The burger: A burger -- scratch that, a top-notch burger -- has been part of chef Fernando Silvo's menu at Harriet Brasserie from the day the Linden Hills restaurant opened in spring 2012.
It's definitely the Chanel suit of burgers: Understated and uncomplicated, an instant classic. "It was never my intention to do something extraordinary," Silvo said. "It's just plain and simple. Everyone is doing so much with their burgers, and I tried to avoid that. Some people just want a straightforward burger, and that's what I'm giving them."
When a burger is this basic, the attention to detail has to be rigid and relentless. And it is. Like so many other smart chefs around town, Silvo is tapping the pasture-raised cattle raised at Peterson Limousin Farms in Osceola, Wis. His cut of choice is shoulder, in part because of its appealing fat-to-meat ratio. Silvo tempers the muscular meat's natural low-level gaminess by invoking a rudimentary cure, grinding it with just salt, pepper and bay leaves and slipping it into the refrigerator for a quietly transformative 24-hour stay.
Each patty is flattened into a thick, rough-hewn thing, and then grilled, until the center is mouth-melting, fall-apart pink, and each boldly beefy bite streams juices (this is definitely a two-napkin burger). Holding it in your hands -- and yes, if there was ever a two-fisted burger, it's this one -- the Harriet burger feels so substantial, so solid, so right. Even as it disappears.
Beef this good requires little in the way of distracting embellishments, and Silvo wisely exercises topology restraint: a thin, melty and gently sharp slice of Cheddar, a criss-cross of crispy thick-sliced bacon and a small mound of onions and Hen of the Woods mushrooms that have been nurtured on the stove with a generous amount of butter and the barest, faintest traces of truffle. That's it.
The effect is sublime, and I haven't even gotten to the bun, a golden, gleaming, egg-washed thing of delight. It somehow manages to be sturdy enough to hold up to the heavy-duty demands of that patty, yet it never veers into doughy ponderousness.
Silvo said he auditioned countless contenders to play the role of hamburger bun, and nothing was doing it for him. Then a local fine-foods purveyor turned him onto a bun that the company orders from a New York City bakery. Bingo. "It's obviously not super-local, which goes against my philosophy," Silvo said. "But I can't lie. They can't be beat."
No wonder this monster sells. And sells. "Maybe more than I want it to," Silvo said with a laugh. "I don't want people to think that we're a burger joint. I like to see people eating something else, too."
Fries: Included, and a joy. Silvo goes to great pains to achieve french fry greatness, cutting, rinsing and drying the potatoes the day prior and double-frying them. His labor pays off. Only the most supremely disciplined among us could be content with just one.
Price: $14. So worth it.
Address book: 2724 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-354-2197. Open for brunch 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Open for dinner 5-9 p.m. Sun.-Thu. and 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Talk to me: Have a favorite burger? Share the details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After last week’s embarrassment of a cream cheese challenge (I actually skipped over the bagels on my grocery list in protest), this week’s Top Chef rebounds nicely (mostly) from that ill-conceived advertorial to deliver a pair of challenges that actually had something to do with this year’s host city. A jazz-themed challenge was an inevitability for this New Orleans season, but it’s certainly not unwelcome, especially when you throw jazz great Kermit Ruffins into the mix.
This week’s Quickfire Challenge was so fun to watch unfold that I barely noticed how utterly flawed it was in concept until the winner was announced. Basically the challenge is musical chairs with chef stations instead of chairs and knives and loose electrical wires instead of sanity and sound decision-making. The concept is that - like jazz musicians - chefs should be able to improvise on the spot, which is why each chef ends up changing food stations four times, searching for dish continuity along the way. It’s fun watching chefs wander around to the sound of trumpet music (Sara did a jaunty dance!), most likely while pondering why so many jazz musicians are named Kermit, but ultimately this challenge just isn’t fair. Justin (who’s slowly turning into this season’s resident grouch) starts out nicely at the quail and flounder station but later gets stuck at the finishing point with tofu, a microwave and Patty’s lame attempt at couscous. There’s really no justice here.
