Friday, December 30, 2011

Baba's Pan-fried Burgers with Onions and Mashed Potatoes

I couldn't tell the story of my favourite dessert from my paternal grandmother, without talking about my favourite comfort food from my maternal grandmother, Baba.

From the time my grandmother retired, she would visit pretty much every weekend, and whenever I was sick. Sometimes, I'd be whisked to her place when my parents were on the way to work and I was too sick to go to school. If I was able to keep food down, more than likely, I was getting burgers with onions and mashed potatoes. It still is my favourite comfort food. I usually stayed in the kitchen when she was making it, so when I was older, it was me who made it for her.

I'm not a big fan of dishes that use so many pots and pans,
but for this, I make an exception.
The most interesting part of the dish is how she made the potatoes. My grandmother wasn't kosher, however, she didn't really mix milk with meat. Well, no milk makes making creamy potatoes very difficult. Instead, Baba whisked a raw egg and a bit of water together and added it to the potatoes. I worked pretty well, when the alternative was using some non-dairy creamer.

In November, I caught a nasy cold for the second time in six weeks, and Meredith was sick as well. It's very difficult when we're both sick. Normally, my mom would come rushing over with enough food to feed us for a week (hey, she enjoys it, so why should we fight it?). However, my parents were out of town, so we were on our own for food. The past few days had been packaged soups, toast, and soft boiled eggs. I needed something more, and I thought of my grandmother's burgers.

Baba's Pan-fried Burgers with Onions and Mashed Potatoes

6 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tsp salt
2-3 tbsp oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
500g (1 lb) lean ground beef
3 cups beef stock
1 egg
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup margarine
pepper, to taste
  1. Place the potatoes in a medium pot and fill until the water is about one-inch above the potatoes. Add salt and bring to a boil. Let boil, uncovered for around 30 minutes, until potatoes are soft and break apart easily.
  2. Add oil to a deep pan and heat on medium. Add onions and let simmer, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and begin to brown.
  3. Divide the beef into six equal parts and form into patties about 1/2-inch thick. Heat a non-stick pan on medium and fry the patties for 2-4 minutes per side, until nicely browned.
  4. Add the beef stock to the onions and heat on high until boiling.
  5. While continuing to boil the broth mixture, add the patties. Let mixture boil for around 30 minutes, until broth is reduced.
  6. When potatoes are ready, crack the egg into a small bowl, add 1 tbsp water and gently mix with a fork.
  7. Drain the water from the potatoes, add margarine, and quickly mash roughly with a potato masher. 
  8. Add egg mixture and continue to mash. Add pepper to taste.
  9. Serve in a bowl by making a well in a pile of potatoes and placing a burger, onions and some broth in the middle.
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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas

Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas from the Haggis and the Herring

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Review: Johnny's Charcoal Broiled Hamburgers

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
On a sick Friday (meaning ALL of us were sick), we opted to get some take-out for dinner. Neither of us wanted to cook. We were getting Johnny's.

Johnny's Charcoal Broiled Hamburgers is an institution in North York and Scarborough. It has been around since I was a kid and, frankly, hasn't changed since it was established in the mid-late 1970s. It's still known as the place to grab a late-night burger, and it's inexpensive. It has been graced by the likes of Mike Meyers (one of the princes of Scarborough), and has a special place in the hearts of my generation.

Now, don't kid yourself thinking that this place is in the same league as South St. Burger, Burger's Priest, or Hero Burger - because it's not. It's a 70s burger place stuck in a time warp, and if you take it for what it is, then you're going to have a great time and enjoy the food.

You place your order at the counter, you're handed a chip with your number, and you wait on the bench until your number is called. Johnny's offers some basic toppings, including pickles, fried onions, ketchup, mustard, and relish, and your burger is prepared to order. The buns are plain, but adequate, and the fries are crunchy, but a bit oily. For a little over $5 for a burger and fries, it even beats McDonald's as a price point.

I unfortunately didn't get a chance to snap any pictures because we tore into it as soon as I opened the bag, so you'll have to trust me. If you've got the munchies for a retro-style burger, Johnny's Hamburgers is the place to go.

