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I Can Recommend… Meat Thermometer Edition

I Can Recommend… Meat Thermometer Edition

I realize some may scoff at the use of a thermometer when a “real” chef can just feel when meat is up to temperature. I prefer data.

I use meat thermometers near the end of the cooking process and place the probe into the meat and leave it there until it reaches temperature. I don’t need an app, or settings for different meats. All I want is an accurate reading and a simple alarm for when the meat reaches the temperature I set.

The best thermometer I’ve found for this use is the ThermoWorks Dot.

I’ve also started to use a ThermoPro Infrared Thermometer, which you can point to any surface and get a temperature reading. It’s perfect for getting a pan the perfect temperature for eggs.

Note: I do not have business relationships with the products I recommend and earn no income from writing about them.

SMASHBURGER! ?

SMASHBURGER! ?

Every once in a while, you come across a dish that seems to defy the laws of cuisine; something so simple that it has no right to be as good as it is. The dish I’m referring to is SMASHBURGER! (Yes, I’m yelling, it’s required.) Below I’m focusing on the burger itself. Feel free to apply it to your own cheeseburger.

What you’ll need:

  • Ground Beef
  • Cooking Oil
  • Salt

We’re going to take that ground beef and smash it into a pan until it’s thin. Then, we’ll cook that thin piece of meat until the edges become brown and crispy. I’ve also heard the term “lacy” edges if you want to feel fancy. The key here is the taste of charred ground beef and salt.

Pour a bit of cooking oil into a skillet at medium-high heat. Let the pan and oil get good and hot.

Grab a fistful of ground beef and keep it loose. Do not massage it or turn it into a meatball. Instead, briefly, softly shape it into a ball like you have a bird in your hand.

Place the beef in the center of hot pan.

Place the bottom of a sauce pan on top of the beef and SMASH THAT SHIT until it’s about a centimeter thick. Foil on the sauce pan will keep it clean.

Then, salt it more than you think is reasonable. This is very important. It should look like a dusting of snow. See the loose and lacy meat at the edge of the burger below? That’s what turns into the most delicious bits.

Let the smashed burger fry in the sweet salty oil for a couple of minutes. Don’t worry about overcooking the meat. A perfect medium rare is not the goal. You’re looking for deep browning and crispy edges.

Flip it once and salt that side a bit too much, too. The other side may not get as brown, but you need to cook it. Throw some cheese on there if you’re going for a cheeseburger.

You’re done.

Now, the SMASHBURGER! is not precious. It’s lowbrow and should treated as such. Do you like ketchup? SMOTHER IT. Do you like meat frisbees? Throw it with a friend. Put it between pancakes, I don’t know. Just enjoy how good a salty fried burger can be.

We’ve made SMASHBURGER! many times and usually we have it with rice and a dark brown sauce called katsu sauce. It reminds me of when my mom used to make hamburger steak. It goes well with cheap beer, too. Enjoy!

I Can Recommend: Chef Movie, Chef Show, Nomadland

I Can Recommend: Chef Movie, Chef Show, Nomadland

The recommendations below also appeared in my weekly newsletter: Ready for Rain, Issue #95 – This Fireplace Sucks


The Chef Show (Netflix) – My first impression was “oh boy, another celebrity cooking show, no thanks” but a friend suggested giving it a try and we’ve enjoyed it. Jon Favreau, Chef Roy Choi and special guests cook a wide variety of dishes while Jon plays the inquisitive beginner. It’s not often about fancy food, but everyday food, done well. I also love the stop-motion sequences.

Chef (Netflix) This movie, starring Jon Favreau as a chef, inspired the TV show above. Roy Choi consulted on the movie and the story is inspired by Roy quitting a high profile job to start a food truck. Worth a watch. Food is love.

Nomadland (Hulu) This movie just won a Golden Globe for best picture (drama) and I can see why. What I love is the immersive style of production. It feels like you’re seeing life through the eyes and ears of Fern, the main character, played by Francis McDormand, as she becomes a member of a community of nomads who live out of vehicles. It’s directed by Chloé Zhao and has amazing performances by actual community members who were found as the film was being made. Zhao also won best Director, a first for a woman of color. We’ll be hearing more about her, I’m sure. More here

Go to all Recommendations

This is About the Ham ?

This is About the Ham ?

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.

I’ve always helped in the kitchen, but over the pandemic, I have become Sachi’s sous chef. Along with chopping and preparing, I’m learning about flavor and sauces. She’s my teacher and I try to follow instructions. Sometimes the most mundane things, like chopping onions, have a secret technique that makes it easier. 

A few days ago, we came home with a four pound hunk of ham from Costco. It was one big piece of meat, similar in size to a spiral cut holiday ham. Then, yesterday, the power went out as a result of a wind storm and the ham, being fully cooked, started to look like dinner. Preparing for the power outage, Sachi had boiled some somen noodles, which are often served cold with a sesame soy sauce. With the ham and somen, we could have a classic Hawaii dish for dinner. 