Sara gets royally screwed here as Brian ends up winning the challenge and immunity for the Asian-inspired duck and mussels dish that Sara worked on for half of the four rotations. Brian is rightfully excited, but also a little embarrassed, as his self-admitted contribution to the dish was mainly centered on the plating. Earlier, Brian avoided making a big move by sautéing vegetables instead of dealing with frog legs, a dish Louis unfortunately got saddled with. Sara’s good-natured about not scoring a win on what’s essentially her dish, but I’m less even-tempered as I think Sara’s confidence really needs a boost at this stage. She serves a trout dish that was initially Carrie’s. It goes over well. Luckily, Sara is never at risk of needing immunity in this week’s big challenge, but Brian's win still stings.
Speaking of, the Elimination Challenge this week is also jazz-themed as the chefs are asked to work in groups (under the thin veil of jazz quartets or something) to make food for Kermit’s potluck. Puerto Rican chef Patty has never heard of potlucks before, but Midwestern girls Sara and Carrie (an Iowan native, if you need a refresher) have a much better grip on the concept, but still don’t exactly want to put their best ambrosia salad or tater tot hot dish recipes forward.
The groups get to pick their teams (or “bands,” as Tom Colicchio was forced by producers to say) and Sara picks a pretty solid one in Shirley, Justin and the momentum-gaining Louis on Team Blue. Less together are Team Gray, who are not only saddled with the immune Brian and iffy Patty and Travis, but also Nicholas, who had to sit out the Quickfire due to a possible case of strep throat. He’s back before he’s forced out of the competition, but not before doing his entire ingredient shopping via Travis and a cell phone.
Despite the paradoxical nature of the challenge (is a catered potluck really a potluck?), there’s a lot of fun to be had in watching jazz musicians (A Marsalis! A Neville! That guy Steve Zahn essentially plays on Treme!) shoot the breeze and eat the most uniformly good food the show’s had in weeks.
Sara’s team plays it smart by aiming at the local crowd with food that’s both comforting and indulgent, including grits, okra and beef. The teams ends up in the middle, with most of the praise falling on Louis’ grilled and pickled vegetables with sunflower seeds and mustard vinaigrette. Justin scores some love for his super-buttery grits, but also gets nailed for not having enough as much seasoning as the locals are used to. Sara splits her work with her BFF Shirley on a glazed beef with charred onions, melon pickles and a pickled ginger vinaigrette. At judge’s table, it’s called a bit dry, but all the scenes of the diners eating it appear to be positive. All in all, not a bad week for Sara, especially since I’ve rewritten that Quickfire in my head to be in her favor. Her makeup process continues to stun me.
The Green Team wins with their Italian-style dishes. Nina gets kudos for her gnocchi despite making gnocchi three times already, which is frankly kind of irritating. Carrie went weird with a nectarine, pistachio and goat cheese tiramisu that involved microwaved sponge cakes in a way that I still don’t understand. It’s beautiful, but not a resounding success. Instead, the winner is Stephanie, who surprised the judges with a nice fried artichoke dish with preserved lemons and anchovy aioli. Stephanie says she hasn’t won anything since “Most Improved” in high school basketball and I continue to love everything about her.
The losers are the gray team, who underwhelm despite Brian’s stellar fried chicken. Nicholas (who did most of the prep work, drawing a good-natured accusation of performance enhancing drug use from Stephanie) fizzles with a bland and unevenly prepared barramundi fricassee, while Travis gets knocked a few rungs down the ladder for putting too much rub on otherwise well-prepared caramel-glazed BBQ ribs. That means Patty finally goes home for another indifferently prepared dish. Her tomato watermelon salad (so much watermelon this season! Can this be the end, please?) is called bland by the judges, who also note that it really needed a savory element added somewhere along the way of its uninspired genesis. Patty was canon fodder since week one, but her hair was always very lovely.
Next week Sara appears to draw the ire of Louis during a horrific-looking pig butchery challenge. I’m concerned.
Minnesota did not send the largest number of competitors to the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off, held earlier this week in Las Vegas. That distinction is held by two states -- Texas and Pennsylvania, with 10 cooks each.