Johnny's Hamburgers on Urbanspoon

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Chocolate Balls (כדורי שוקולד)

I read this article in the The Jew and the Carrot and immediately, I knew that I wanted to make it. It's a simple no-bake recipe for chocolate balls, kadorei shokolad, that use biscuits. The name is a literal translation of "chocolate balls," from Hebrew. The draw of this dessert is that they're apparently only made at home. Bakeries don't sell them. If you want them, you need to make them yourself.

When I showed Meredith the recipe, she also got excited. I wasn't expecting her to be enthusiastic about it since it didn't exactly involve baking or working from scratch. However, she saw great potential - a new idea (at least for her) for her holiday cookie exchange.

The trial run went really well. We unfortunately didn't have any candy-covered balls, and we ran out of sprinkles really quickly, but we didn't run out of coconut - so most of them are coconut-coated.

Chocolate Balls (כדורי שוקולד)

200g biscuits (1 small package)
3/4 cup sugar
5 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
7 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
7 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 tsp cinnamon
  1. Shredded coconut, small coloured candies or sprinkles in a bowl
  2. Put the biscuits in a large zipper bag. Crush the biscuits using a rolling pin until they're the consistency of rice.
  3. Transfer the biscuits into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, cocoa and the cinnamon and mix well. 
  4. Add the vanilla, butter and milk, and continue mixing until the batter is thick and thoroughly combined.
  5. Take the batter by the tablespoon and roll it into a ball in your hands.
  6. Coat the balls in the coconut, coloured candies or sprinkles by rolling them in the bowl and place them on a serving tray or in mini paper muffin cups. 
Makes 42 one-tablespoon balls.

Mostly from The Jew and the Carrot.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Hong Kong Barbecue

On the first weekend in November, we finally had a long-delayed barbecue with our neighbours. Mostly organized by our neighbours, I was in charge of the grilling, with limited additional instructions for items that I've either never tried, or require special treatment.

When I was told that we were having a Hong Kong barbecue, I had to know how it differed from a North American barbecue. In general terms, it means a wide variety of foods to be grilled, and in this particular case, coated in a diluted honey mixture when each item was nearly done.

Olivia applying the honey wash for our grilling.
With the amount of food we were grilling, it was more of a marathon than a meal. We really enjoyed it.

I was responsible for the salads - some of which were barely touched. We had some hummus as an appetizer, and I had made a gigantic pasta salad. I had bought a couple bags of Caesar salad, however, we didn't even bother opening them because there was just so much food!

We started the grilling with some sweet potato and Chinese eggplant (not pictured - we were too busy eating). Both were wrapped in foil and roasted. The eggplant was served with a bit of soy sauce.

Next was the squid - just the tentacles.

I oiled the grill, but the squid still stuck a little. When I took them off the grill, it was like they were holding on, trying to get away.

The final bit of seafood was an unidentified fish (unidentified because I forgot what it was called). It was bigger than herring, but smaller than a trout.

The fish was actually the most dramatic dish. It was a little oily and caused a flare up on the grill when I was inside eating some squid:

I had never had flames that big on this grill. But the flames were not nearly as impressive as the job Meredith did separating the fish from the bones:

We also grilled some zucchini and peppers...

chicken wings...

pork, and pineapple.

And like the first items we grilled, we finished off with another item we forgot to photograph - steak.

Yes, there was that much food, and both the food and the company was excellent.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Chocolate Mocha Mug Brownie

On some nights, our neighbour Pia drops by to visit the kids, the dog (and us) when her brothers go to Air Cadets League of Canada. Just before Remembrance day, Pia dropped by and was looking for some instant coffee, and she was carrying a mug filled with some batter and a recipe on a piece of paper.

It was time to make a brownie.

I'd seen several cake, and brownie in a mug recipes here and there, but never got around to actually trying one. And this one is a mocha brownie, so even better!

Chocolate Mocha Mug Brownie

2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp water
3-4 drops vanilla extract
dash salt
pinch instant coffee
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp flour
  1. In an 8 oz mug, stir together oil, water, vanilla, salt and coffee.
  2. Add sugar, cocoa powder and flour, stir, and microwave on high for one minute.
  3. Let cool for at least one minute before eating.
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