Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Having It All: Mission Burritos


In March, I visited some friends in San Francisco. It was my first time visiting the city as an adult, and I had an incredible time enjoying the weather, seeing old friends and eating like a madamn. There's so much great stuff to eat there. The full list of where I ate is here. Some thoughts:

-The coffee scene out there is stellar. Not only is the coffee great, the service is friendly and refreshingly non-snobby. There's a prevailing attitude of "we want our customers to learn more about their coffee," rather than "we know more about coffee than you, and we're going to act like it" that you get here in NYC (looking at you, Ninth Street Espresso). That being said, I did not have a single coffee drink that was as good as Abraco here in the East Village. And it should be said that the staff at Abraco is just as friendly as any I met in SF, if not more so.

-Oh god, the burritos! I am so ashamed of our burrito scene in NYC.

-The overarching theme of my food experiences in San Francisco has to be one of justified hype. So many places I went to expecting to be let down by all the glowing reccomendations--Blue Bottle Coffee, Tartine, all the tacquerias, the Ferry Building, Cafe Zuni, Four Barrel, Burma Superstar--but left thinking, wow, it was that good. Except...

-I ate with some friends at the Cafe upstairs at Chez Panisse. The meal was delicious, and I'm glad I went. But I was not blown away--the snacks we'd had earlier in the evening to tide us over at Bar Tartine were less expensive and more interesting, not to mention tastier.

More food porn from my trip can be found here.

Below, a recipe for really authentic Mission style burritos. Many thanks to Felicia Wong for teaching me this recipe.

Authentic Mission Burritos
Adapted from Felicia Wong
Yield: 6 burritos.

1) On your way to SFO, stop at your favorite San Francisco burrito joint and order six burritos without avocado, guac or sour cream.

2) Pack them securely in your carry on luggage. Protect them with your life. Check every 10-15 minutes on the plane to make sure they're not getting crushed under your feet.

3) When you get home, put them in the freezer.

4) When ready to eat, heat in a 300 degree oven for about an hour, until soft and warmed through.

5) Enjoy while contemplating a move to San Francsisco.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Grind Date: Bittman's Favorite Burger, Cold Asian Greens and Ginger Salad


Mark Bittman's been talking about grinding your own meat for hamburgers since a 2007 Minimalist column. I'm just gonna let him explain:

The key is to avoid packaged ground meat. When you buy it, you may know the cut of the meat — chuck, for example — and the fat content.

But you have no way of knowing whether the meat came from high- or low-quality animals. It could come from dozens of animals, and they could all be poor-quality animals — old dairy cows, for instance, rather than cattle raised for beef. The meat from these animals is ground together in huge quantities.

If the aesthetics of that don’t give you pause, consider the health concerns. Massive batches of ground meat carry the highest risk of salmonella and E. coli contamination, and have caused many authorities to recommend cooking burgers to the well-done stage. Forgive my snobbishness, but well-done meat is dry and flavorless, which is why burgers should be rare, or at most medium rare.

The only sensible solution: Grind your own. You will know the cut, you can see the fat and you have some notion of its quality.


Sold. I don't have a meat grinder, of course. But I do have a food processor, and you guys know how I love to use it. Score one more for the Cuisinart--it grinds meat!

Bittman suggests starting with a chuck roast or sirloin steak, cutting it into 1- or 2-inch cubes, and just pulsing it with a bit of onion. I did it in batches, not wanting to crowd the processor's bowl. I was careful not to chop too much, which Bittman warns against. Hindsight being 20/20, I definitely could have pulsed the meat a bit more, but it was still good. In this burger recipe, entitled simply My Favorite Burger, the only ingredients are the meat, about 2 lbs., half an onion, and salt and pepper. I added to that some soy sauce, but I figured on this inaugural DIY grinding project I'd just keep it simple.

The burgers were fantastic; you can really taste the quality of the meat. Bittman is right; it's going to be hard to go back to preground meat after this. The benefits far outweigh the perceived inconvenience which, really, only amounts to a few minutes of cutting, grinding and washing of the food processor. On top of that, you can use this method for any kind of burgers; pork, chicken, lamb, fish, whatever you like. Check out the Minimalist article, or HTCE, for more ideas.


With the burgers, I made the Cold Asian Greens and Ginger Salad, which sounded great but ended up kind of mushy and weird. I may have just overcooked the bok choy, I'm not entirely sure, but either way I think I'd have preferred the Cold Cooked Greens, Greek Style which this recipe is a variation on.

The Minimalist: For the Love of a Good Burger [nytimes]
Thanks to Kyle Kabel for taking these pictures.