The Best Burger I've Ever Made

While looking for a friend's of a friend blog posts about D&D, I came across Bobby Flay's Burger Palace.  In the same day, a Khymos post sent me on a link journey to a comment in the Ideas in Food blog, and I started Jonesing for a good burger.  I ended up making two too-big burgers for $4.  $2 each for juicy heaven.

12 oz 80/20 ground beef - 800 calories - $2.40
2 potato buns - 180 calories - $0.33 or $0.50 (from a package of 12)
2 strips of store brand bacon - 80 calories - ~$0.42
1 tablespoon of butter - 100 calories - $0.09
2 oz colby jack cheese - 200 calories - $0.50 (because we didn't have goat cheese!)
2 spare slices of onion
2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of flour
a square foot of plastic wrap

I chopped the onion and bacon into small pieces, then browned them in a little steel skillet with a little fat from some other bacon.  Then I mixed the bacon and onion into the beef with the Worcestershire sauce (maybe put the butter in there too, next time), packed the beef into a "log" (it was only 2" thick) and wrapped it in the plastic, then put it in the fridge to rest for an hour.  I took out the log, cut it in half to make the two patties.  I floured the patties, then fried them in the butter while lightly toasting the buns.  I put the cheese on the patties after flipping them.

That's it.  We did not put anything else on these succulent burgers.  These blew away every other fancy burger I've had, so juicy and delicious.  One of my regular complaints about burgers at restaurants (I'm not talking about the awful trash at fast food joints) is that the buns are too big.  I don't want an enormous roll engulfing my burger and making it hard to fit in my mouth, giving me a lot of flour taste over the beef and fat.  The small, generic, potato buns from any supermarket are the perfect meat-holders for me.

Our only lament was that we had no goat cheese.  A little chevre from Trader Joe's would have topped this off nicely.  Actually, we also decided that 4 ounces is the right size for a burger.  The 6 oz burgers were delicious, but unnecessarily large.

So, each burger I made had about 650-700 calories and cost $2, but I would happily use a third less meat and swap the Colby Jack for some chevre ($0.50/oz), shaving off over a hundred calories and about $0.25 per burger.



I made a quiche for the first time, with no crust, and it worked out really well.  It was easy and tasty.  Eggs are all on sale for Easter, and I had some spinach on its way out.

5 eggs - 350 calories - $0.50
1.5 cups milk - 120 calories - $0.56 (I got organic milk)
8 oz pepperjack cheese - 720 calories - $2
.5 cup flour - 200 calories - $0.10 ish
1 onion - 50 calories - $0.30 ish
9 oz baby spinach - 50 calories - $1 (on sale)
1 tsp bacon fat - 30 calories - free

Chop the onion and caramelize it in a skillet with bacon fat.  Set the onion aside, chop the spinach, and wilt it in the skillet.  Chop the cheese.  Mix everything together in a casserole dish.  Bake at 375 F for 50 minutes.  Check on it, and take it out when the top is browning.  It may be worthwhile to put aluminum foil around the edges so the crust forms evenly.

As I made it, it cost about $4.50 and had around 1500 calories.  Many people would also add a half pound of bacon or some diced ham, which adds around $2 and 500 calories.  I got nine portions out of this, 160 calorie blocks for $0.50 each.


Salad Bar Gaming

I recently came across this NYTimes article explaining how best to game the salad bars at your local supermarkets.  It's nothing really groundbreaking.  It's relatively obvious that walking away from the salad bar with a carton full of the most expensive ingredients (sun-dried tomatoes, bacon bits, perhaps some cheeses and fruit) will save you money compared to buying those ingredients elsewhere in the store.  I have evaluated the opportunity at my supermarket, but rejected it for several reasons.

One very clear reason is that my price threshold for nearly all food that I buy is still lower than the salad bar price.  I just don't pay that much for any food.  There are three things (besides spices and teas) I will pay more than $5/lb for: sea scallops, premium cheeses, and premium chocolates, and I do not buy them often.  I get my premium cheeses at Trader Joe's for half the price the supermarket charges.  I am able to feed myself a variety of good foods for less than the price of salad bar food, so I am not motivated to get salad bar food even though there is an opportunity to get a couple items at a discount.

There are reasons for people with higher price thresholds to avoid or minimize gaming their salad bars, too.  Commenters of a blog post on the NYTimes article express real concerns that exploitation of salad bars results in the loss of valuable ingredients or even the whole bars all together.  There is a tragedy of the commons, and morality comes into play.  Salad bars are expensive because of waste, labor, and maintenance, which the stores take on so that customers don't have to.  Customer behavior that throws off the balance of the system can have consequences to other people

Gaming the salad bar as the article describes is primarily about getting your money's worth with your salad, not just walking away with a bowl of sun-dried tomatoes.  Of course, you can make your own great salads for much less money by buying romaine, spinach, etc... and spending a few minutes chopping and slicing.  People with money get salads at salad bars for the convenience, and the rest of us trade inconvenience for cost.