Why hello there, and welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes, one man’s attempt to make enough food to fill the gaping void within him, but not so much it ruins his beach bod. I’m your calorie-conscious callant, Jon O’Guin. Sometimes I do weird things. And other times, I state the obvious. Today’s post is for a pair of sandwiches that are a little outside the norm for me and my carnivorous kin, so let’s explain how we got here.
Cause You Know Where I’ll Be Found, When I Come Around
Nice 90’s reference, title Jon. And bonus points for the sandwich/band-name tie-in. Anyway, some time ago, I wrote a post about culinary sources of authority. If you don’t have time to read the post, and are worried that phrase sounds super-pretentious, I’ll summarize for you. It won’t really help the pretentious problem, but at least you’ll get the basic context. Besides, if you're talking to me to LESSEN the level of pretention you’re dealing with…
That's right, I'll reference the Thor 2: The Dark World. AKA "The Marvel Movie Time Forgot".
Basically, I talked about the idea of who is “allowed” to change/create recipes. I focused on the fact that I had recently stopped at a strip-mall sushi joint that had a dozen rolls I’d never heard of, and how I immediately went “Well, these must WORK, otherwise this place couldn’t afford to keep them on the menu.” And I contrasted that immediate acceptance with my immediate dismissal of the idea of a grape-jelly and foie gras doughnut being good, despite the recipe coming from a restaurant both famous for making them, and succeeding in New York City, and being created by an award-winning chef who was a protégé of one of my favorite food television personalities, Alton Brown.
And I didn’t want to feel Justin Warner to feel like I was singling him out in my reluctance to try his work despite believing in him, as I totally know how that feels. Basically every other recipe I make for this site is treated by my immediate family with the same caution one gives a barking pit bull: a slow approach marked by constant, quiet, not-truly-confident affirmations that everything is going to be okay, followed by gentle contact and the held-breath questioning second of “Was this a terrible choice?”
Is this the face of regret?
Where was I? Oh, yeah, doubting Justin. Well, he wasn’t alone: Alton Brown himself had a recipe that I mulled over for months before deciding to make it: the Roast Broccoli Hero from his latest cookbook, “everdaycook”. And then, once I decided I was going to make a Roast Broccoli Hero, I figured that some of my family members wouldn’t have the spiritual fortitude to join me, so I decided to make Turkey Burgers as well. So, let’s talk brocc!
DRAM was Going to Be Our Guest Author, but…Well, 4/20 Was Friday…
Do the youths still care about DRAM? I have no idea. It doesn’t matter, we’re talking about Roast Broccoli Hero. I think one thing that Alton did that helped me come around to the RBH while I still haven’t accepted the Foie-Gras Doughnut is that he related to me, the reader. It’s an important thing as an author. Like, earlier, when I used that metaphor about the Pitbull: I’ve actually never been afraid of Pitbulls. Mr Worldwide excepted, of course.
The fact that his catchphrase, "Dale" (meaning "do it/give it to them" in Spanish) is spelled exactly like "Dale" (the name for men and Chipmunks in English) really bothers me.
By the time I heard pit-bulls sometimes bit people, I was big enough to not care. Like, I was 6 feet tall and 180 pounds by age 13 or so. Hell, by that point, I had a dog that ACCIDENTALLY bit people all the time. (Buddy didn’t understand that he couldn’t lick people with his mouth open, so he’d shove his face up to you, realize his mistake, and close his mouth to start licking. This was an activity fraught with accident.)
Anyway, Alton approaches this sandwich with an initial sense of derision, telling us that he too, doubted, thinking it “the rantings of a hipster sandwichteer.” And that’s some flak, because Alton has hosted years of food television. And also, he called a guy a hipster while using the word “sandwichteer”, which isn’t TECHNICALLY a real word. It literally appears only 20 times on Google, and roughly 4 of them are link errors to identical sites. (like, the same blog post has two links, Alton’s book is three of them.) by writing the word twice here, I have increased its viability by something like 7%.
In learning those facts, I also learned that Farsi DOES have a word for "someone who makes sandwiches", and that it is "Sandwichi". I'm just saying, it's not to late to change our direction.
He says he was persuaded by taste, and when he makes it at home, he subs out some of the more obscure ingredients. I don’t know how much I believe that last bit, since while, yes, he substitutes the Korean salad muchim with some tarted up pickle chips, he also replaces Feta cheese with Ricotta Salata, a cheese I, despite being an amateur cheesemonger, have never personally SEEN. One has to be in weird company when obscure Ricottas are more readily available than Feta. But the last ingredient is French’s Fried Onions, a condiment I only allow myself to buy around holidays, because I’ve discovered I will eat a container as if it were a bag of potato chips if left unattended, so I allowed myself to be persuaded as well.
