Juicy Beef Sliders

Living in Southern California, I have access to some of the most delicious burgers. Whether it’s the classic animal-style at In-N-Out, the original gourmet burger at Father’s office, or the Hatch burger at Umami – I love them all. What I can’t seem to find when dining out, though, are good beef sliders. Because sliders are smaller, there’s lots of room for error: overcooking the meat, using too many toppings, soggy buns, etc. When I think of the perfect little burger, the White Castle cheeseburger comes to mind. The buns are soft, there are lots of yummy bits of cooked onions, the cheese is melted perfectly, and the meat is tender. Thinking of White Castle has inspired me to make my own version of beef sliders at home.

I came up with this recipe while shopping at Trader Joe’s, where I purchased all the ingredients with the exception of the ground beef. I was fortunate enough to acquire some some grass-fed beef from a rancher in Bend, Oregon, but if I hadn’t, I would have bought some fresh ground beef from my local butcher or ground my own, either of which I recommend. Make sure the ground beef is 80% lean and 20% fat for extra tenderness. One of the biggest mistakes cooks make is shaping the meat into round patties by hand, which toughens the meat. You want the air pockets from the spaces and grooves that were formed when the butcher ground the beef, as this will also keep the meat tender. Also, though it’s not my favorite, American cheese is actually the best cheese for these burgers. It melts beautifully and gives the sliders that classic burger taste. I add sautéed onions, which not only adds moisture, but great taste, and sliced pickles are essential for adding acid and balance. Finally, add your favorite BBQ sauce. I love Trader Joe’s new Sriracha and Roasted Garlic BBQ Sauce for a little kick. This step-by-step method will ensure moist and delicious sliders. Enjoy!

 

Juicy Beef Sliders

Yield: 8 mini burgers

 

1/2 large sweet onion

Sunflower oil or vegetable oil

Kosher salt

6 slices of organic American cheese

8 slider rolls or mini buns

8 slices of sweet bread and butter pickles

Freshly ground pepper

1 lb of grass-fed ground beef, 80/20

Your favorite barbecue sauce (Trader Joe’s Sriracha BBQ Sauce)

 

1. Chop the onions into a small dice. Heat a medium sauté pan to low heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil, then add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally for about 15-20 minutes.

IMG_5878IMG_5884

2. The onions should be tender and translucent, but not have a golden color. Set aside.

IMG_5894.JPG

3. Get all your toppings ready. Remove the cheese slices out of their individual plastic wrappers. You will need to cut out 1/3 of the cheese so it will be the correct slice for sliders. You will combine you smaller cheese scraps for 2 of the sliders. Place them on a parchment paper so they stick to each other.

IMG_5914

4. Take the pickle slices out of the jar. Slice each one at a diagonal. Bread and butter pickles tend to be a little thick. You’ll have 16 slices. It’s an extra step, but it makes a difference in the taste of each bite. Set aside.

IMG_5885

5. Take the ground beef and serrated knife and begin cutting the beef into 8 portions. Gently flatten each portion by separating the meat pieces with your fingers, but you do not need to form it into a traditional burger shape. If you handle the ground beef too much, it will toughen the meat.

IMG_5887IMG_5888IMG_5889

6. Season the meat with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

IMG_5890

7. Heat a large cast-iron pan to medium-high heat. Take out the slider rolls and set aside. Place 4 ground beef portions, seasoned-side down, onto the cast-iron pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the unseasoned side. Cook the meat for about 2 minutes until you get a nice sear.

IMG_5891IMG_5892

8. Flip the meat and add the cheese slices. Add the 4 slider buns to the pan, cut side down (total of 8 slices).

IMG_5893

9 . Cook the meat for about one minute on the other side. I like my burgers medium.

10. To assemble the sliders, spread about a teaspoon of the cooked onions on the bottom bun.

IMG_5903

11. Add the cooked meat, two pickle slices, 1 tablespoon of your favorite BBQ sauce, then the top slider bun. Serve right away.

