down at the table and announced, "I'm excited!" for dinner, thinking when I said burgers I meant those beef things between bread that don't taste like a helter-skelter sandwich.  But to be honest, his vanishing passion had less to do with taste and all about finding greens in his meat.  I was able to photograph the downward spiral of the meal:

And so goes dinner with this child.

Sorry so blurry, but here's Amir digging into his burger

He now discovers the offending green
Now the burger must be dissected to remove any and all parsley

The two things that I did learn from this recipe were the two tricks they included. The first is putting onion slices in cold water. I couldn't believe how nice and crisp they were in the burger. The other was making the indentation in the center of the burgers before cooking. You know how burgers swell up and look like meatballs instead of patties sometimes?  Making this well keeps them flat.

So I'm not sure if it was just my taste buds, but this meal didn't do it for me.  Let me know if you try it out and get a different result.  Maybe marmalade/paprika/parsley really is a great idea.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Warm Shrimp and Watermelon Salad

I think I have a fantastic television show pitch. 

There's Man Vs. Food, where the guy travels the country stuffing himself on greasy fare.  I'm suggesting Preschooler Vs. Food, where Amir, my 3-year-old, travels the country meeting people who cook for him.  The challenge is to find the people and foods that he'll eat.  Because I'm stumped, folks.

Yesterday I thought I had cooked the epitome of kid-friendly food.  As I was preparing it, the Little Critic danced excitedly in anticipation for lunch.  This salad features watermelon (which we eat at least two whole ones a week during the summer), cucumber (a vegetable I can count on him eating) and shrimp (a seafood he's been eating since before the Academy of Pediatrics recommended age).  It also has feta which he isn't wild about, but I could leave that off of his, along with the offending green dill.  Perfect, right?

Warm Shrimp and Watermelon Salad

4 whole-wheat pitas, cut into triangles
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
16 medium to large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 cup sliced shallots
4 cups cubed seedless watermelon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 large cucumbers, peeled and chopped
2 oz crumbled feta
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill

1.  Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Toast pita bread until brown and crispy on a cookie sheet, turning once, 3-5 minutes per side.

2.  In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat.  Cook shrimp and shallots, stirring until shrimp is pink and shallots are crisp, 2 to 6 minutes, depending on size of shrimp.  Transfer to a bowl.

3.  In the same skillet, add watermelon and 1/4 cup water over high heat, stirring, until liquid becomes syrupy, about 3 minutes. 

4.  Remove skillet from heat; add shrimp mixture, salt and pepper; stir.  Divide shrimp-watermelon mixture among four plates; add cucumber and feta.  Sprinkle with dill.  Use syrup that collects in skillet/bottom of mixed bowl to drizzle salad.  Serve with toasted pita bread.

The Verdict: I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  My husband gave it four out of five stars (his food rating system).  And the Little Critic...

...hated it.

What?!  Before lunch, he was begging to eat the watermelon and the cucumber.  Yet all together, he didn't like "the red stuff" and swore he didn't like cucumbers.  So he ate shrimp and toast.  Imagine me.  Now imagine me shaking my head in frustration.  That's what I'm doing while I write this.

Ignoring my son's comments, this salad is good stuff.  I'd never heard of cooking watermelon before, but when you do it becomes even sweeter, then sweeter still when paired with a bit of salt and the salt in the feta.  Then when you mix slightly crispy shallots with those watery summer foods?  My mouth is watering thinking about it.  An added bonus: fairly quick to whip up.

If you have a nice backyard with a patio set you can serve food on, buy yourself a good chillable wine, invite friends over, make this dish, and become their hero.  Seriously.  They'll think you're a genius. 

Here's hoping the "I hate everything" stuff is a phase for the Little Critic.  Because if you don't think this is the definition of yummy, I don't know what to say.