Saturday, January 05, 2008

Salt Block Onglet

Some shallots and mushrooms cook in the skillet while the onglet cooks on the salt block.

Every once in a while, I will buy something and, for whatever reason, just never get around to using it. Months or years may pass before I remember that, yes, I do have that thing and need to use it.

This wasn't one of those times when years have passed, but it certainly was one that weeks have passed. Back in October, I ordered some Himalayan Salt Blocks from The Meadow in Portland. These are multi-purposed salt blocks that can be used either hot or cold and can impart a saltiness to whatever you're placing on top of them. I had read a bit about them, ordered them and was excited to use them. They arrived at the end of October and I only got to using them today.

There was a piece of onglet from Springfield Farms lying around the refrigerator, as well as some random mushrooms and shallots I had picked up at Belvedere Square several days ago, and all would be put to use.

Cooking with the salt block is a relatively straight-forward affair: just heat it up and cook on it directly, allowing the natural salts in the block to accent the flavor of whatever it is you are cooking. With that in mind, I turned up the electric burner, set the block directly on top and ground some fresh black pepper on the steak.

Meanwhile, I heated up some butter and canola oil in a cast-iron skillet and sauteed the shallots and mushrooms together.

Rockin' the salt block. Okay, not really...

After waiting several minutes, I drizzled some canola oil on the salt block, laid the onglet on top and then...nothing. Damn. The salt block hadn't heated enough to sear the steak. Doom on you, ono-I-don't-know-how-to-sear-the-steak-coffeeguy.

I sucked. And I pulled it off the block and waited for it to heat a little more.

Of course, the side had started to cook and had turned gray. None too appetizing but I pushed forward. In other words, I waited and pretended to tend to the mushrooms for cover.

After a few more minutes, I laid the steak back on the block. Just a little sizzle. But not the sizzle I was expecting to properly cook the steak. Dammit. Again. This time, I decided to push through it and let it do its' thing. It cooked the steak well enough, just without the carmelized crust that makes for a delicious steak.

Onglet and mushrooms.

The steak turned out pretty good despite of my poor technique. Tending towards the "salty" side, I think it would have been better if I had achieved the proper temperature before laying it on the block. The sear and faster cook time would have reduced the amount of salt exposure and, I'm guessing, delivered a steak that was seasoned "just right."

At least next time it should be better...

Burger Bros.

There's a space on Allegheny Avenue in Towson that I've been eyeing for months now. For months, there's been a wing joint that built out the space and kept it in ready-to-open condition. Basically, you just needed to walk in, turn on the lights, heat up the fryers and start making hot wings. There was a "grand opening" sign in the window but nothing ever happened.

I once asked the guys at the bagel shop next door what was going on with the space and they said the wing place had opened for a couple of days then closed and never re-opened since. Just odd.

Recently, someone took over the space and opened a burger joint. My guess is that they're riding on the current hamburger trend that's sweeping the country with places like Teddy Burger and Five Guys all across the East Coast. It's a good trend to follow and one that I had thought about several years ago, just after the Teddy Burger craze hit Honolulu.

Seems that in modern-day America, a good burger is hard to find so any new joint is always worth checking out. With a little time on my hands, I decided to swing by and give Burger Bros a go.

The interior is simple, casual fare with some definite cues from the Five Guys chain - notably the placement and execution of the soda fountain. My choice was simple: bacon cheeseburger with ketchup, mustard, onions, lettuce, tomato and pickles with a Coke and a medium order of french fries.

When it comes to burgers, I like to keep it simple. Let simple ingredients and simple flavors come to life - and while I might enjoy "fancy" cheeses, like Gruyere on my onion soup or some Allegheny Chevre on my baguette, when it comes to a burger, there's only one choice of cheeses: American Yellow. Yes, I know it's processed but there's nothing better for a proper American Cheeseburger. Forget that Swiss or Cheddar crap - only American will do. Only American has that throwback power of the flavors from your youth.

My burger was good. Darn good. The bun was toasted, the beef had decent flavor, they don't cut a solid slice of onion for your burger - just several choice rings that don't over-power the other flavors. The lettuce and tomatoes were crisp and cold. Sure, it's the middle of winter and all of that stuff is probably trucked in from commercial farms in California or elsewhere and sure the beef probably comes from commercial feedlots, but it was tasty and carefully prepared - not just slapped carelessly together like at other burger joints.

The downsides were the Coke and fries. When it comes to fountain-based sodas, one cannot escape the clutches of High Fructose Corn Syrup with it's thick, viscosity coating the mouth and dulling the senses. It's gross and should be illegalized in America. The fries were okay but they weren't crisp, just kinda soggy. The flavor was nice but they lacked the crisp pop that I prefer in french fries.

Burger Bros.
14 Allegheny Avenue
Towson, MD 21204