IMG_5904IMG_5907

IMG_5908

12. Repeat the process with the remaining beef and ingredients to make four more sliders. Enjoy!

IMG_5912

Trader Joe’s Pantry

 

Turkey Breakfast Sausage

Whenever I visit a diner or breakfast eatery, I usually order the quintessential American breakfast plate – eggs, toast, hash browns and bacon/sausage. Every so often, I may look for healthier options to substitute for the hash browns or meat, and many restaurants in Southern California offer a turkey sausage option as an alternative. But I can’t tell you the number of times I have been disappointed after ordering the turkey sausage. So often the turkey sausage is dry and tough, falling short of its pork counterpart, but it doesn’t have to. (I can hear the naysayers already – BUT BACON!) As proof, today I am sharing my juicy and moist turkey sausage recipe.

There are three key steps to ensure a moist and juicy sausage. First, I use ground turkey meat and not ground turkey breast, because breast meat tends to be more dry. The ground turkey meat has dark meat in the mixture, which yields a juicier result. Second, I add finely-grated onions to the sausage mixture. The grated onion creates moisture pockets in the meat when cooked. Finally, I gently incorporate the ingredients until the mixture is just combined. Over-mixing will also contribute to a tougher sausage. Follow these steps and I guarantee you’ll have juicy and moist little turkey sausages. Enjoy!

 

Turkey Breakfast Sausage

Yield: 8 patties

1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds

1 1/2 tablespoon of grated onion

1/2 garlic clove, minced

12 ounces of organic ground turkey (not ground turkey breast)

2 teaspoons of brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme

1/4 teaspoon of sweet paprika

3/4 teaspoon of sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

Pinch of red pepper flakes, optional

Olive oil or sunflower oil for frying

 

1. Add the fennel seeds to a small sauté pan. Toast at medium-low heat for about 3 minutes. Transfer the toasted fennel seeds into a clean coffee grinder. Pulse 3 times. Set aside.

IMG_5852

2. In a large bowl, add the ground fennel seeds, grated onion, minced garlic, ground turkey, brown sugar, thyme, paprika, sea salt, three turns of the black pepper mill, and a pinch of red pepper flakes, if using.

IMG_5855

3. Using your clean hands, mix all the ingredients until just combined. Don’t over-mix. Using a medium-sized ice cream scoop, portion out the patties onto parchment paper.

IMG_5856

4. Using a large sheet of plastic wrap, cover the patties and press on them until you get round patties about 1/2″ in thickness.

IMG_5857

5. Heat a large frying pan to medium heat. Add two tablespoons of olive oil.

6. Once the oil is hot, add the sausage patties. Fry them in two batches so you don’t crowd the pan.

IMG_5858

7. Fry for 2-3 minutes or until you get a nice sear. Flip the patties and cook for another two minutes.

IMG_5859

8. Serve immediately with some eggs.

IMG_5865

Duck Confit Hash

Duck leg confit is one of my favorite French dishes. The duck is slightly salty, mildly gamey, and has a crispy skin. In France, you will find duck confit on the menu of most brasseries. It is often served with crispy potatoes fried in duck fat and with a side salad. The process to make duck confit is a long one, which includes salt curing in the refrigerator for a couple of days and the poaching in its own fat for several hours. The duck is then pan-fried until the skin is crispy.

I’ve made duck confit in the past, but now for convenience sake, I buy it from my local specialty or gourmet shop. For my duck confit hash recipe, buying pre-made duck confit works beautifully. The recipe is relatively easy, and perfect for a special occasion like Mother’s Day Brunch. This recipe makes 2 servings, but you can double the recipe if you need more. Just remember, one duck leg confit and 4 ounces of potato per person. Enjoy!

