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"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate – you know someone's fingers have been all over it." – Julia Child

Strawberry Vodka Cocktail & Chocolate Madelines

I think of myself as “ladylike,” but truth be told, I’ve been known to sit on filthy floors at Penn Station, curse like a sailor, and engage in a number of other activities that would not be characterized as demure. I think that goes for Tara as well, though I suspect the dirty floor situation is a María del Mar Exclusive.

What happened?! Remember when women wore hats and little white gloves and skirts and crossed their ankles? Remember those up-do’s and perfect lipstick? When did we start wearing Uggs (I admit to being a chronic offender) and dressing in sweatpants to travel?

Modernity has its freedoms: No corsets! No girdles! No nonsense! I did grow up somewhere where it was a major violation of code to leave your house without makeup, a proper blow-out, and an impeccably pressed linen outfit. While it made for a very decorous procession down the aisles of the supermarket, it was a terrible chore.

Balance, I say! Most of the time you’ll find us wearing utilitarian uniforms—trousers, chambray button-downs, flats, and fine, yes, UGGS—but once in a while, especially now that spring has graced us with its presence, you might spy us in a dress and heels and pucker-up-perfect lipstick: I adore it! I love feeling like the vision of women I had when I was painstakingly buttoning up Barbie’s pink double-breasted suit (which had a sparkly underpinning and a tulle lining under the pencil skirt). When it comes to dining, a lady sits and eats daintily and sips.

When it comes to a modern-day lady, a meal might entail half a bottle of wine and forkfuls of food between retouching and typing. Balance? What we often write about: going about your daily business of rushing everywhere, sandwich hanging out of your mouth, takeout coffee spilled down your front, and then, occasionally, sitting down to sip and take tiny bites out sheer enjoyment and wanting to make the moment last rather than trying to fit an Emily Post ideal.

In thinking of these brief respites we came up with a new tea party idea that combines the ombré spectrum of our femininity. There are indeed dainty chocolate bites, but instead of tea, strawberry vodka and bubbles. Take a seat, and, do, DO! take your hat and glove off. Crossed ankles optional.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetAn excerpt from one of my favorite books, courtesy of Abuela Muriel: “Good Housekeeping Party Menus and Recipes” 1958 edition.

CHOCOLATE MADELEINES

Recipe adapted from Epicurious

Yields about 18

Baking spray
8 ounces bittersweet (60 – 70% cacao) chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla or almond extract
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup heavy cream
1 ounce (¼ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375°F. Place a standard or silicone Madeleine baking pan (these come in different indentation numbers) on a baking sheet (for easier transferring in and out of the oven) and lightly coat with baking spray.

– Set up a double-boiler by adding about 2 inches of water to a small saucepan. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer. Place the chocolate in a metal or glass bowl that will fit over the saucepan—when using a double-boiler, the bowl should never make contact with the water as it is the hot vapor that will allow gentle heating. Stir the chocolate until it is melted and glossy. Remove from the heat and allow to cool about 5 minutes.

– Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, beat the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, extract, and salt in a medium bowl until pale yellow in color and tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. Stir in the melted chocolate.

– With a soup spoon, spoon the batter about ¾ of the way up each Madeleine mold. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until set and puffed. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and then, the molds directly to the rack.

– Cool Madeleines for 10 minutes, then gently turn out of molds and continue cooling. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

STRAWBERRY BLUR

Let us note that store-bought fruit-flavored vodka is not our go-to, but “Sorbetta”, LiV Vodka’s strawberry liqueur is the exception to the rule. Smooth, bursting with strawberry flavor, and just sweet enough, we like to add it to a chilled glass of prosecco or drink it straight.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, they say, and we concur. It’s coffee and food just after waking for us, but this classic Irish breakfast ups the ante on the weekday yogurt-and-granola staple.

This breakfast is protein heavy, containing Irish bacon and sausages, black and white pudding, and sunny side-up eggs. In addition, there are fried tomatoes, beans (white in a sweet tomato sauce not unlike American baked beans), sautéed tomatoes, soda bread, and naturally, a pint of Guinness.

Please note that it does take some effort to gather the makings of this breakfast, but Irish products are available, and they are well worth seeking out, particularly the bacon, which is more like a slim pork chop rather than the American bacon strips.

Happy St. Patrick’s day, and sláinte!