Among the Bake-Off's 100 finalists were four Minnesotans (the million-dollar winner was Glori Spriggs of Henderson, Nev., for her Loaded Potato Pinwheels). Here are their recipes:
ON THE GO BREAKFAST COOKIES
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
Note: From Beverly Batty of Forest Lake.
1 package Pillsbury Big Deluxe refrigerated oatmeal raisin cookies
1/2 c. Pillsbury Creamy Supreme Coconut Pecan Frosting
1/2 c. quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
1/4 c. flaxseed
1 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped '
2 tbsp. sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Let cookie dough stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, combine cookie dough, frosting, oats, flaxseed, walnuts, cranberries and coconut and mix until thoroughly combined.Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake until edges are light golden brown, about 12 to 16 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
MINI ITALIAN SHEPHERD'S PIES
Makes 36 appetizers.
Note: From Sonya Goergen of Moorhead.
1 box (9 oz) Green Giant® frozen chopped spinach, divided
1 lb, extra lean (at least 90%) ground beef
1/2 c. finely chopped onion
1 c. marinara sauce
1 box Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
1 package (24 oz) refrigerated mashed potatoes (about 2 1/2 c.)
2/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 36 mini-muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray. In a microwave oven, cook frozen spinach to thaw, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from oven and squeeze spinach dry with paper towels. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, brown ground beef, breaking up large pieces, until meat is no longer pink, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in onion and cook 3 to 4 minutes until tender. Drain pan of oil. Stir in marinara sauce and half of the spinach.
Meanwhile, unroll pie crusts. Using 2 1/4-inch round cookie cutter, cut 18 rounds from each crust, rerolling dough if necessary. Press each round in bottom and up side of muffin cups. Spoon rounded tablespoon meat mixture in each cup.
In a microwave oven, cook mashed potatoes as directed on package, about 2 to 3 minutes. In a medium bowl, mix potatoes, remaining spinach, cheese, salt and pepper until well blended. Top each cup with a rounded tablespoon of potato mixture. Bake until potatoes are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cups to loosen pies. Serve warm.
SEEDS AND CHOCOLATE PASTRY WEDGES
Note: From Vicki Mager of Bloomington.
1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
2 1/4 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 c. dried currants
1/4 c. roasted unsalted sunflower nuts
1/4 c. roasted salted hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/4 c. Jif Chocolate Flavored Hazelnut Spread
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Unroll pie crust on an ungreased baking sheet. Pinch outside edge of crust to form a 1/4-inch rim. Prick dough several times with fork. In small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over crust. In medium bowl, mix currants, sunflowers nuts and pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle mixture over crust. Press mixture firmly into crust. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and bake until edges are light golden brown, about 3 to 6 minutes longer. Remove from oven and immediately cut into 12 wedges. Do not separate wedges. Spoon chocolate hazelnut spread into decorating bag or 1-quart resealable food storage plastic bag; seal bag. Cut off tiny corner of bag; squeeze bag to drizzle spread over seeds. Cool completely.
ORANGE CARDAMOM BLUEBERRY CROSTATA
Note: From Cathy Wiechert of Mound.
1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
1/2 c. Smucker's Orchard's Finest Pacific Grove Orange Marmalade Medley
2 tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
2 c. fresh blueberries
1 egg yolk
1 to 2 tbsp. coarse white sparkling sugar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a 15x-10-inch baking pan with sides with parchment paper. Unroll pie crust in prepared pan. In medium bowl, mix preserves, flour and cardamom. Carefully fold in blueberries. Spoon mixture over crust to within 2 inches of edge. Fold edge of crust over filling, pleating crust as necessary. In small bowl, beat egg yolk with two teaspoons water. Lightly brush crust edge with egg mixture; sprinkle with sugar. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly, 17 to 23 minutes. Remove from oven and cool at least 30 minutes before serving.
The 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off takes place on Monday in Las Vegas (for the first time in the contest's 64-year history), and four Minnesotans are among the 100 finalists.
This year's Bake-Off finds competitors in three recipe divisions: Amazing Doable Dinners, Simple Sweets and Starters and Quick Rise and Shine Breakfasts.Recipes must have seven ingredients or less and require 30 minutes or less in preparation time.