 

Duck Confit Hash

Serving Size: 2

8 ounces of Yukon gold potato, 1 medium

Duck fat* or olive oil

2 prepared duck leg confit, about 8 ounces with the bones*

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of fresh time leaves, chopped

1/2 cup of reduced duck stock or veal stock**

Sea salt

Freshly grated black pepper

1 tablespoon of chopped Italian parsley (extra for garnish)

2 farm fresh eggs, poached soft

Cayenne for garnish, optional

 

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Peel and cut the Yukon gold potatoes to 1 inch dice.

IMG_5806

3. Toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon of melted duck fat or olive oil and sprinkle a little salt and freshly grated pepper. Transfer the potatoes to a sheet pan. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until nice and crispy.

4. Meanwhile, hand shred the duck confit meat off the bone. You want the meat in bite-size pieces.

IMG_5807IMG_5809

5. Poach the 2 eggs at this time for about 2 minutes. Place the poached eggs on a paper towel until ready to use. Set aside.

IMG_5820

6. Heat a large sauté pan to medium-high. Add 1 tablespoon of duck fat or olive oil to pan. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.

7. Add the duck confit meat and the chopped thyme. Sauté until the duck gets slightly crispy, about 2 minutes.

IMG_5812

8. Add the roasted potatoes and sauté for 1 more minute. Add the salt and pepper to taste.

IMG_5813

9. Pour the reduced stock and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened.

IMG_5814

10. Divide the hash in to serving bowls and top with a poached egg. Sprinkle cayenne pepper and parsley. Serve immediately.

IMG_5824

*Duck fat and duck leg confit can be purchased at a gourmet food store like Bristol Farms or Dean & Deluca, or online on Amazon. You can also purchase the duck leg confit in duck fat and get both ingredients in one purchase.

**Duck stock or veal stock can be purchased at your local gourmet food store. Make sure you purchase the frozen version without any salt. You can also use chicken stock if you can’t find duck or veal stock. Place 1 cup of stock in a small sauce pan. Cook on high heat until the stock is reduced by 1/2.

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

During most of my work conferences, the cookie tray rolls around mid-afternoon. Classic cookies like chocolate chip, peanut butter, chocolate, snickerdoodle, and oatmeal raisin are displayed. The chocolate chip cookies are the most popular and first to go, but that never bothered me because I seek out the oatmeal raisin cookies – my all-time favorite cookie. There many reasons I love this cookie: the wholesome texture, chewy raisins and the earthy flavor. Also, I feel better about eating them because of the whole grains and nuts. For me, the perfect oatmeal cookie is chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside, so that’s what I go for in my recipe. My cookie also has ingredients that add layers of textures: raisins, toasted walnuts, dark chocolate chunks and coconut flakes. As with all my cookie recipes, there is 1/3 less sugar than most traditional recipes, which makes me feel less guilty about eating them! Finally, for this recipe, I let the cookie dough refrigerate overnight. This helps soften the oats and meld all the flavors. Happy baking!

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

Yield: about 32 cookies

2 cups of quick oats

1 3/4 cup of Sonora wheat flour or unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of Kosher salt

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

2 sticks (1 cup) of unsalted butter, cold and cut into 16 pieces

1 cup of dark brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

2/3 cup of toasted and chopped walnuts*

2/3 cup of raisins

1/2 cup of chopped dark chocolate (60% cacao)

1/2 cup of sweetened coconut flakes

1. In a large bowl add the oats, flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Whisk and set aside.

IMG_5768

2. In a stand mixer, add the butter and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

IMG_5765.JPG

3. Add the brown and granulated sugars. Beat for 3 more minutes until light and fluffy. Scrap the sides of the bowl.

IMG_5766.JPG

4. Reduce the speed to low. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl in between.

IMG_5767.JPG

5. Add the vanilla extract and beat just until incorporated. Stop the mixer.

6. To the flour and oat mixture, add the walnuts, raisins, dark chocolates and coconut flakes. Stir to combine.

IMG_5770IMG_5771

7. Turn the the mixer on low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Once all the ingredients have been incorporated, stop mixer.