Oh, Valentine’s Day. Mostly I associate it with the not getting of the “Be Mine” card in my school desk in grade school. What sort of holiday is this where the frizzy haired and bespectacled girls get snubbed? Boooo!!! Hiss!!! BUT! You know, I love pink and red and it seems like those are the colors of that Valentine guy. AND! Dessert. Seems to be the thing that either you enjoy on a date or binge on if you don’t have one. Go for it,  eat it like a hot dog. xoxo

RASPBERRIES AND CREAM ECLAIRS

Makes 6

Once cooled, you can freeze leftover éclairs in a zipper-lock bag. When ready to use, warm through in a preheated 350°F oven, then allow to cool to room temperature.

For the Eclairs
1 cup water
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, beaten plus 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

In medium saucepan, combine the water, butter, sugar, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, stirring until butter melts. Stir in flour all at once, and continue cooking, stirring constantly and vigorously, until the mixture forms a smooth ball of dough, 4 to 5 minutes. The bottom of the saucepan should be clean.

Remove from heat and transfer dough to a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon, add the eggs and stir until they’re fully incorporated. With a soup spoon, scoop dough out into 6 logs.

Beat the yolks, a pinch of salt, and cream in small bowl. Brush tops of dough with egg wash. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking for about 30 minutes, or until the dough is puffed and golden golden. Transfer éclairs directly to cooling rack and cool completely.

For the Glaze
1 ½ cups fresh raspberries
½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Pulse the raspberries in a food processor until completely puréed. Strain the raspberry sauce and discard the seeds. Whisk in the sugar.

For the Filling
1 ½ cups heavy cream, chilled
¼ cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 cups fresh raspberries

Beat the cream and sugar together in a large bowl with a large whisk or an electric mixer until soft peaks form.

To assemble, cut the éclairs in half lengthwise. Spoon in whipped cream and tuck in raspberries. Drizzle glaze over the éclairs.

 Eat, drink, and be merry! Wishing you a lovely holiday season and a joyful new year.

WINE, SPICE, & ROSE POACHED PEARS

Serves 8 to 10

Note: Beets add a vibrant crimson hue to the pears, that red wine alone doesn’t achieve.

1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks
6 firm Bosc pears
2 cups dry red wine
2 cups water
3 cups granulated sugar
Pinch salt
2 beets, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup dried edible rosebuds*, plus additional for garnish
2 teaspoons lemon juice

– Peel the pears, cut them in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with a melon baller or a 1-teaspoon measuring spoon.

– In a large saucepan, toast black peppercorns and cinnamon stick over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high and, add wine, water, and sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to medium, add pears, salt, beets, and rosebuds. Place a piece of parchment paper directly on the surface of the pears and weigh down with a smaller saucepan (this will ensure even poaching and coloration).

– Simmer until pears are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Store, refrigerated, for up to 5 days, until ready to use.

– When ready, remove and discard beets. Remove pears from syrup and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until mixture is thick and syrupy, about 10 minutes.

– Serve pears with lightly sweetened whipped cream, crème fraîche, or ice cream and a sprinkle of Maldon salt. Garnish with rosebuds, if desired.

*Order rosebuds online at Kalustyan’s.

ThanksgivingOnce a year, we gather and give thanks. We had the chance to do that early, as a warm-up if you will, this year, when we got together to put this Thanksgiving spread together.

The cold had crept in, with rain and gusts of violent wind. Those weather conditions mirrored some of our emotional states as well. But, as we settled into the evening and into the kitchen, all was calm and warm and safe.

Let’s be thankful for the moments, little and big, that bring us together with the people we hold dear, be it a Tuesday night or a calendar holiday.

And, a special thanks to the talented Penelope Bouklas and Jessica O’Brien for making these images come to life.

ThanksgivingCRUCIFEROUS CRUDITES

Serves 4 to 6

I’m a word geek, and “cruciferous” gives me no end of pleasure. I like that it sounds like a description of a tree creature in a Tolkien novel, but also, that it sounds like a biting into something crunchy and spiky and nubby and slightly juicy. It’s perfect, because cruciferous vegetable (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and kohlrabi, to name a few) are just all those things.

Here is one of my favorite crucifers: Romanesco. Pale green and spiraled and spiky like an underwater sea creature, it’s a more robust yet more sophisticated version of cauliflower. And, did you know? The spirals in each funky floret follow the Fibonacci sequence. Look it up: mind-blowing.

This is a pretty and simple recipe that really ups the ante on the basic crudité platter. Romanesco florets get a blanch in boiling water and a shock in cold, while purple cauliflower, another cruciferous beauty, is quickly sautéed for warm, buttery contrast.

Make the dip first:
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup crema or crème fraîche
2 garlic cloves, miced or grated
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

– Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl and store, covered, until ready to serve.

