Gastropub Night at Home

French Onion Burger with “German” Potato Salad

I was inspired to make this burger after a recent trip to Shake Shack (see next post) and thought I should make myself a great burger at home. The idea of the French Onion burger is actually a play on this amazing burger they have at a gastropub chain in the Los Angeles area called Father’s Office. The burger reminded me of French Onion soup, and gave off a very bistro vibe. They paired their burger with shoestring fries, and allowed no substitutions, but I’m pairing mine with potato salad. Mine is a twist on a traditional German potato salad, but incorporates many of the same flavors. Perfect for a picnic since there’s no mayo, but also great to make a whole bowl for yourself. I even use leftover potato salad to mimic a hash and top it with some chunks of avocado, a squirt of sriracha sauce, and a couple of fried eggs for brunch the next day.

Burger Ingredients

2/3 pound of ground beef—I used 75/25, which means the meat blend is 75% beef and 25% fat. I wouldn’t go with anything less than 80/20 because your burger may then dry out. If you do decide to use lean or extra lean ground beef, or something a naturally lean meat like turkey, then I would suggest cutting the meat with some ground bacon, just ask the butcher to do it for you, or pulse in the food processor.

Granulated garlic

Caramelized onions

1 small avocado, ripe

Arugula

2 packets of Laughing Cow Swiss Cheese (French Onion flavor)FullSizeRender-12

Gruyere cheese

1/3 of a French baguette or 1 mini baguette—this would also be good with a seeded Italian roll or Ciabatta. I liked the baguette because the who burger seemed very French to me. If making multiple burgers, feel free to use a whole baguette

Potato Salad Ingredients:

5-6 small red potatoes, halved

5 medium Golden potatoes, cut into chunks—this recipe uses what I had in my pantry, but you can use about 2-3 pounds of any kind of waxy potato (my favorite is Yukon Gold)

1 cup of salt pork or pancetta, cut into cubes

2 medium shallots, chopped fine

3 cloves of garlic, minced

½ cup of apple cider vinegar—traditional recipes usually call for white vinegar, but I feel that the apple cider vinegar is a little sweeter and has a little bit more of sour taste

2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon of sugar

1 heaping tablespoon of whole grain dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped

3 tablespoons of olive oil

To Make the Potato Salad:

  1. In a large pot, place the potatoes and enough water to cover them with a good amount of salt.
  2. Heat the potato pot on high heat until they start boiling, then reduce heat to medium to medium-high heat and continue on a low boil for at 15 minutes
  3. Test the potatoes with a knife. If the knife slides in easily then they are done. Don’t worry, you can always just taste one if you’re unsure
  4. Drain the potatoes and set aside
  5. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil on medium heat until hot, but not smokingFullSizeRender-9
  6. Add salt pork to the pan and use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to spread the cubes in a single layer—this will help them brown evenly and prevent burning. Stir every couple of minutesFullSizeRender-11
  7. When all of the pieces are browned all over, remove from the pan, but leave the fat from the pork in the pan—flavor! Drain the pork on a piece of paper towel. While you prepare the rest of the ingredients the pork will crisp up
  8. In the same pan, add the shallots and garlicFullSizeRender-14
  9. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and black pepper each, and 1 teaspoon of sugar
  10. Cook the shallots and garlic until browned and fragrant—your nose will let you know 😉
  11. Once they’re browned, deglaze the pan with the vinegar
  12. Reduce for 1-2 minutes on medium-low heat, then add the mustard and parsley. Stir to incorporate along with another pinch of salt and pepperFullSizeRender-15
  13. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and stir the sauce/vinaigrette
  14. Turn off the heat
  15. Add the potatoes and the pork back to the pan, and toss with the vinaigrette to coat all of the potatoes while they’re still warmFullSizeRender-16
  16. Let the potato salad sit while making the burger—this potato salad could be made a day in advance. Traditionally German potato salad is served warm, but it’s great at room temperature or even cold

To Make Caramelized Onions: 

