burger

The Best Burger, Ever

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Once I had an ample supply of homemade ketchup and bread and butter pickles, I set out on a quest to make the best burger ever. For me, that means that the ground beef has to be pasture raised and grass fed by a farmer I’ve actually met.

This is not an easy proposition on Cape Cod. There are a few small scale farmers who raise beef cows, but none of them are large enough to sell just a pound of ground beef. Our budget doesn’t allow us to buy a share of half a cow all at once. Plus, I know from experience that the butcher matters when it comes to good quality meat. I’d rather sample one pound and then go back for more than buy 500 pounds of meat I might not like.

One local source for farm raised meat is John Crow Farm in Groton. They sell a nice variety of meat at the Chatham Farmer’s Market, which is open every Tuesday from 3 to 6:30 p.m. through October 30. I’ve tried their sausage and their hamburger and it is very good. I also head off Cape to a farm in Dartmouth every few months.

Locally grown meat and poultry is fairly expensive, so I was excited to find meat reasonably priced at the Londonderry Farmers’ Market the last time I was in Vermont. I bought a few pounds of ground beef for $5 a pound and a whole chicken for $3.50 a pound. Farm raised meat is always frozen for safety reasons, so I packed it all in a cooler with ice and it was still frozen when I reached the Cape.

Last week I finally got around to cooking the chicken side by side with a chicken bought at the grocery store to do a taste test. Surprisingly, we really couldn’t taste any difference between the two. That led me to conclude that the only reason to buy locally raised chicken is for the assurance that the animal was raised in a humane way with no antibiotics or other hocus pocus. But the difference in flavor with ground beef really is dramatic, so we feel it’s worth paying more for it. We just eat less to make up for the cost.

At this point, I had my ketchup, I had my pickles, and I had my beef.  I still had some sheep’s cheese from Woodcock Farm in Weston, Vermont. I picked one of the last tomatoes from our garden and bought some greens and a red onion from the farm stand at Longnook Meadows Farm in Truro.

The last remaining ingredient was the hamburger bun. I have searched far and wide for a hamburger bun that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup or soybean oil and they are not easy to find.

I decided to bite the bullet and make my own buns. I searched online for a recipe and found a few that looked good. I printed them and analyzed the ingredients.  The recipes looked awfully familiar to me. In fact, they were almost identical to my grandmother’s recipe for the dough that I use to make our favorite thick crust farm pizza.

Now that we’re down to just three people at our dining room table, I only need to make one pan of pizza, which I had just done a few nights before. The other half of the dough was in the freezer, so I pulled it out and gave it a try. The results were amazing. My son and the Kitchen Genius agreed. I’ve already made them twice and I can honestly say that I will never buy another hamburger or hotdog bun again.

Hamburger Buns
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Servings
8
Servings
8
Hamburger Buns
BigOven - Save recipe or add to grocery list
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Servings
8
Servings
8
Ingredients
Dough:
  • 1 cup milk , scalded
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3-1/2 to 4 cups flour
Optional:
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Scald milk in small saucepan and set aside to cool. Dissolve yeast in warm water and let proof until thick and creamy. Place butter, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. When milk is lukewarm, add it to the bowl along with yeast mixture and egg. Mix until blended and then add three cups of flour. Stir until blended and slowly add remaining cup of flour until dough is of kneading consistency. You probably won’t need the entire cup.
  3. Knead dough for ten minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Place dough in buttered bowl and cover with a clean dish towel. Set dough in dark warm place for one hour, until it has doubled in size.
  4. At this point you can cut dough in half and freeze half of it if you only need four buns. If making the full recipe, break dough into eight equal size pieces. Form each piece into a bun shaped disc. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and place each disc on the paper, leaving space for buns to rise. Lightly cover buns with plastic wrap.
  5. Let rise for a half an hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. While oven is heating up, remove plastic wrap from buns. Lightly brush each bun with either an egg wash or milk. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes, or until golden brown.
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apple bread pudding 2

Apple Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

Our family gatherings just got a whole bunch bigger. My youngest brother recently moved to the Cape along with his wife and four children. Our weekly family dinners were averaging about 10 to 12 people. Add six more and it’s quite a crowd. But somehow we have managed to pull off fabulous dinners two weekends in a row.