Prep the crudités: 
1 head Romanesco, cut until florets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 head purple cauliflower, cut into florets
2 teaspoons lemon juice

– Line a large baking sheet with 3 layers paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice. Add enough cold water to fill bowl about three-quarters of the way. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Stir in 3 tablespoons salt and Romanesco florets and cook for 1 minute. Drain and immediately add florets to prepared ice bath. When completely cooled, drain florets and spread them on prepared baking sheet.

– Cook butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until bubbling and beginning to brown. Add the cauliflower, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing or stirring , until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon juice (Surprise! Did you see the color change?!).

– Arrange the Romanesco and cauliflower florets on a platter and serve with garlic dip.

Thanksgiving

ThanksgivingPUMPKIN SOUP

Makes about 7 cups

Equipment: paring knife, soup spoon or ice cream scoop, baking sheet, cooling rack, large mixing bowl, blender, large skillet, soup pot, slotted spoon, paper towels

There are numerous gourds for sale this time of year, from pie-friendly sugar ones to quick roasting ones like acorn. We opted for this large cheese pumpkin in order to make enough soup for a crowd.

Wipe the exterior of the pumpkin clean with a damp rag, then carve it as you would a jack-o’-lantern (well, don’t carve out a face on it or the soup will ooze out): run a sharp paring knife around the pumpkin, about a quarter of the way below the stem, then remove the “hat” and scoop out the seeds and membrane. I like to use a sharp-edged ice cream scoop to do this. Now you’re ready to make the soup.

For the soup:
1 (6 to 7-pound) cheese or Cinderella pumpkin, prepared as instructed above
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups chicken broth (*low-sodium if not homemade)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Place pumpkin on a large baking sheet. Rub inside of pumpkin with 1 ½ teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, Aleppo pepper, and butter. Rub the exterior of the pumpkin and its hat (place it beside the pumpkin on the sheet) with oil and roast until flesh is easily pierced with a skewer, 45 minutes to an hour.

– Transfer pumpkin on sheet to a cooling rack, and allow to cool about 10 minutes. With a large spoon, scoop out flesh and accumulated juices into a large mixing bowl. Leave about 1-inch of flesh all around the interior of the pumpkin so it doesn’t collapse. Scrape the flesh from the underside of the pumpkin’s hat, too.

– Puree the pumpkin in a blender, in batches, until smooth. Transfer each batch to a Dutch oven or soup pot. Heat the soup over medium heat, stirring, and adjust consistency with chicken broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and lemon juice. When ready to serve, place pumpkin on a large serving tray or platter, and ladle in the soup. Serve with garnish (see below).

For the garnish:
4 slices slab bacon (about 1/2-inch thick slices), cut into ¼-inch thick batons
1 pound mixed mushrooms, such as shiitake, hen of the woods/maitake, and cremini, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil, if needed
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 bunch sage
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup Latin American crema or crème fraîche

– Line a plate with 2 layers paper towels. Place bacon in a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Once bacon starts rendering fat, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until crisp and deep golden brown, about 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to prepared plate.

– Add mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Taste mushrooms and season to taste. Transfer to plate with bacon.

– If skillet is dry, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add pumpkin seeds and sage and cook until crisp, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return bacon and mushrooms to skillet and toss to combine. Transfer to serving plate and pass at table along with crema.

ThanksgivingSPAGHETTI SQUASH IN ROASTED POBLANO CREAM SAUCE

Yield: 1 (3-pound) squash yields 4 cups, serving 6 to 8 as a side

Equipment: chef’s knife, mallet and metal bench scraper (if available), cutting board, kitchen towel, soup spoon, baking sheet, foil, fork, large skillet

We’re obviously not going to tell you to skip the mashed potatoes this year, but include this lush side in your menu: think creamy, spicy mac’n’cheese sauce over golden, sweet spaghetti squash.

Lickety split!
We hate splitting spaghetti squash, but, we’ve tried roasting the thing whole and even thought the skin softens, it takes forever it’s a big old mess inside afterwards. Microwave? Sure, but proceed with caution—explosions have been known to happen.

Here’s what we find is an easier approach to cracking that nut-hard skin: Place a damp kitchen towel on a *stabilized cutting board and place the squash on it. Tap a metal bench scraper into the squash with a meat mallet or hammer until it begins to crack. Pry it out, then, use a large knife to finish the job. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come apart in two completely even halves, as they rarely do.

Scoop the seeds and membranes out with a soup spoon or, better yet, with a metal ice cream disher.