IMG_5772

8. Transfer the cookie dough into an airtight container and place in the refrigerator overnight for up to 3 days.

IMG_5775

9. When ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the cookie dough out of the refrigerator.

10. Using a 2 tablespoon size scooper, portion out the cookies on the cookie sheets, two inches apart.

IMG_5773

11. Using the palm of your hand, press down each portion to flatten slightly.

IMG_5774

12. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the sides are golden brown and top is no longer shiny.

IMG_5782

13. Cool the baked cookies on rack. Serve with cold milk or coffee.  Place any remaining cookies in a airtight container for up to 3 days.

IMG_5777.JPG
*For toasted walnuts, place the chopped walnuts on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven for 5-10 minutes at 350°. Cool completely before adding them into the recipe.

Almond Easter Egg Cookies

For this Easter, instead of making traditional vanilla iced sugar cookies, I created a cookie recipe based on one of my favorite flavors: almond. These cute iced almond cookies are moist, not too sweet and have a lovely almond flavor. In addition to almond extract, I added almond flour for more texture, and I also added natrural-dye sprinkles so the cookies will appeal to kids. Finally, this recipe only uses egg whites, which lightens the cookie dough. The recipe is very easy to follow and doesn’t even require a cookie-cutter!

If you love almond flavor, you’ll love these cookies. Enjoy and Happy Easter!

Yield: 1 dozen

3/4 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup of almond flour

1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup of granulated sugar

1 egg white

1 teaspoon of almond extract

3/4 cup of organic confectioners sugar

1 tablespoon of whole milk

1 teaspoon of almond extract

India Tree natural dye sprinkles

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, almond flour and salt. Set aside.

IMG_5722

3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, add the butter and sugar. Beat on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

IMG_5723

4. Meanwhile, whisk the egg white until frothy.

IMG_5725

5. Add the beaten egg white and the almond extract to the butter and sugar. Beat until just combined.

6. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture until just combined.

IMG_5726

7. Using a 1 1/2 tablespoons scoop, portion out 12 balls on the cookie sheet.

IMG_5728

8. Roll each ball and shape to resemble a small egg.

IMG_5730

9. Using the palm of your hand, press down to flatten. Bake for 10-11 minutes.

IMG_5731

10. Remove from the oven. Cool for about 10 minutes.

IMG_5732

11. Meanwhile, whisk the confectioners sugar, milk, and almond extract to make the icing. Have your sprinkles ready.

IMG_5733IMG_5734

12. Spoon some icing on each cookie and top with some sprinkles (You will want to add the sprinkles before the icing sets.)

IMG_5735IMG_5737

13. Let the icing harden. Serve the cookies with cold milk, coffee, or tea.

IMG_5744

Crab and Scallion Noodles

One of my favorite restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley is Newport Seafood, which specializes in Chinese-Vietnamese cuisine. They are famous for their house special lobster, but I prefer their house special crab. The crab is sautéed with scallions, ginger, and fresh peppers and is so delicious, I crave it all the time, but I reserve Newport for birthdays and special gatherings. To satisfy my craving, I took the same flavor profile and created this noodle dish. This recipe is easy to prepare, but it is important to have all the ingredients prepped in advance, because the recipe moves quickly. You want to time the noodles so that they finish cooking right as the crab is being added to the scallion mixture. For this recipe, I use one whole Dungeness crab. I steam the crab for 20 minutes and then pick out the meat. Adding fresh crab really makes a difference, but if you can’t find live crabs, you can buy the lump crab meat from your local supermarket. I hope you’ll love this noodle dish as much as I do. Enjoy!

 

Crab and Scallion Noodles

Serving Size: 4

 

1 lb of fresh chow mein noodles or Chinese wheat noodles

1/4 cup of unsalted butter (1/2 stick)

1 cup of 1/4″ sliced scallions (about 3-4)

2-3 mild red peppers, thinly sliced (extra for garnish)

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon of ginger juice*

2 tablespoons of oyster sauce

1 tablespoon of Maggi Seasoning**

1 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar, preferably organic

1/2 teaspoon of salt

3/4 teaspoon of freshly grated black pepper

1/2 lb of steamed Dungeness crabmeat or store-bought lump crab meat

Cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

 

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Take the chow mein noodles, separate them in a colander and set near the boiling pot.

