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Turkey Osso Buco, and a tribute to a legend.

A few years back, before I found out that my entire database of Thanksgiving memories was built on a corporately fragmented hard drive, but after I had built enough of a true database to know that I did not like traditionally roasted turkey, my family started to mix it up on Turkey Day.

One year, it was a Thanksgiving goose (roasted on potatoes that cooked in the goose fat… how could that have been bad?).  Another year, a lavender-smoked duck.  Another year, another piece of fowl.  Something about the Burgerrati family just yearns to rebel against the Thanksgiving tradition.

This year not being an exception, it was decided that this year’s feast would feature a new addition to the mix: the turkey osso buco.  My stepmom found a recipe from Giada (I know, I know), and it couldn’t have been simpler.

It’s a few quick steps: brown the turkey in oil after a light dusting of flour  (the recipe calls for the breast and thigh, but the breast is not necessary at all, just stick with the dark meat, including the drumstick), add the mirepoix, cook until soft, add some white wine and some tomato paste, add the turkey back into the pot and cover with stock.  Pop it into the oven and let it do it’s thang.  Couldn’t be easier.

Oh yeah, and on top is a little gremolata (parsley, lemon zest, garlic, rosemary, salt/pepper).  Yep, be jealous.

The best part is, you don’t even need to do this on Thanksgiving– it’s anytime food.

Now, on to another piece of business.  As you all know, I just got back from a little journey to the left coast.  And, as I always do, I stopped by In-n-Out.  I just can’t resist its charm.  I even took pictures of my lunch, and was all ready to write a great post about the feelings that I-N-O evinces from my very soul.  It was going to get me published in a national publication (again- ZING!).  It would be my master oeuvre.

Imagine my dismay when I see this.  Quelle horreur!  What the hell, Nick?  You took my glory.  You are already a well-known blogger man, give some love to the little guys!  But you know what, I am going to do it anyway.  And, check out that link again, and look at the comments.  Look who started typing I-N-O first.  Yeah, burgerblogger, that’s who.

In any case, I got to experience the joy that is In-n-Out when I was back home.  While I was in high school, a location opened about a quarter-mile from my house.  This was a great addition to the ‘hood, and it allowed me to start experiencing burgers for more than just a patty of ground beef on a bun.  When this location opened, it turned out to be one of the few places on which both my mom and I could agree that we liked the food.  It was one of the few places that my mom would get excited about if I mentioned I wanted to go there.  That memory has stayed with me, and I reserve my In-in-Out trips for when I am staying at her house.

There it is- the lunch of champions.  A glorious 880 calories.


It's turkey time.


It must almost be Thanksgiving.

It seems like all I do these days is go to Kennedy Airport and head off to faraway lands.  Today I’m heading to the left coast, to pay a visit to the burgerrents.  And, of course, it is thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a great holiday.  I mean, when else can you unabashedly stuff your face with rich foods, using the excuse, “well, it is thanksgiving…”?  Never.  Except maybe Christmas, New Year’s, your birthday, groundhog day, every other Monday, and Friday.  Oh, and saturday.

Growing up, Thanksgiving always meant stuffing and canned cranberry jelly.  To this day, I still look forward to eating both of those items on the magical fourth Thursday in November.  Now, as a little kid, I was slightly fooled about the Thanksgiving stuffing that my dad used to make.  My mom, being a foreigner, didn’t really know too much about stuffing, and made it out that my dad’s stuffing was this revelation, a recipe handed down from generation to generation (although, in retrospect, I highly doubt my italian-born great-grandmother knew what Thanksgiving stuffing was).

In any event, the smell of my dad’s stuffing permeated the house on Thanksgiving Day, and the taste was always delightful.  I hoped that some day, I, too, would be able to make this magical delicacy.

A few years ago, I got my chance.  I was asked to cook Thanksgiving dinner for my family a couple of family friends.  I started to plan months in advance, thinking about how the timing would work, and how my culinary skills would astound and amaze my guests.  There would be butternut squash soup with toasted pine nuts, pancetta, and a sage cream, mashed potatoes with rosemary and caramelized shallots, chickpea flat bread with rosemary and gorgonzola, turkey, and, of course, my great-great-great-great grandmother’s super-secret recipe for turkey stuffing.

I knew that it had one ingredient: breakfast sausage.  It never really dawned on me that again, a foreigner would not have breakfast sausage.  Especially not Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage.  I guess this was another one of those things that I was fooled about, just like Uncle Ben being my uncle.

That was an honest mistake.  I thought he was just really tanned.

Anyway, I asked my dad if he had the recipe.  Thinking he would say, “yes, son, I can give you the recipe, but promise me you’ll guard it with your life.”  Then, he would pull it out of his wallet: a frayed, worn-to-the-point-of-being-like-cotton recipe card, written in ancient script (aka, cursive).  He would hand it to me with a look of pride, as I, his only son, would inherit the stuffing recipe.

Imagine my dismay when he told me, “Uhh, I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I think the recipe is from the package of Pepperidge Farm stuffing.  I mean, it’s just sausage, celery, and onions.”


PEPPERIDGE FARM?  My entire childhood was based on a recipe that some “test kitchen” at the Campbell’s Company came up with?  Jimmy Dean® Old Fashioned Breakfast sausage™, onions, LUCKY Brand celery, Swanson®-brand chicken stock for moisture, and a bag of Pepperidge Farm®-brand stuffing (Original™ or Herb Seasoned™), baked for about 45 minutes in a Pyrex® a pre-heated 350-degree General Electric Monogram™ oven was not a Burgeretti family recipe?  Are you kidding me?  I was duped by corporate america?

Apparently I had been.