Ingredients assembled, the actual recipe is…pretty minimal. Like, you whip up a mini-brine for your pickles to soak in, you roast some broccoli…and we’re done. I mean, yeah, we could toast the buns, bust seriously, THIS
I don't know why I even take shots of marinades. They always look weird.
Is about 45% percent of the actual work in the recipe. Garlic, Ginger, sesame oil, sweet chili sauce, and…pickle brine. Toss your pickles in it, let them soak up the pseudo-Asian flavors, and cut up a head of broccoli.
How boring is this process? These are literally the only two pictures I took of it before the final assembled sandwich. I have more pictures of the raw turkey meat being mixed up than I do of this entire sandwich.
How does it taste? Well, hold your horses, A-mi-go. We got another sandwich to make for this shindig, don’t we? Before we chow down, we gotta get our birds in a row.
It’s hard to think of good Turkey puns at 1 AM.
But that’s the price one pays for traveling on the weekend: limited time to type. Luckily, this week is the first in several months where literally no one has a legitimately yielded claim on my time, so I can pass out now and finish in the morning! Haha! HA-zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
You may say "Jon, this is a weird picture to use to demonstrate that you fell asleep."
And that's because it's also an allusion to facts you learn in the next paragraph, Mr (or Mrs, no need to be sexist) Smarty Pants
Slight historical fact: apparently, the use of “z’s” to signify sleeping (or, more precisely, snoring) was an invention of comic strips in the early 1900’s, first used in the Katzenjammer Kids in 1903. They were just chosen as the closest easy symbol for the nasal buzzing of snores. Interestingly, the idea of z’s as a BUZZING noise is older: Thoreau referred to the buzzing of locusts as “z-ing” in 1852, so that may have had some influence.
That historical hit of heroin coursing through Jon’s newly awakened faculties, let’s return to turkey burgers, and a terrible thing Jon did.
If you’re staring at that brown sludge with trepidation…well, I was going to say “it’s fine”, but that would be slightly disingenuous. On its own, that sludge is, frankly, almost toxic. But it’s not made to be eaten alone. See, Turkey burgers have a disadvantage when compared to standard beef burgers, and that disadvantage is that turkeys don’t produce the same glutamates as cows. Meaning that they lack the umami that a normal burger possesses.
In case you haven’t been tuned in to recent food developments, or simply never knew what the word meant, umami is the recently discovered and more recently popularized fifth flavor, as for years science acknowledged only salty, sweet, bitter, and sour. Umami is most easily understood as “savory” by Western speakers. (The term is Japanese because the flavor was scientifically discovered in Japan.) As a flavor, it’s best appreciated WITH other flavors, as it serves as an enhancement. Things with umami compounds taste MORE like themselves, and also taste more complex, more “meaty”, and so on. It’s a very hard flavor to describe, so most of the time, authors resort to pointing out ways you’ve already been using it without knowing. Three big umami sources are tomato paste, anchovies, and parmesan. That’s the reason a lot of stews or beef products stir in a couple tablespoons of tomato paste, and why recipes add chopped up anchovies to a stew or sauce early on so it can dissolve. It’s why Parmesan is the go-to cheese for shredding on top of pasta.
In any case, as noted, beef has a lot more of it than turkey, meaning that if, like most Americans, you’re used to eating beef burgers, then eating a turkey burger will often taste…lacking. It’s part of the joke in the Soulmates episode of Parks and Rec: a simple beef patty on a bun beats an elaborately constructed turkey burger, because it will always taste more LIKE A BURGER.
Though you can at least get Turkey burgers LOOKING like normal ones pretty easily.
Anyway, the way to solve this problem is to boost the umami content of your burger. Alton did this through sautéed mushrooms, parmesan cheese, and brown miso paste. On the day I went to make this, the store was out of brown miso. Miso, as I touched on in Looking in Abroad’s Pantries: Japan, is a fermented savory paste. So, with none of it to be had, I made another paste. A dark paste.
I can’t tell you every ingredient in the Umami Bomb Sauce. Not to protect my intellectual property, or anything, I just literally don’t remember. I know that soy sauce, oyster sauce, tomato paste, and a couple other things went into it. Almost certainly fish sauce. The point was just to try and (over)compensate for the missing miso. While that paste melded and burbled into dark life, I had another component to tend to: the mushrooms.
This recipe called for portobellos, which, if you didn’t know, are just the full-grown version of crimini mushrooms. (Side note: White button mushrooms are the same species of mushroom, they’re just an offshoot that’s a different color.) They’re firmer than their diminutive kin, and need some extra attention, as you shouldn’t eat the gills. Or, rather, you don’t really WANT to: there’s nothing wrong with the gills, they’re just more likely to have hidden dirt or sand that escaped the cleaning process, and they bleed their color more easily, meaning they’ll turn whatever you put them in a rather drab brown. So I just scoop them out with a spoon.