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter on medium-low heat in a wok or a large sauté pan.

IMG_5677

3. Once the butter is melted, add the scallions, sliced red peppers, garlic and ginger juice. Increase the heat to medium high. Stir with a wooden spoon for about one minute.

IMG_5679

4. Add the oyster sauce, Maggi, sugar, salt, and black pepper. Stir for another minute.

IMG_5681

5. The water should be boiling at this point. Follow the instructions on the noodle package and cook the noodles. (Fresh noodles typically take anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes to cook).

IMG_5682

6. Meanwhile, add the crab to the scallion mixture and toss gently, so as not to break up the meat.

IMG_5687

7. Drain the noodles (but don’t rinse) and add to the crab and scallion mixture. Using tongs, toss gently. Taste for seasoning. Remove from the heat.

IMG_5691

8. Divide the noodles among 4 bowls. Add a few cilantro leaves and sliced red peppers. Give each bowl one turn of the pepper mill. Serve immediately.

IMG_5698

 

* To make ginger juice,  using a microplane grate about a tablespoon of ginger.  Push it through a sieve to collect the juices. You should have about a teaspoon.

**Maggi Seasoning  can be found in most Asian markets.  It contains MSG, so if you are allergic, you can substitute it with soy sauce.

IMG_5700

 

Kimchi-Jeon (Kimchi Pancakes)

Korean restaurants serve complimentary side dishes called banchan whenever you order a main dish. Occasionally, you will get a savory pancake served along side the assorted banchan. The most common style of pancake is pa-jeon (scallion pancake) but sometimes, if you get lucky, they will serve complimentary kimchi-jeon (kimchi pancake) instead. Kimchi-jeon is my favorite Korean pancake because of the heat level and intense flavor. I have fond memories of my mom making a huge tower of kimchi-jeon for lunch. My brothers and I would eat them until we were completely stuffed.

Here is an updated version of mom’s recipe. In my recipe, I sauté the onions prior to adding them to the batter to mellow out their sharp bite and to add natural sweetness to the kimchi-jeon. If you don’t like your kimchi-jeon too spicy, you can replace some of the kimchi juice with an equal amount of water. In that case, you should also add a pinch more salt. This recipe only makes two pancakes, unlike my mom’s recipe which can feed an army. I like to serve it as part of a larger Korean meal with other banchan. Enjoy!

Kimchi-Jeon (Kimchi Pancakes)

Yield: 2 large pancakes (4 servings as an appetizer)

 

Sunflower seed oil or organic canola oil

1/4 cup of chopped onions

1/2 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup of kimchi juice

2 tablespoons of water

1 large egg

3/4 cup of chopped kimchi

2 scallions, sliced crosswise

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon of sesame oil

Black sesame for garnish, optional

Organic soy sauce for serving

 

1. Heat a medium sauté pan to medium-low heat. Add 1 teaspoon of oil. Add the the chopped onions. Sauté for 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

IMG_5635
2. In a large bowl, add the flour, water, kimchi juice, and egg. Whisk well.

IMG_5637

3. Add the chopped kimchi, cooked onions, scallions, salt, black pepper, and sesame.

IMG_5638

IMG_5639

4. Heat a cast iron or heavy bottom frying pan to medium heat. Add a couple tablespoons of oil.

5. Add a ladle full of batter and spread to flatten and evenly distribute the kimchi.
Fry for 2 minutes or until golden brown.

IMG_5641

6. Flip over and fry the other side for 2 more minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Repeat to with the 2nd pancake.

IMG_5657.JPG

 
7. Using kitchen scissors, cut each pancake into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle black sesame seeds on top. Serve with soy sauce. They are best eaten when warm.