Stabilizing cutting boards: Never chop on a board that’s slip-sliding all over your work surface. Set the board on a rubber grip mat, a damp paper towel, or a damp kitchen towel.

Roast the squash:
1 (3-pound) spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoon dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easier cleanup).

– Season the cut sides of squash with salt and pepper and sugar, then brush with butter. Roast, cut-sides up, until fork tender, 45 minute to 1 hour.

– Transfer squash on sheet to a cooling rack and, when cool enough to handle, scrape out flesh with a fork. If immediately proceeding with recipe, leave flesh in the shell, cover, and keep warm. Otherwise, refrigerate flesh and shells separately until ready to use. When ready to use, drain any accumulated liquid and reheat flesh in a lightly oiled saucepan over medium heat, or in the microwave.

Sauce it!
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 poblano peppers, stems, ribs, and seeds removed, cut into thin strips
2 jalapeño peppers, stems, ribs, and seeds removed, cut into thin strips
1 medium onion, thinly sliced from pole to pole
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed
1 cups Latin American crema or crème fraîche
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 ounces cotija cheese or feta, crumbled

– Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the poblanos, jalapeños, and onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is softened and deep golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

– Add the flour and stir to coat. Cook 2 minutes to eliminate raw flavor in flour. Add the milk in a slow, steady stream, stirring constantly to avoid lumps from forming. Stir in crema and cook until heated through and slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and adjust seasoning. If you prefer a soupier sauce, stir in milk as needed.

– Pour sauce over spaghetti squash and sprinkle with cheese. Serve.

MacGyver your leftovers!
Use leftovers to make grilled cheese sandwiches or quesadillas.

ThanksgivingBUTTERNUT SQUASH DRESSING 

Serves 6 to 8

Equipment: Peeler, chef’s knife, baking sheet, cooling rack, large skillet

Whether you’re having roast beast or fowl this Thanksgiving, dressing is a must. Why am I not calling stuffing? Because I’m not putting it into anything other than my mouth, and also, please only stuff your turkey with aromatics like onions, apples, lemons, and herbs. The bread mixture will only act as a sponge, soaking up turkey blood and juice and not really tasting like anything much at the end. The texture is a horror, too.

This dressing is crisp and multi-textured, with nubby bits of hot Italian sausage, good bread, and sweet pieces of butternut squash. Avoid prepackaged stuffing: crumbly bread and to many dry spices that taste like forgotten crouton crumbs at an all-you-can-eat salad bar.

You can roast the squash & toast the bread up to 2 days in advance!
1 large loaf sturdy bread, such as ciabatta, cut into 1-inch cubes to make 6 cups
1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch dice to make 3 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons orange zest plus 1 tablespoon orange juice

And pick it up from here, on the stovetop before serving: 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more as needed
4 fresh hot Italian sausages, casings removed and crumbled
2 large shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon rosemary leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
8 sage leaves, chopped

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange squash in an even layer. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with zest and juice and use hands to evenly coat. Roast until tender, about 12 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack.

– Melt butter over medium-high heat in large skillet. Add the sausage and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

– If the skillet is very dry, add 1 tablespoon butter. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, thyme, and sage and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

– Add butternut cubes and sausage to the skillet and stir to combine. Taste and season. Add bread and stir to combine. Add broth, and once again stir to combine. Cover and keep warm.

– When ready to serve, adjust oven rack to upper third and heat broiler to high. Transfer dressing to an oven-safe serving dish, or, if going super casual, leave it in the skillet. Run the dish under the broiler until crisp and golden, 1 – 3 minutes. Serve.

ThanksgivingPUMPKIN HAND PIES 

Makes 6

Equipment: Dutch oven or 6- to 8-quart pot, slotted spoon or spider, blender, strainer, rolling pin, chef’s knife, baking sheet, parchment paper, cooling rack

A few months ago, I needed a pumpkin for a photo shoot, but they were nowhere near being in season. Enter ayote or zapayo, or what I call “Latin pumpkin” or calabaza. It’s just one more of the gourd family, with the unique exception that you can find it year-round at many grocery stores. I grew up eating ayote en miel: ayote cooked in dark brown sugar syrup until dark and tender. Usually, to offset the sweetness, it, along with other stewed fruits, are served with salty cheese.

We had a piepalooza last year and were reluctant to revisit, but this Pop Tarts-inspired dessert brought together some heritage, a departure from the usual pie, and a great option for sending your guests off with an edible gift. If you’re pressed for time, do use store-bought pie crust, otherwise, visit our 2013 “Pie-Faced” Thanksgiving post for our recipe and method. Prepare the recipe for a double-crust pie and divide the dough into 2 rounds for easier handling. You can make the dough a couple of days in advance.