  1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees
  2. In an oven-proof pot with a lid, or a dutch oven, coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and add 2 pats (1/8 tablespoon) of butter
  3. Add the onions and cook, uncovered, on medium heat for a few minutes until they start to sweat
  4. Once the onions start to turn golden, cover and put the pot in the oven
  5. After 20 minutes, stir the onions and add 1 teaspoon each of black pepper and salt
  6. Cover and put onions back in the oven for an additional 20 minutes
  7. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and stir the onions
  8. Cook for an additional 30 minutes
  9. Uncover, stir, and cook for an additional 10 minutes
  10. Take the onions out of the oven, they should be brown and caramelized—leave the oven on for the burger afterwards though
  11. Place the onions in a bowl and set aside to top your burger, or use them in an omelet, in pasta, or in one of my personal favorites—pizzaFullSizeRender-10

To Make the Burger:

  1. Remove the meat from the refrigerator at least 20 minutes before you plan to cook—this will help with even cooking
  2. Shape your burger patty—I went with a long burger in order to fit the bread, but a traditional round patty is always good
  3. Season both sides with a good pinch of salt, black pepper and granulated garlic
  4. Heat your pan on medium heat for a couple of minutes and add the remaining olive oil to the panFullSizeRender-2
  5. Add the meat to the pan—you should hear a nice sizzle when the meat hits the hot pan. Resist the urge to move the burger or squish it down. This way it will form a nice crust and stay juicyFullSizeRender-3
  6. After 2-3 minutes, flip the burger over and cook on the second side for an additional 2 minutesAdd a pat of butter to the pan and place the pan in the preheated oven
  7. In the meantime, take your sliced baguette and spread the Laughing Cow cheese packets on the bread and put into the oven at the same time
  8. Cook for about 5-7 minutes for medium donenessFullSizeRender-7
  9. Remove the bread and burger pan from the oven and let the burger rest for a few minutes
  10. Increase oven to broiler setting
  11. (Optional) I like to add the pan drippings from the burger pan to the potato salad along with another pinch of salt—it makes the potato salad even creamier, and ties the flavors together well. Trust me, it sounds decadent, but you’ll love it!FullSizeRender-1
  12. Add a handful of arugula to the bottom half of the sandwich
  13. To the top half, add the sliced avocado to the top half and a layer of caramelized onionsFullSizeRender-5
  14. Top the bottom half with the burger, then top that with a few slices of Gruyere cheese
  15. Put under the broiler for an another minute just to melt the cheeseFullSizeRender-4
  16. Remove the bottom half of the sandwich from the ovenFullSizeRender-8
  17. Combine the two halves, take a minute to admire the delicious picture, and cut on a bias

Enjoy your amazing gastropub style burger at home with some potato salad on the side – don’t mind the mess. In fact, if your burger isn’t messy, then you’re doing something wrong!

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Creamy Tomato Chicken Pasta

The first time I made this dish wasn’t actually at home. I was on vacation in the UK, and staying by a friend for a few days in Birmingham, England. I had been going out for most of my meals, and I thought it would be a nice change to not only have something homemade, but also cook a meal that my friend could have as leftovers for a few days after I left. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, since I was a traveler on a budget, and the chicken thighs at Tesco looked really good that day. if you want something that might be fancier than chicken, if you’re entertaining with this dish, then some meatballs would be a nice substitute. After forming the meatballs, I would brown them for a couple of minutes on each side in a pan, and then let them finish cooking in the sauce.

Pasta is a great way to spread a dish out over a few meals, and it’s also an easy way to stretch a protein into several portions. This dish is creamy, comforting, and easy to make—it will stick to your ribs and definitely make you want another plate, so make sure to make the whole recipe, even if you live on your own—the leftovers are amazing. This dish only gets better the next day!