My mother suggested early on that all dinners by necessity should be pot lucks, with everybody contributing something. Our house is the biggest so we usually host. At first I was worried that our little rescue puppy Cooper would lose his mind over all those people invading his territory. He suffered from a pretty bad case of fear aggression in his first months with us. Even though he only weighs seven pounds, when he is frightened he is seven pounds of charging fury.

 

Coops 2
Best buds Sadie and Cooper love to rest in the sun

I spent about six months reading every dog training book I could find. About two months ago, he finally relaxed and realized our house is safe. But just to be sure, I warned my brother’s kids to leave him alone. Thankfully they are well-behaved children who listen well. Even so, I never leave him in the room alone with a child. It’s not safe for him or the kids.

Besides, it’s not like we don’t have plenty of other pets that are child friendly. Our other miniature dachshund, Sadie, loves children and has gone camping with my brother’s kids every year so she knows them. Our cat Chloe is so friendly that she hugs people. Even the chickens allow the kids to pick them up.

Gini and Molly
Our niece Gini May holding a very cooperative chicken named Molly.

Before everyone arrives, the Kitchen Genius builds a fire in our fire pit. There is plenty of seating down there and most gatherings begin with everyone catching up around the fire. After dinner, the guys tend to go back to the fire. Others sit at our dining room table and the young mothers tend to gather in the living room with their babies.

Our menu for our first gathering was simple. Shaw’s had chicken thighs on sale, buy one, get one free. We bought six packages and KG barbecued them over the fire. My mother brought potato salad and I made macaroni salad and baked beans. I sliced up a watermelon and KG put out jars of homemade pickles.

In true KG form, dessert was inspired by ingredients we had on hand. We had a loaf of homemade bread and a bag of apples in the refrigerator. Apple bread pudding was an obvious choice. I spruced up the homey dessert with some bourbon sauce and it became a recipe we will make again.

apple bread pudding 1

The trick to a good bread pudding is to make sure the bread really soaks up the milk and eggs. You need to let it rest for about a half an hour before baking it. The mixture of milk and eggs should be about three-quarters of the way up the side of the pan. Otherwise you have a dry and bready dessert rather than the tender custard you are seeking.

Apple Bread Pudding
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Servings
12-15
Servings
12-15
Apple Bread Pudding
BigOven - Save recipe or add to grocery list
Yum
Print Recipe
Servings
12-15
Servings
12-15
Ingredients
Apple Bread Pudding
  • 8 cups stale bread , cut into cubes
  • 4 Macintosh apples , peeled and diced (3 cups)
  • 10 eggs, , beaten
  • 5 cups whole organic milk
  • 3/4 cup pure cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Bourbon Sauce
  • 2 cups organic heavy cream
  • 1/2 organic whole milk
  • 1/2 cup pure cane sugar
  • 1/3 cup bourbon
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons organic salted butter
Servings:
Instructions
Apple Bread Pudding
  1. Place bread cubes in a deep dish 13 by 9 pan and toss with apples until well distributed. Mix remaining ingredients. Pour mixture over bread and apples and let rest for a half an hour. Press bread down into the egg mixture several times, including just before baking.
  2. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Since ovens vary, I often check it at about 50 minutes and then every five to ten minutes after that. Serve warm with bourbon sauce.
Bourbon Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine cream, milk and sugar. Mix corn starch and bourbon together in a small bowl to make a slurry. When cream mixture is hot, add the bourbon slurry and whisk to combine. Bring sauce to a boil and then turn down to a simmer, stirring constantly. Cook for five minutes to burn off the alcohol. Remove saucepan from burner and whisk in salt and butter. Serve warm.
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