Even though I grew up in New York, I’d never had a patty melt until just a few years ago. The classic version (a thin ground beef patty topped with either Swiss or cheddar cheese and grilled onions on rye bread, pan fried in butter) was said to have originated in Southern California in the restaurant chain of William “Tiny” Naylor in the 1940s or 1950s. It’s become a staple of diners, bars and dives all over the U.S.
Basically a happy, messy mashup of a grilled onion-topped burger and a grilled cheese sandwich, as soon as we made our first batch of Kimchi Pimento Cheese, we knew what we wanted to do with it.
Crispy on the outside, pillowy and creamy in the middle, Arepas make the best sandwich ever, with easy BBQ Chicken, shredded Cheddar cheese, pickled Red Onions and Avocado.
In 1994, I had just graduated college and was living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. During the day I worked my first job in the film industry. I was interning in the editing room of a film called Surviving the Game (starring Rutger Hauer, F. Murray Abraham, Gary Busey and Ice T. Yes, you read that list correctly.) At night and on the weekends, when I wasn’t bartending, I was attempting to make a living as a custom hand-bound book artist. This is the long way of saying I was ridiculously flat-out broke.
My friend, Adriana
My partner in book-binding, loft-living and cooking on a budget was my best friend from college, a beautiful and talented artist from Colombia named Adriana, who sadly passed away in 2004. She and I spent countless hours in her loft (a former fish-canning factory which, worryingly, always smelled a little like anchovies when it rained). We laughed at a million stupid jokes, bound hundreds of books, and watched many episodes of the X-Files. We also ate a gazillion Colombian-style arepas, slathered with butter and salt (or sharp cheese and guava paste, Adriana’s favorite).
Not to get too emo on you but looking back, I realize what a formative and precious time those years were. It taught me that I can make anything, including furniture. I learned that film editing is basically magic. And most importantly, I learned that when you cook with people, what you learn from them stays with you forever, so they’re with you forever.
Whenever I miss her I make arepas. I make arepas often.
When we want the flavors of bulgogi and the convenient outdoor grilling method of a burger, there’s an easy solution: combine them. By sticking with the tried-and-tested burger, glazing it with a spicy soy-ginger-garlic-gochujung sauce, and stacking it with kimchi mayo and pickled daikon radish, you can keep the best of both worlds without offending culinary purists.
We’ve all experienced what I like to call “fusion fails”. Two culinary concepts which, taken individually, are perfectly respectable, but in combination create a whole that is … let’s just say less than the sum of its parts. For example, I love fruit, I love cheese, but bits of fruit IN cheese? No thank you. I love bacon, and I’m a fan of vodka, but bacon-flavored vodka (yes, this exists)? I’ll pass. The most successful fusions take two examples which aren’t so far separated on the food spectrum that you have to take a leap of faith that the result is even edible, let alone worth the trouble of combining them. Croissants and doughnuts can at least both be found on the bakery shelf, and thus we have the cronut. And bulgogi, the Korean staple, uses thin strips of beef that are marinated and seared, so why not apply those flavors to a perfectly grilled burger? To be honest, making up names like “cronut” and “flagel” isn’t our forte, so we’re simply calling this the “bulgogi burger”. If you’re as nerdy as we are, you might like to call this a “crossover episode” – where stars from two different shows team up to make a delicious dinner! (This is why we don’t write TV shows.)
Our version of the ultimate, best-ever fried chicken sandwich: crisp, craggy crust, juicy, tender meat topped with a fresh Basil Green Goddess slaw. It’s unbelievably good.
As a writer, I die a little inside every time I use an exclamation mark (enough already, Internet. I get it, you’re excited). But if ever a sandwich deserved some un-ironic enthusiasm, it’s this one. It’s crispy! It’s spicy! It’s tender and juicy and slathered with basil mayo!
I know I sound completely, utterly ridiculous but I don’t care! It’s that good.
Happy July 4th weekend, readers! We’re taking this week off from posting brand new articles while we organize our recipe boxes for the summer, but we thought you might appreciate this post from a couple of years ago. We make pulled-pork every year around this time, and made this way it is DAMN TASTY.
I’m not going to tell you that slow-roasting a pork shoulder is the quickest path to dinner – far from it – but, for a weekend cooking project, it definitely pays off in spades.
There are actually two different cuts that get called pork shoulder: “Boston butt” and “picnic shoulder.” Either is fine for this, but do get bone-in and if possible, pasture-raised. Boston butt is easier to find but I tend to look for picnic because it’s usually sold skin-on and I like to make crackling.
True, there is a bit of planning involved here but most of the time is inactive and the end result is so worth it. It’s perfect for a relaxed kind of party (the best kind, in my opinion) where people don’t mind getting messy or sparring over bits of crunchy pork skin. Because of the way it’s cooked, pulled-pork should stay pretty juicy, so it’s great in this kind of sandwich.
I combined two recipes here, one is Momofuko-style with a sweet/tart glaze from Bon Appétit (I love the flavors but it didn’t include crackling). The other is a Jamie Oliver recipe which I used mainly as a technique to get crispy skin.
What you wind up with is a huge pile of delicious pulled-pork with a tart vinegary glaze and a sheet of crackling that you can cut up and distribute as you like (or eat by yourself when no one’s looking). This would be perfect on its own or in tacos, quesadillas, grilled-cheese sandwiches (try one with bleu cheese!). I definitely recommend making something pickled to go along-side (we made both Quick-Pickled Red Onions and Sweet & Sour Pickled Radishes). We also made a version of this Asian Cabbage Salad, but without fennel since we didn’t have any.
We meant to take a picture of the pork coming out of the oven, but Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 1 [2016 update: feel free to replace with GoT Season 6 / Outlander Series 2 finales as applicable] was just starting and … well, there are some things you just don’t trust your DVR with.
We also meant to take a picture of the crackling … but we ate it.
A stellar, top notch brunch doesn’t need to take hours to prepare. These Tartines (toasts) with Herb Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon and Salmon Roe take only 15 minutes!
I’ve mentioned before that, though my mother is a fantastic cook, both my grandmothers were truly, ridiculously bad in the kitchen. Vegetables were boiled until they begged for mercy. Meats were blasted in the oven until they were unrecognizable. Even bread somehow managed to become disks of solid brick. (And I’m not talking about homemade bread. Store-bought. And this in the heyday of Wonder bread). It was grim.
So my brother and I always breathed a sigh of relief when our parents stopped at Zabar’s before the family trip to Queens (where we assumed every grandparent in America lived). Zabar’s, to those who are unfamiliar, is an Upper West Side institution. Open since 1934, it’s one of those places that’s almost impossible to describe. It’s a gourmet store but only because it sells things that are now considered “gourmet” but used to just be “food”, albeit for immigrants. Smoked fish, cheese, baked goods like bagels and babka. Items that turned my German-Austrian grandparents positively verklempt.
So we would pick up some smoked salmon, a little sable. Some whitefish salad. Pickled herring that no one ever seemed to touch. Along with cream cheese and a dozen bagels (from the dearly departed H&H, of course), off we drove to the outer boroughs where we’d set everything out on my Nana’s dining table and eat off of styrofoam plates. Even I, a known fish-hater and infamously grumpy child, would schmear a bagel with cheese and lay on a slice of nova.