Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Burgers and Salad

Scene: Amber enters kitchen, pulls on her apron, looks around the kitchen and sighs. A busy day is mostly gone, and she can't wait for bedtime, but first she must make supper. Mom has assigned her to make potato salad, hamburgers, and tuna burgers. She already made the salad earlier in the day, and she knows how to make tuna-burgers, but hamburgers are a new thing in her kitchen skill list, and she's not sure where to begin.

Okay folks - can you see the setting? Today I wanted to bring you my "relish-making" story, but this one, which happened last night, was so much more interesting. Therefore I present to you the next story in an on-going series titled "Amber's Flops and Falls in the Kitchen, and What She's Learned From Them."

With no further ado:

Amber decides to make the tuna-burger mixture first, then let it sit while she prepares the hamburger. While she is working, she notices several little bugs flying around the kitchen, (it's summer, after all) and decides it will not be safe to leave the bowl of tuna unattended while she works on the hamburger.

"Hmmm....oh, of course. I'll stick it in the microwave."

After doing so, Amber opens the refrigerator to find the hamburger. "Say, Mom, is this the meat I'm supposed to use?" she calls to her mother.

Mom: "Yes, Dear."

The meat has been thawing for several hours, but still has ice crystals formed on the top. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Amber remembers her mother solving such a problem by thawing the meat the rest of the way in the microwave.

Out comes the tuna. In goes the hamburger. Five minutes should do it.

During those five minutes, Amber starts peeling the skins off some tomatoes that she boiled earlier, for use in spaghetti sauce. They have been sitting on the table for several minutes, and of course she'll be able to finish peeling them while making supper, right?

Amber: "This batch of tomatoes is peeling easier than the other one. That's good. Mmmm, that meat smells good. ...Wait a minute. Meat? Smells?"

Sure enough, the meat is done.


As in turning brown around the edges, and soaking in a nice pool of melted fat.

Fighting a sinking feeling in her stomach, because she senses that somehow this wasn't supposed to happen, Amber quickly stops the microwave with 15 seconds left to go, and takes the foam platter of hamburger to the table.

"Yikes!" Hot fat splashes out onto her hand.

Brother Dear (who is passing through the kitchen): "What's that?"

Amber (who is running to the sink for cold water): "That is hot fat. The meat cooked too long."

Brother Dear: "Oh." He continues on his way.

From that point on, the supper is doomed. Amber plugs in the griddle, so it will be thoroughly heated by the time she's ready to put the burgers on. It starts to smell burnt, so she turns it down to low, and adds just a wee bit of oil. The burgers will create their own fat, she's sure.

Dad strolls through the kitchen.

Amber: "Daddy, please help me. I have no idea what to put into hamburgers. Yours are always so good. What are your secret ingredients?"

Dad (with a grin): "Well, if I tell you, they won't be secret anymore."

Amber: "Please?"

After listing the ingredients, Dad continues on his way. Amber pulls open the refrigerator door, only to find....not a single one of the ingredients mentioned on Dad's list.

Amber: "Mom, don't we have any of this stuff?"

Mom (from the other room): "I'm sorry, Am, I didn't get any of them. I was just thinking of the basic hamburger ingredients. Try some salt and pepper, and ketchup."

Amber pulls out anything that looks good; ketchup, mustard, pepper, onions, Worcester sauce...

Meat that is slightly done does not mix well with other ingredients. Not the way raw meat does, anyway. Besides which, at this point the meat is still too hot to touch. Not to be stopped, Amber finds two forks, and mixes the meat with those.

The ketchup adds a nice red touch that the meat was lacking. Amber adds a few more squirts. Finally, she thinks she'd better start cooking the burgers. Though it's still warm, she can now form the meat into patties with her hands, which she does, then quickly drops them on the griddle.

Sure enough, the meat creates a little of its own fat to cook in.

A little.

The burgers just lack that nice moist texture burgers are supposed to have. It's as if they're already......cooked.

Mom passes by the kitchen doorway. "Be sure they cook all the way through!"

Amber: Gulp. "I will."

It's time to flip the burgers. Amber inserts the spatula under the first one, and flips it. When it hits the griddle, the worst happens.

It crumbles. Falls to pieces. Becomes un-hamburger-rized.

Amber works her way down the griddle. Every burger is flipped. Every burger crumbles. She now has a nice griddle-full of cooked ground beef.

Working quickly, she shovels the meat onto a plate, and shoves it into the microwave, out of sight. Then she begins to form the tuna into patties. This works much better. She looks at her griddle-full of nice, neat, pink burgers , and smiles with satisfaction. At least something's gone right.

Mother passes by the kitchen again, and sees that the hamburgers are no longer on the griddle. "Did they cook all the way?"

Amber: "They cooked all the way."

Mom: "Why do you say it like that?"

Amber: "Because they did."

Sister Dear passes through the kitchen."It smells like meatloaf out here."

Amber holds her breath and makes no comment. Sister Dear leaves the kitchen.

It's time to flip the tuna burgers. Amber begins to insert the spatula under the first burger. She is stopped. The spatula refuses to go underneath the burger.

Amber: "Why didn't anybody ever tell me you need to put on more oil in between loads of burgers?"

Fact: Tuna burgers are healthy. They do not create their own fat.

Fact: Tuna burgers that do not have enough oil between themselves and the griddle feel an uncontrollable compulsion to bond with the griddle.

Amber works her way down the griddle, prying the burgers loose - which, of course, really damages the appearance of the burgers - and flips them. The nicely cooked outsides of the burgers remain glued to the griddle. The nicely pink insides are left exposed on top. Of course this means Amber must flip them a third time, to cook the insides that weren't cooked before.

The only problem is that now the insides have become the outsides. ...Which mean they must be the ones to stick to the griddle.

After several times of flipping the burgers back and forth, Amber realizes that the burgers are getting thinner, and the layers of glued outsides on the griddle are becoming thicker. She therefore concludes it would be best to remove the burgers from the griddle, and ring the dinner bell.

Mom is the first person in the kitchen once the dinner bell has rung. She assists Amber in setting the table and getting condiments out of the refrigerator. Amber is so glad to see the potato salad come to the table. At least one item is eatable.

Mom: "Where are the burgers?"

Amber: "They're in the microwave. Couldn't we leave them in there, and just eat this?"

Mom laughs and opens the microwave door.

Supper passes with a lot of laughs, and a spatula to scoop the beef crumbles onto the burger buns. The tuna burgers aren't that bad at all.

Don't ask about the griddle.


Sarah Jane Meister said...

Tuna burgers sound delicious! How do you make yours? Are they similar to salmon burgers?

I too have had unpleasant epxeriences with ground beef. :( A quick way I thaw semi-frozen meat is to place the package in a pan of warm water.

I STILL don't like making hambugers! LOL

Amber said...

I think our tuna burgers are yummy, though our males prefer beef over them. :)

I've never used a recipe, but the basic idea is to combine 4 or 5 cans of drained tuna with one or two eggs, chopped onion, garlic powder, a scoop of mayo, and a scoop of breadcrumbs. Really strict recipe, isn't it? :) The mixture should have the same consistency as beef patties would have - except maybe slightly (very slightly) drier. Tuna burgers are a little harder to get to stay together. At least in normal situations....:)

We eat these burgers with the same kinds of toppings you would put on regular burgers. I like lots of mayo, ketchup, lettuce, cheese, and pickles on mine.

I encourage you to try them; they're good!


Sarah said...

I am so sorry that you had such a time, Amber! It sounds like you made the best of it, though! :) I can relate, as I too have had those nights of supper preparation where it seems that nothing goes right! :)