I always knew that the cranberry jelly came from a can, so that wasn’t really a problem for me.  But this whole stuffing thing basically meant that my entire Thanksgiving history was based on a corporate sham.  A rich, meaty, delicious sham, but a sham nonetheless.  What was next?  Was mom’s Easter “alphabet-shaped pasta in a sweet and highly viscous red tomato-sauce-like sauce” also a widely available commercial product?

Couldn’t be.

In other news, here’s a picture of a grass-fed sirloin steak I made last night.  Just thought I’d share.  I’d also like to give a shout-out to chanterelle mushrooms, just because they are awesome.  Especially when they are cooked in a pan that has leftover black truffle bits and butter in it.  I’m just saying, they are delicious.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


A post about Gourmet Magazine because this is a food blog.

So I need to have some sort of opinion.

I feel like I would be remiss not to post about Gourmet magazine being yanked from the shelves after the November issue (I don’t need to link to it because if you’re reading my blog, you probably know about this already).  Working in the marketing business, I have had long standing relationships with a few people who worked at Gourmet, and I have nothing but positive things to say about them all.

That said, my own relationship with the magazine has been a tumultuous one.  That’s a little melodramatic, but blogs revel in the extremes.  I am a dedicated reader of both Gourmet and bon appétit.  I will put that out there first.  Around five years ago, I devoured bon ap like there was no tomorrow.  To be honest, I didn’t like Gourmet.  I thought it was too hoity-toity, with all of its edit about traveling to Italy and eating truffles in Piedmont, and going to Warsaw to eat pierogi.  It was so snobbish.  BA was there, like a trusted advisor, for home chefs, like me.  I wasn’t going anywhere but the D’Agostino around the corner, and if I was feeling frisky, to the Grand Central Market.  I could have carried my passport if I went to Chinatown, just to make it feel authentic, but for all intents and purposes, I was a land-locked, cash-strapped, twenty-something with a tiny kitchen and a moderately strong food imagination.  Replete with recipes, BA was my go-to guide in the culinary world.

Then a funny thing happened.  The economy crashed.  Gourmet lost ad pages.  All of a sudden, Flushing, Queens, was the new “hot spot.”  The ad pages dropped dramatically.  McKinsey knows that.  But anyone who is a dedicated reader could have told you that long before looking at a P&L sheet.  For us readers, this was great.  We were getting: a) more relevant content; b) fewer pesky ads (ssh, don’t tell anyone I said that); and c) a better sense as to what Gourmet had been trying to do from the onset, before it got sucked into the Condé Nast “holier-than-all-other-magazines” way of operating.  I became a dedicated Gourmet reader.  I relished its arrival in my free magazine pile every month.  bon appétit lost me along the way, at some time around its “food porn” redesign.  I had gone Gourmet, and there was no turning back.  Chicken liver is for oafs… I only eat foie gras from the Périgord.

And now, Gourmet is gone.

Personally, I am conflicted about this.  While I will probably head back to BA, groveling with the smell of stale caviar on my breath, I will miss the feeling that I got from reading Gourmet.  That said, in all honesty, I will not read it online, I will not buy cookbooks under the brand name, and I will not watch “Diary of a Foodie.”  Basically, the brand will be dead to me.  And life will go on.  I really liked CHOW magazine, too, and we all know how that ended.

On a more professional note, I am less conflicted.  I am happy to see it go.  I think Condé needs to wake up and smell the roses, and I am glad that McKinsey is making this happen.  The editorial was great, but great editorial doesn’t always pay the bills (unfortunately for the editors).  From an advertiser’s viewpoint, the product was mediocre at best, and the disproportionately high ad pricing resulting in a disproportionately high decline in ad pages proves it.  Sorry, maybe you should have negotiated rates when you had the chance.


It's this simple.

What does a good hamburger mean?  Ingredients alone do not a good hamburger make.  There is a certain artistry required.  What it is, exactly, I don’t know.  I read recently that when a hamburger is good, “you just know.”

It’s true.  You do just know.

If I think back to some my most memorable burger experiences, a few stand out, and only a couple are actually a product of the hamburger itself.

Going to Burger King with my dad in London at Piccadilly Circus in the summer of 1999 stands out, not because I love Burger King (I actually kind of dislike it), but because my dad, who is allergic to beef, suggested it.  His rationale– it being the “king” had to make it British.

A thin, measly patty of grey ground beef at the 2004 US Open at Shinnecock Hills.  I don’t know why, but those frozen patties grilled to oblivion with a slice of american cheese and a layer of ketchup get me in the right place.

My first time to the Corner Bistro with the Grizza– my introduction to something quintessentially New York.  A sign that I would be a “regular.”  This became my city, in some respects.  I was welcomed.  Maybe that’s an exaggeration.  But I found myself in the midst of a place with a cult following.  I felt like I was a part of something larger– the New York “burgerrati.”  Hell, I’m part of a crew trying to take over the nation based solely on ground beef and bread.

In-n-out with my parents, years unknown.  We’d wait in the car for what seemed like forever.  I don’t even remember the burger.  I just remember it happening.

I used to get my grandmother cheeseburgers and coffee from McDonald’s pretty much every day, since it was one of the few things she would eat as her overall mental and physical health declined.  She and I couldn’t really communicate, since she spoke little english and I spoke no spanish.  After I would help her get to the kitchen table, we used to eat burgers at the kitchen table.  I used to be nervous because I didn’t really know what to say to her.  But I think she appreciated it.  I hope she did, at least.  I wish that I spoke spanish.  I bet she wished she spoke english.

The first bloggingforburgers experience– at JG Melon’s, fittingly, was a mini-culmination.  Four guys, from different places, with different life plans, came together around a piece of ground beef and two pieces of bread.

That’s what makes a good burger.

And what makes a bad burger?  Easy– bad ingredients and bad flavor.  And no story.