Ingredients:

1 package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 cup of pancetta cut into cubes—if you don’t have pancetta, then salt pork would be a good substitute though it has less meat so you’ll have to use slightly more of the block. Bacon is ok too, just make sure it’s not flavored too heavily, and that it’s thick enough to cut into lardon-sized pieces

1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes—I prefer San Marzano tomatoes since they’re sweeter, but any brand should be fine. A fun variation of this recipe is to use fire roasted diced tomatoes along with a few sun-dried tomatoes then pulse them in the blender until a sauce forms, but not completely smooth

Granulated garlic or garlic powder

3-4 cloves of garlic

1 large Spanish onion (or 2 medium)—any onion is fine really, except for red, which I feel has a little too much bite for this recipe

1 package of Baby Bella or Cremini mushrooms, halved—white button mushrooms are also fine, but cremini have a little more flavor. I think large Portobello mushrooms are too bold for a dish like this. If you were to use them, then I may suggest using a heavier protein like turkey cutlets

¼ cup of white wine—use something you would drink. If it doesn’t taste good straight up, it won’t taste good concentrated in your dish!

1 cup of heavy cream

Olive oil

1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes—adjust to your own taste. I like spicy, but feel free to omit the pepper flakes if you prefer a milder sauce

1½  teaspoons of dried oregano

1 tablespoon of fresh basil, roughly chopped

1 box of fusilli or rotelle—I like to use a pasta shape that will hold a lot of the sauce and is bite-sized

Parmesan cheese (garnish)

Cooking Steps:

  1. Cut all of the chicken thighs in half
  2. Season the chicken liberally with salt, pepper and granulated garlic.
  3. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of a large, deep skillet, and turn the burner to medium heat.
  4. After a couple of minutes, add the chicken to the pan. Try to make sure that the chicken is in a single layer, and that they all get some pan space. This way they cook in about the same timeIMG_2863
  5. Cook the chicken for a few minutes, flipping occasionally, until it’s browned, but not cooked through. Don’t worry; it will finish cooking in the sauce later.IMG_7134
  6. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside in a bowl or a plate for later
  7. In the same pan, add the pancetta and cook—stirring occasionally so that the pieces don’t stick to the bottom of the panIMG_2477
  8. When all of the pancetta has browned and has a crispy exterior, remove to the same bowl as the chicken. Resist the urge to drain them or place on a paper towel—trust me, you’ll want this fattiness later!IMG_9331
  9. Add garlic and sauté for 30-45 seconds on medium to medium-high heat until it starts to brown, but pay attention. Burned garlic can ruin a dish!
  10. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutesIMG_7298
  11. Once the onions start to brown and caramelize a bit, add the mushrooms—again, you should make sure the onions and mushrooms are spread around the pan, and stir occasionally, so that they all get some “sizzle”IMG_3043
  12. Add the dried oregano and crushed red pepper flakes, as well as well as ½ teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of black pepper—hold off on adding any extra salt since the pancetta will lend some saltiness to the sauce. You can always add more later!IMG_5693
  13. When the mushrooms are cooked tender and the onions have continues to caramelize, deglaze the pan with the white wine. Make sure to scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the pan. That’s pure flavor!FullSizeRender-1
  14. Let the alcohol cook off for a couple of minutes and then add the tomatoes to the pan
  15. After 2 minutes, add the chicken and pancetta back to the pan along with the basilIMG_6382
  16. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 12-15 minutes, and stir it after about halfway to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan and move everything aroundIMG_5863
  17. About halfway through the previous step, put your pasta water on to boil.
  18. Cook the pasta according to package directions—the only unique thing I do in this dish is add a clove of garlic, roughly chopped, to the pasta water in order to give the noodles a subtle garlic flavor, and make sure to add a nice amount of salt since it will flavor the noodlesIMG_8148
  19. When you drop the pasta into the pot, add about 1 cup of heavy cream to the sauce (or 3 turns around the pan). Stir to incorporate well into the sauceIMG_6979
  20. Drain the pasta when it’s al dente, even if you like it softer since it will continue to cook in the sauce for a couple of minutes.IMG_4452
  21. Add the pasta to the sauce pan, and mix the pasta, sauce, chicken, pancetta, onions and mushrooms all together. You want the noodles to be completely covered in sauce, but not swimming in it. Simmer together for another couple of minutes.IMG_4359
  22. Add a few big spoonfuls of the dish on a big plate or shallow bowl, and garnish with some Parmesan cheese, freshly cracked black pepper, and maybe a sprig of fresh basil

IMG_1796

Buon Appetito!