Welcome to my world!

I've developed a passion for cooking since childhood, but in the past six years, that passion has grown into a geeky obsession. I love cooking, baking, and most importantly, sharing the love of food with family and friends. I invite you along on my journey of food discovery and passion.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The burger bar party that wasn't...

Full disclaimer: My intention is not to give a guilt trip to any friends about this, but to discuss the food I made (in mass quantities) for a Rangers watching party last Saturday.  It just happened that we were expecting 9 others and only 2 showed.  One is excused (you know who you are).

When we decided to host a watching party for the Rangers vs. Red Sox game, we thought, "what can we cook that's as American as baseball?"  The answer - an outdoor grill-a-thon of hot dogs and burgers.   As is my usual overachiever style, we weren't merely content to buy hot dogs, ground beef, and buns.  We had to ensure a variety of toppings to suit any palate.  So, here's my advice to you if planning a burger bar party yourself - KEEP IT SIMPLE!

Here are the guidelines I would give:
- Buy enough hot dogs (I prefer all beef) for 1 - 2 per person
- Make your own hamburger patties out of a mix of 80/20 and 80/15 ground beef.  All 80/20 shrinks due to the fat content, but adds flavor that the 80/15 ground round lacks.  I would recommend 1/3 lb burgers, figure 1 - 2 per person
- Buns!  No, not an ad for Buns of Steel, buy bakery-fresh buns.  They taste better and look way more gourmet than the standard fare.  I selected two kinds - plain and sesame seed.  Not everyone likes (or can eat) sesame seeds or other nuts.
- Toppings - make sure and offer the basics - ketchup, mustard, mayo, and relish (which most people have on hand at all times), but also think outside the box - A1 Sauce, BBQ sauce, and Chile-garlic sauce or sriracha.  If you have time, make your own special "signature" condiment such as a chipotle mayo or ketchup.
- Cheeeeese! - Have fun with this.  Offer 2 - 3 kinds such as a plain cheddar or American, Swiss, and then 1 - 2 "wildcards" such as dilled Havarti or blue cheese
- Fixins' - lettuce, tomato, sliced onion, pickles - you can get crazy and offer arugula or other lettuces, different varieties of tomatoes and onions, but really, the basics are just fine
- Chips - must have varieties for various tastes

We also added some custom condiments - pork candy (OH SO GOOD!), carmelized onions, mushrooms cooked in Worcestershire (woo-woo) sauce, and a portabello mushroom/shallot mixture with a wine reduction.  Again... OVERACHIEVER! :)  IceDaddy wanted to offer a special burger, so we chose a recipe by Michael Chiarello, called the Roasted Garlic Burger.  It was the reason we created the portabello mushroom topping.  It involved roasting garlic in oil, then mashing it up and adding it to the burgers and a special dijon mustard.  Very yum, but also very complicated. 

If I were hosting this again, I would definitely do the burger bar, have others bring side dishes, and probably skip the signature burger if making for large crowds.  It actually worked well for the small party of four that ended up partaking in the burger bar madness, and I would consider coming up with that type of item for another small group gathering.

So while I had mass quantities of food leftover (still working on eating the prosciutto and all those buns - sandwiches anyone?), the party taught me about the lengths to which I will go, and how I should try to simplify as well.  It's a great lesson to learn at any age and for any cooking ability!  And, thanks to the leftovers, I invented the hot dog combination below that was just awesome!  Give it a try!

Cheesy BBQ Bacon Dogs
4 all-beef hot dogs
4 slices bacon
4 hot dog buns
Carmelized onions (any recipe you like will do)
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. barbecue sauce (whatever variety you like)

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Wrap one slice of bacon around each hot dog.  (You can secure the ends of the bacon with toothpicks if you prefer).  Place the hot dogs in the skillet with ends of bacon pointing down.  Cook until bacon is browned lightly - you don't want to render off all the fat and burn the bacon, but you want it cooked - turning periodically to brown all sides, about 8 - 10 minutes.  Remove from skillet. 
Turn down heat on skillet to medium-low.  Slice open hot dog buns.  Place buns face down in skillet to toast, about 2 - 3 minutes each.  Remove from skillet.  Place hot dogs in buns.  Top with warm carmelized onions (you can reheat an already prepared batch), shredded cheddar, and bbq sauce.  Enjoy!


  1. Am I the excused one? I hope so...

  2. J - you were one of them - you had tickets to the game! :)