“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” –A Game of Thrones
(George R.R. Martin)
Last week on my way to a scone making class in San Francisco, I started reading A Game of Thrones
. While I realize that scones and A Game of Thrones
seem as incompatible as anything out there, the combination made perfect sense to me, a believer that dainty things should always be accompanied by something a little more edgy. Plus, from a reader’s standpoint, it simply seemed like the right kind of book to pick up after Eugenides’ very literary The Marriage Plot
, as well as ideal for public transportation. I’ll confess that at first, yes, I was a little bored and confused; it seemed like this was one popular cultural bandwagon that I wouldn’t be joining. I couldn’t keep track of the characters and I was becoming tired of the refrain, “Winter is coming
.” Then, direwolves appeared, somebody fell from a tower and the plot started picking up momentum; in short, I was hooked. Somewhere not very deep inside of me lives a thirteen-year-old boy who thrills at swords, courtly intrigue and the world of fantasy. This past week I’ve tried to be good and to set the book aside, but it’s been hard. The only two times I’ve managed to leave it behind–in both thought and deed–was on Sunday when we went to see the solar eclipse at Rollins Lake
, and on Tuesday, the Greek’s birthday.
The spot for the eclipse viewing was gorgeous and, being as far from the bay as we were, it was also sweltering. There were mosquitoes, dirt paths and a broken water fountain, none of which was all that pleasing to me. While I can’t say I took as much joy in the eclipse viewing as the other scientists and the one lone astronomer did (I was much more interested in the apple shake stand we had passed along the road), the experience was eerily beautiful and strange to behold with the distorted shadows and the darkness that fell as the moon moved in front of the sun. But bookworm that I’ve always been, I was glad to return to the tale of Winterfell when we got home.
My next interruption was much more to my liking and a very happy occasion. I had been asking the Greek what he wanted to do for his birthday and he had but a simple wish: hamburgers, beer and stout cake
. A trip to the butcher was in order and then I had to figure out how to go about making these burgers. Although the sun has been shining these past few days, burgers and steak can be a bit more tricky when you lack that most essential of good weather cooking items, the grill.
In the hopes of overcoming this small problem, I decided to turn to Molly Stevens’ wonderfully comprehensive All About Roasting
, which I had bought for the Greek (the true cooker of meat in this household) for Christmas. And my hope was not misplaced; there were a few pages on how to roast burgers in the oven, using high heat (475 F) and a baking sheet lined with foil, which in turn is covered with a thin layer of salt (to catch and absorb the drippings). On top of this you place a wire rack and, voila, you’ve got yourself a ready-to-go grill.
It was a timely day in the culinary blogosphere, too. Just a few hours before I began assembling the patties, I discovered that Melissa Clark’s latest column
contained the secret to homemade mayonnaise. Obviously, there was no better time than the present to get down to the painfully slow process of whisking olive oil, drop by drop, into an egg yolk, lemon juice, mustard and ice water. That’s how the Greek found me when he came home, with a stiff arm and equally stiff determination. Fortunately, birthday boys are willing to share the joy the whisking and the mayonnaise emerged fluffy, unbroken and ready to receive rosemary and black pepper. We also had some remoulade in the fridge, which, thanks to its chopped pickles, tomato paste and Tabasco sauce, made for an equally tasty condiment.
Once my arm felt up to the task, I approached the meat. I can’t help but think that everybody out there has his or her idea of the perfect burger. For some, it’s thick and meaty; for others, it’s flavorful and stuffed with cheese. Some people prefer adding Worcestershire sauce to the ground meat and some are purists, adding nothing but salt and pepper. My method may be a bit unorthodox since I see the burger as the close cousin of the meatball, and I strongly believe that both benefit from onions and garlic–for flavor and
for optimal juiciness. Half an onion and one clove of garlic generally do the trick and, although I perhaps say this only because of my eternal dislike of raw onions, I would swear that the burger is all the better for it. In this case, it certainly made for a happy birthday feast…
And then, yes, my burger-filled stomach and I did go back to Winterfell.
Method borrowed from All about Roasting
Yields 6 juicy burgers
2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 of a small yellow onion, roughly diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 egg yolks
6 hamburger buns
-Preheat the oven to 475 F. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spread salt over its surface. Place a wire rack on top of the cookie sheet.
-Place the ground beef into a large bowl and break it up.
-Add the salt, pepper, onion, garlic and separated egg yolks. Mix gently with your hands.
-Begin shaping the burgers into 6 patties. Ideally, they’ll all be roughly the same size so that they roast evenly.
-Arrange the burgers, a few inches apart, on the wire rack.
-Roast the burgers for 10-15 minutes. If you like your burgers medium-rare, Stevens says they should be anywhere from 130-135; if you like them medium, they should be 140, If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you can just cut into one of the burgers to test how done it is.
-Remove the burgers from the oven and serve, creating your own burger spread with lettuce, pickles and mayonnaise or remoulade.