For the ayote en miel: 
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
3 pounds ayote, zapayo, calabaza, or sugar pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into large chunks
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
Water
½ teaspoon salt
Peeled zest of 1 orange, plus its juice

– In a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot of 6- to 8-quart capacity, toast peppercorns, allspice berries, and cinnamon over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

– Add the pumpkin cubes, sugar, salt, orange zest and juice, and enough water to cover the pumpkin by about ½ inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until completely tender, 1 to 2 hours.

– With a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the pumpkin to a bowl. Allow to cool to room temperature, then, purée in a blender until smooth. Strain cooking liquid and use it to sweeten and flavor anything from tea, to mulled wine, warm cider, and simple cocktails.

To assemble: 
All-purpose flour
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Pinch salt

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

– Dust a clean, dry work surface with all-purpose flour and roll each dough circle out to about 12- by 13-inches. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons pumpkin purée on the lower half of the dough, leaving a “frame” of about 1 inch around each mound of filling. Fold the top half of the dough over, with a chef’s knife cut into 3 hand pies (each will be roughly 4- by 5-inches), and use a fork to crimp and seal the tarts.

– Whisk together the yolk and cream and brush evenly on each hand pie. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

The Condiments

The Cheeseburger

 

People frequently ask: “How do you decide what to post?” Often it’s about how much time we have to prep, so we come up with recipes that can be made with ingredients picked up on the walk from the subway home, or with bits that were lurking in the fridge and pantry. Cravings, as we mention often, also fuel our posts. And holidays, of course. Thanksgiving is in the works!

Another one, illustrated here, is a hole in our portfolios. As professional photographer and food stylist, our body of work is constantly expanding, but that growth lacks structure and direction. For instance, we might spend months working on packaging for frozen food, or on healthy cookbooks, which translates into a library of images that represent only a corner of our market. Clients will approach us and say, “Have you shot any drinks? What about cakes?” When this happens, we need to be ready to say, “YES!” and supply them with examples. When not working for pay, artists turn to tests to flex their creative muscles, and also to stock their image libraries.

I approached this burger primarily from a food styling angle, rather than the usual recipe one, therefore, no official recipe. However, I can give you a few tips on what to do when making a burger at home so it tastes great and looks picture-perfect (we did eat this one and it was delicious, if you were wondering).

HERE’S THE BEEF Grind your own beef (I have attachments for my KitchenAid stand mixer) or ask a butcher to do it. It’s impossible to tell what’s in those Styrofoam trays in the meat display at the supermarket #mysterymeat.

I usually go with chuck, which comes from the shoulder, and has a good balance of meat and fat. If you read enough articles about famous burger joints, you’ll find out about special blends, but chuck is a standard. Do not ever make a burger with lean beef. I mean it.

GET IN SHAPE I’m a condiment addict, and grew up eating proteins like grilled chicken and beef patties that were marinated with Worcestershire sauce and French’s mustard. Save the condiments for the finished burger: you want the beef to be the main event.

Don’t salt the beef until the patty is formed. It sounds insane, especially if you season like I do: one ingredient at a time and progressively as the dish develops. Salt messes with muscle proteins and toughens the meat. I actually just found a note about that in one of my abuela Muriel’s recipes from the 1950s.

When do you season, then? Once the patty is shaped. Salt and pepper it liberally on both sides. Go with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

How do you shape? Quickly and gently. Divide your beef into equal amounts (I make 6 ounce patties), shape into a patty about 3/4-inch thick, then press into the center to make a little well. This will prevent the patty from bulging in the middle. Cover and refrigerate the patties if you’re not cooking them immediately.

FLIPPING OUT Heat your grill or a large skillet with a teaspoon of vegetable oil over high heat until it begins to smoke. Add your patties and flip them once they’ve started to darken and set. I like a rare, bloody burger, so my patty’s done when it’s charred but still oozing red juices (about 125°F when tested with an instant-read thermometer). Squeamish? 140°F for medium, and then, you’re on your own.

ON BUNS AND TOPPINGS Have at it. I like a squishy potato bun that’s really only there to soak up meat juices and condiments, but a buttered and griddled brioche roll is lovely. Mustard. Ketchup. Pickles. Hot sauce. Onion slices. Lettuce. Ripe tomatoes. Go nuts, and don’t let anyone harass you if your condiment of choice is MAYO.

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