Review: Burgers, Fries, and Shakes
Every weekend, I review a cookbook in an attempt to lend some guidance in a field that has become overrun. These days everyone is writing cookbooks and it is incredibly upsetting to buy a dud and have it sit on your shelf for years – staring at you, mocking your poor judgment.
Let’s be honest, who isn’t jealous of Bobby Flay? He’s an Iron Chef and restaurant owner. He has various Food Network shows that are all pretty decent. He has a lovely wife who is on my favorite TV show ever. And, turns out, he can write a pretty good Summer time cookbook.
While I’m not a huge fan of the cover of the book (Hi Bobby’s Face!), I’m a pretty big fan of the subject of “Burgers, Fries & Shakes.” It appears to have some of my favorite things, but let’s dive in a see what Bobby gives us this time around.
Not surprisingly, Bobby Flay knows how to make a mean burger. Well, at least it appears that he knows how to do this based on his introduction to the burger chapter. He spends a few pages going over his philosophy on burgers. What they should and shouldn’t be and how to choose meat, form a perfect patty, season, and cook.
When talking about how to season a patty, he suggests just kosher salt and pepper is enough to get the job done.
“I never mix any spices, herbs, or condiments into the meat itself. Nor do I add ingredients such as onions or garlic or fillers such as eggs or bread crumbs. My reasoning for this is pretty simple: do all of that and you’ll have meatloaf. And if you wanted meatloaf, well then you should just go make that instead.”
Touché Mr. Flay.
Bobby is pretty thorough in this section. It’s as good as any description I’ve read on burger preparation. And I would expect nothing less.
Bobby starts simple when it comes to the burgers with just a simple cheeseburger, but he has 32 other burger recipes in this chapter that are all very original and some venture on mind-boggling. He has a lot of geographic burgers (Dallas, Buffalo, Cheyenne, Louisiana, Miami, and Sante Fe) and some non-beef burgers: Ex. Tuna burger with pineapple-mustard glaze and green chile-pickle relish.
The one thing that is not in this chapter, which is a bit disappointing as I’m sure Bobby has a good recipe for one, is a badass veggie burger. Black bean maybe? Just give me something here. Obviously, I love a good beef burger, but a lot of vegetarians still like to barbeque and it would be nice to throw them a bone (ha!).
I actually think that making a good French Fry is harder than making a good burger. It’s very tough to get a crispy fry that isn’t burned or undercooked or soggy or flavorless. It can be a serious task. Bobby does a good job of walking through all of the variables. Potato varieties. Peeled or unpeeled. Size of the fry. Oil. Cooking temperature. Blanching. He talks about it all and it is pretty clearly worded. That said, even if you know all of these things, don’t expect your first batch to be perfect.
There are few different ways to make the standard fry in this chapter, but more interesting are some of the other fried things he writes about: sweet potato fries, shoestring plantains, and buttermilk onion rings. This is a short chapter, but important if you are shooting for the perfect meal. A soggy fry can kill it even if your burger is spot on.
Bonus chapter: Condiments!
The book isn’t called “Burgers, Fries, Condiments, and Shakes” so I wasn’t expecting to find a whole chapter on original condiments, but that’s what he gives. 20 or so pages of things like chipotle ketchup, homemade dill pickles, Cuban seasoning, and blue cheese sauce.
When I finished reading through this book, I didn’t want a burger. I wanted a milkshake. Maybe that is because it is like 90 degrees with 100% humidity in DC right now, but this chapter was speaking to me. Again, Bobby and I are on the same page when it comes to ice cream. He doesn’t like ice cream with thickeners (food starch or guar gum added), and none of that low fat stuff. If you are having a milkshake, just get the real deal. It’s worth it in my opinion.
As far as the recipes go, I’m a complete purist when it comes to milkshakes. By purist, I of course mean that I’m boring. I like vanilla ice cream and I like vanilla milkshakes. I’m perfectly willing to try other versions, but it is my go-to. If you are into crazy milkshake variations, this chapter is a good start.
A few of the milkshakes that looked specifically good to me were a blackberry cheesecake milkshake, fresh mint-chocolate speckled milkshake, and a peach bellini milkshake.
At the end of the day, if you don’t know how to make the three major subjects in this book, then it might be worth picking it up (assuming you want to learn to make these things). The writing is clear and the basics are covered well before Bobby starts venturing into the varieties. If you are already an expert at these things, the book may not be as useful, but I must say that a lot of the burgers and shakes especially were things I’ve never heard of or thought of. So, if you are looking to change up from that plain old cheeseburger, this would be a good start.