A process not even remotely depicted here.
Once de-gilled, the mushrooms get finely chopped and sautéed for a couple minutes. The recipe says 5, but I always cook my mushrooms a little longer. Mushrooms, for complicated science reasons we’ll discuss another time, are very hard to overcook, so a little extra cooking doesn’t hurt them.
Similarly to our Broccoli Hero, the Turkey Burger is mostly about prep work. Once you’ve got your miso, or its terrible dark stand-in, and your mushrooms sautéed, you mix them with some parmesan cheese and the ground turkey, form into little balls, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This lets the flavors meld and mix, and helps firm up the meat a little so it doesn’t disintegrate during cooking.
I went with "McDonald's Hashbrown Patty" instead of balls, because I was using French Rolls.
Once fridged to firm, you flatten your meat balls into patties, and fry them. Alton recommends an accelerating flip pattern: 2 minutes on the first side, 2 on the next, then back to the first side for a minute, then finish on the back for one last minute. Presumably this is to prevent over-browning the patties, but honestly, I tried just going 3 and 3 on a couple, and then felt basically the same. Then again, my stove is 30 years old, so maybe its heat is just weak.
Over Production, or Production Over?
So we had a spree of turkey burgers and Roast Broccoli Heroes. And I have to tell you guys: while there was nothing wrong with the turkey burgers, the Heroes were where it was AT. There’s just enough distinct textures and flavors to make it interesting, and they meddled in a way I quite enjoyed. Like Alton himself, while I at first doubted, I was convinced. Again, the turkey burgers were perfectly fine, Nate ate several of them, but I was taken by the power of the veg option.
Seriously, I was digging this.
I’d recommend either recipe as an easy option for a weeknight dinner, and the Roast Broccoli as a secret weapon for a party or get-together. I’m currently debating if it’s worth the effort to go buy broccoli so I can have a sandwich or two tonight, since I’ve spent so long writing about it. And that’s the kind of recipe you can count on in your home.
If you want to help Jon afford sudden trips to get veggies, you can always support the site on Patreon, which keeps us running smoothly. If spending money on the things you enjoy isn’t your thing, then just invite your friends to like our Facebook page. Jon invites people he knows to like it all the time! Sometimes, they even do! You can also share our posts, which lets more people read them, and gives Jon a warm fuzzy feeling when he sees big numbers on his daily readers tab.
THURSDAY: JON CONTINUES SOME THOUGHTS FROM LAST WEEK, ABOUT FOOD CRITICISM, THE CONCEPT OF CRITICISM AS A WHOLE, AND, WEIRDLY, THE SIMPSONS.
NEXT MONDAY: TATERS, HOBBITS? BEFORE WE DIVE INTO MASH-UP MAY, JON MAKES A SIDE THAT’S…DAMNIT, THERE HAS TO BE A CLEVER WAY TO COMBINE “SPUD” WITH “STUPENDOUS”.
Roast Broccoli Hero
Makes 4 sandwiches
1 cup sliced bread and butter pickles (like, the pre-sliced variety. Though I also cut mine into 1” sections)
½ cup bread and butter pickle brine
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 tbsps sweet chili sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 head broccoli (roughly 1 lb) chopped into florets, stem thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
4 French bread rolls
¼ cup mayo
1 cup fried onions
4 ounces feta
1. Combine all the pickle ingredients, and let sit at room temp to marinate while you prepare the broccoli.
2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss the broccoli in the olive oil and salt, and spread into an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast 15 minutes, toss, and roast another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, to let cool.
3. If desired, toast the French rolls. Then, assemble the sandwich. Spread mayonnaise on the rolls, then the sliced pickles. Top with broccoli, onions, and feta.
Makes 6 standard burgers, or 12 sliders
1 tbsp olive oil
2 portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed, finely chopped
½ tsp salt
1 pound ground turkey
2 tbsp grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tbsp brown miso paste, or Dark Brew of Sorrows
1. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add oil, mushrooms, and salt. Sauté for 5-8 minutes, until soft and golden. Remove from heat, and let cool.
2. Combine all ingredients, using your hands. Divide into balls. For sliders, make each ball about Ping-Pong Ball-sized. For larger burgers, simply arrange into 6 roughly even balls. Cover and refrigerate for 30+ minutes.
3. Place the skillet over medium heat, and, while it’s heating up, flatten the balls into patties, going until they’re roughly 1/4 of an inch thick. Place in the skillet (not touching), and cook 6 minutes, turning as you feel appropriate.
4. Place on buns, top with lettuce, tomato, mayo, whatever toppings you prefer.