Kirkland Ham

It got dark, we lit candles and I concocted brandy drinks with a syrup I made from leftover peach juice and Serrano peppers. We had a couple of drinks to celebrate the novelty of being powerless. Then, just as we got comfortable in the candlelight, the power returned. With a sigh, we moved into the kitchen, five paces away, to make dinner under the lights. 

The ham, sitting as a heap of protein on the counter, was a puzzle to be solved. We needed a portion for dinner, maybe 10% of it. The rest needed to be cut into pieces and stored in the fridge. This is where the discussion began. 

I asked Sachi, “So, how would you approach this?” 

Being the sous chef, I wanted to know what she would do in terms of cutting up the ham. Left on my own, I could certainly do it, but I thought it was a teachable moment. 

At first, she just kind of shrugged, “Whatever you think.” So, I looked at the ham, then at our storage containers. She said, “That one.” pointing to a larger Tupperware. I didn’t think it was large enough, so I brought out two large containers and looked at Sachi as if to say, “These?”

She didn’t respond directly, but she didn’t have to. Her silence in these situations tells a story. She had thoughts, but she was holding them close and letting me squirm, just a bit. I felt it. She clearly wasn’t sure about needing two containers.

This tiny decision about the containers and the ham was the perfect setup for an animated discussion. If you were to watch from afar, you might have thought we were arguing. While these discussions might include a bit of passion, they remain civil and kind-hearted. Behind the words is a genuine competition to verbally outmaneuver the other side. 

Sachi relishes an intellectual battle. She will pick a logical side and stand her ground, just as she did with her brother, Mark, when they were growing up. When the opportunity arises, she expects me to challenge her in the same way. I didn’t grow up with that kind of competition and it took me years to figure out how to fight for an idea with a smile on my face. This was my chance. If you can’t smile about ham, what can you smile about? 

We both looked at the ham on the counter and I asked, again, what she would do. She said, flippantly to my ears, “It’s a puzzle. I think it can fit in the first container.” In our relationship, this is loaded language. I’m famously bad with abstract puzzles and Sachi is famously good. Rather than teaching me how she would approach the ham, I heard in my head, “Dance for me monkey boy – let’s see you solve this puzzle.” Maybe alcohol influenced my perceptions just a bit. 

In my mind, time efficiency mattered. Looking at the ham compared to the first container, there was no way it could fit; a physical impossibility. I declared, “There is NO WAY that will fit!” Left on my own, I would not waste time trying to solve the puzzle when we could just use two containers from the beginning. I could have it done in ten seconds. We both could have left it alone and disengaged, but what’s the fun in that?

Instead, I pleaded my case. Why go to all the trouble of trying to make it fit? It seemed like an inefficient use of time. All the while, Sachi implored me to try. She also argued, correctly, that two containers was an inefficient use of limited space in the fridge.

Instead of settling with, “Fine, just use two containers.”, she kept saying, “Try it, see if it will work.”  I scoffed. There was no way that big ass ham was fitting in the Tupperware. No way. At this point it wasn’t about storing ham as much as the sides we’d picked. 

We both have times, during these discussions, when we’ve exhausted our talking points and it becomes repetitive. Sometimes this provokes a subtle shift where other subjects get wrapped into the main debate. In our discussion about the ham, Sachi brought up a point about cleaning up coffee grounds that felt like one of these extensions. At first, I took it as a grievance about me not cleaning thoroughly and said, “Let’s not go there, this is about the ham.” 

She understood my redirection and seemed to agree. Looking back, this was a strategy I’d never tried before. We were in a debate about ham and as long as it stayed about ham, we could argue and parry without hurt feelings. 

Sachi stuck up for her coffee example by saying it supported her case about the ham. Whether it’s ham or coffee, I often take the easy route versus the most thorough or deliberate route. Point taken. These debates often relate back to the fundamental differences between us. That’s why it was important to me to keep the focus on the ham and not our personalities. A fine line indeed.

We could both feel the discussion coming to an end without a clear winner. The only thing left to do was to solve the puzzle. I grabbed a knife and started cutting up the ham as Sachi prepped other dishes.  

As I cut fist-sized portions and placed them in the Tupperware, the outside of the ham seemed to fill the rounded corners of the container. Four portions covered the bottom with a better fit than I wanted to admit. I kept cutting, all the while looking at what remained and glancing at Sachi. “There’s no way this is going fit”, I thought to myself. Layer by layer, the ham filled the container. Sachi heard me mutter, “No fucking way” as the final pieces of the puzzle filled the Tupperware to the brim with ham. It was going to be close. 

I was prepared to eat crow, but held out hope. The container still needed the lid to fit properly! Only by successfully affixing the lid could we be sure that the ham fit. That was a rule I made up on the spot. I tried once with no luck. Then, I shuffled the top few puzzle pieces and tried again. Sachi smiled, or maybe it was a smirk, I’m not sure.

The successful click of the lid snapping into place was met with more profanity from me and laughter that forced Sachi into a chair to recover. I hadn’t seen her laugh that hard in months.

In some ways this was the perfect ending. She won, but it didn’t feel like I lost. My approach was emblematic of my personality, but the debate was about the logistics of storing ham. In the end, the winner was clear and I could laugh about losing because it wasn’t really about me. It was about the ham.