There's plenty on the line: $1 million to the grand-prize winner. From there, the drop-off is steep: $10,000 for second place, along with $5,000 for third place and four $5,000 special award winners. (Doughboy image, above, courtesy of Pillsbury).
The four Minnesotans are:
Beverly Batty of Forest Lake, preparing On the Go Breakfast Cookies (which calls for Pillsbury refrigerated oatmeal raisin cookies and Pillsbury Creamy Supreme Coconut Pecan Frosting).
Vicki Mager of Bloomington, preparing Seeds and Chocolate Pastry Wedges (which features Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts).
Do you have a favorite Bake-Off recipe? Mine is Peanut Blossom cookies, from the 1957 Bake-Off.
The burger: When she opened Yum! Kitchen and Bakery eight years ago, there was a simple reason why owner Patti Soskin included a burger on the menu.
“Because everyone wants a hamburger once in a while,” she said. “And having a damn good burger on the menu is a good thing.”
You’ll get no argument from this Yum! regular. Soskin’s tarragon chicken salad sandwich has been my default order, practically since Day 1 – so much so that I’d forgotten that she even had a burger on the menu, that’s how crazy I am for that sandwich.
But when a friend reminded me that the Yum! burger was a longtime favorite, I investigated. And now I understand why. Soskin is right. This is one damn good burger.
I’ll reveal a little bias here: I’m head-over-heels when it comes to the rich, eggy and bewitchingly golden challah at Yum! (so much so that it's my Thanksgiving stuffing's secret ingredient). Sliced and toasted, it’s the foundation for that one-of-a-kind chicken salad sandwich, and Soskin and her crew wisely employ the same formula for their burger buns, swiping them with a hint of butter and coaxing them into a slight toast on the grill.
Then there’s the patty. It's a ground-in-house blend of chuck and tenderloin scraps, loosely formed into wide, thick patties. There’s definite discipline in the seasoning, just the right amounts of salt and pepper. The kitchen prepares them two ways, grilled or pan-seared.
“It’s the Burger King-McDonald’s thing,” said Soskin with a laugh, explaining why she offers a choice between the two cooking methods. Turns out that the majority of customers order their burgers grilled. But Soskin admitted that she prefers the pan-seared version, and I’m with her. The skillet’s flat surface evenly distributing the stove’s high heat across the patty, burnishing the meat with a tasty caramelized crust, leaving the inside wonderfully juicy.
Another reason to love: Patty and bun are an exact fit.
“I’m nutty about that,” said Soskin with a laugh. “Don’t give me a burger that doesn’t cover the bun.”
Toppings are kept to a minimum, just the standard tomato slice, raw onion and lettuce leaf. Cheese (at an additional 50 cents) melts as expected. That’s it, although who needs anything more? Not me.
Price: $8.95, and, like the vast majority of items across the Yum! menu, a tremendous value, with both quantity and quality equally in play.
Fries: Not included (although they’re worth the $5.25 upcharge, and then some). Instead, the burger shares the plate with a big-old handful of the kitchen’s superb potato chips. I always make a silent vow to eat just one of them, but their crispy, salty and barely greasy ways foil my not-so-steely reserve, every time.
Celebrate: On Nov. 18th, Soskin is marking her restaurant’s eighth birthday with what I consider to be a near-priceless giveaway: free mini-cupcake versions of her divine Patticake, an ultra-moist, super-chocolatey cake crowned with an indecently generous layer of vanilla buttercream icing. Don't miss it.
Address book: 4000 Minnetonka Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-922-4000. Open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Talk to me: Do you have a favorite burger? Share the details at email@example.com.
|Restaurant Bargains (2)||Holidays (45)|
|Deals (1)||Farmers markets (64)|
|Baking (56)||Chefs (94)|
|Cookbooks (39)||Cooking at the cabin (5)|
|Farmers and foraging (30)||Healthy eating (32)|
|Locally-produced food (63)||Minnesota newsmakers (122)|
|On the national scene (103)||Openings + closings (29)|
|Recipes (103)||Restaurant news (205)|
|Restaurant reviews (38)||Beer (1)|
|Food, beer, wine events (25)||TV food shows (25)|