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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

Posts from the Behind-the-Scenes Category

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.

It’s Friday, and I’m going out. Although I don’t suffer from hangovers (knock on wood), I’m always thirsty for a Bloody on the weekends (with gin, please).

There are quite a few ingredients in this drink, so I suggest making it today or tomorrow, before your headache strikes in the wee, too-sunshine-y, why-don’t-I-have-blackout-curtains? hours of the morning after your parranda. You won’t even have to get it together to go out to brunch.

(Ice + premade Bloody + straw) + 10 (water + Advil) = Good morning

CLASSIC BLOODY MARY
A special sneak peek from our upcoming book, Summer Cocktails

Serves 1

Hangovers happen, and cures for them have been peddled and promoted for as long as the perpetrator has existed. Magic cures, potions, rituals, whatever the antidote is purported to be, the Bloody Mary has withstood the test of time as the companion to that morning misery. This Bloody is a stepping stone: add and subtract condiments to suit your palate.

 

For the Salt Rim
2 tablespoons coarse salt, such as kosher or Maldon salt, crushed
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon celery salt, optional
Finely grated zest of half a lime, lime half reserved

For the Cocktail
¾ cup V8, chilled
2 tablespoons clam juice, chilled
2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish*
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 ounces gin or vodka
Ice cubes
Celery stalk, for garnish
Pimento-stuffed olives or Picholine olives for garnish
Beer chaser, optional

In a small saucer, combine salt, pepper, celery salt, and lime zest, rubbing zest into mixture with fingertips. Cut the lime half in two to make wedges, and run one along the rim of a chilled highball glass to dampen. Dip rim into salt mixture and reserve.

In a shaker, combine all ingredients and stir to combine. Adjust flavor with condiments to taste. Serve in an ice-filled highball glass and garnish with celery stalks and olives.

QUIT HORSING AROUND:
Freshly grated horseradish will be much sharper than prepared. If you’re unfamiliar with horseradish in general, think about eating wasabi or strong mustard. The nasal passage clearing effects are the same. The prepared version that you find in the refrigerated section of the supermarket will do in a pinch, but it will require a significant amount more to reach the heat level of the fresh root. Also, horseradish oxidizes quickly; don’t let it sit out once it’s grated.

AN INTERESTING THING:
There is some debate as to whether the original Bloody Mary was made with gin or with vodka. Allegedly, a Bloody made with gin is called a Red Snapper, but the famous King Cole Bar a the swank St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan claims the fishy moniker was the original name for the Bloody Mary, made with the usual vodka. Use and call it whatever you like — it won’t matter after a couple.

Lemonade

Lemonade

Lemonade

Lemonade

BREAKING NEWS: We’re working on our second book!  Even as “Winter Cocktails” was enjoying its moment in the sun (or snow, rather), its summer mate was already being thought about. And drunk about.

Expect boozed up iced teas, milkshakes, and granitas, as well as classic cocktails and antidotes for those raucous summer nights we all indulge in.

Have a taste! This is one of the recipes in progress (much better than what that kid down the block is peddling).

AND! If you have any suggestions for the name, do tell. We’ll send you an autographed copy of the book when it’s out.

AS YET NAMELESS COCKTAIL
Makes 4 (about 4-ounce drinks)
4 ounces (1/2 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice, from about 6 lemons
4 ounces (1/2 cup) demerara simple syrup*
6 tablespoons hibiscus tea*
4 ounces (1/2 cup) pisco
2 ounces (1/4 cup) Lillet blanc
2 ounces (1/4 cup) St. Germain elederflower liqueur
Ice cubes

- Combine all ingredients in a shaker (we sometimes use a mason jar) and shake vigorously. Strain into an ice-filled glass and garnish with a lemon twist, if desired.

- Cheers!

Be sure to follow the “Summer” girls on Instagram for behind-the-scenes #summercocktailsbook and for our usual shenanigans and wacky hijinks!
@tstriano @sacasastylist @misspaloma @emilyrickardstylist

Expect “Summer Cocktails” (Quirk Books) next year.

*For the demerara simple syrup: Combine 1 cup demerara sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved entirely. Remove saucepan from heat and cool syrup completely. Syrup may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Yield: About 2 cups.
*Dried hibiscus flowers (or flor de jamaica) can be found in many specialty stores and also in the Latin American aisle of many supermarkets. Alternatively, order online or substitute with sachets of hibiscus tea. I like to use a 2-to-1 ratio of water to flowers. Bring the mixture to a boil, allow to steep off the heat for 30 minutes, then strain through a sieve and discard solids. Whatever amount you decide to make, store in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

 

winter cocktailswinter cocktailswinter cocktails

We’ve been celebrating the release of our book, Winter Cocktails , for a few weeks with book signings, demos, and most importantly,  with loud and punch-drunk parties at home and with friends who’ve supported us every step of the way. Celebrate with us at home with one of our cocktails, and share in our glee while you look at these pictures, graciously taken by photographer Shinsuke Kishima.

A special thanks to Penelope Bouklas and Emily Rickard our prop stylists, without whose magical touches and hawk-eyed attention to detail, our book wouldn’t be as sumptuous as it is. Thank you to Geraldine Pierson, who put up with a vast number of photos that needed to be scoured through and pruned. Thank you to Lea Siegel for getting us camera-ready for our portraits. Thank you to Benny Mouthon, who added sound to our video and also took the lovely portrait at the back of our book, catching us in all of our early-morning/no makeup glory.

Finally, thank you to Ed Levine, Kenji López-Alt, and Leandra Palermo at Serious Eats for hosting a great party and cheering us on. And, congratulations to old friend and Author of One Bowl Baking Yvonne Ruperti who celebrated her book with us, too.

OGNL.TV StoliWe are incredibly excited to be featured on the new Orgnl.TV Stoli site. The recently launched project focuses on finding creatives working in fashion, art, music, technology, and last but not least, taste.

Check out the site for a Q&A with Tara and me, and for Stoli cocktail recipes!

#ORGNLTV #Stoli

And, for ongoing food pics, follow us on instagram!  Tara: tstriano and Maria sacasastylist

If you don’t have Instagram, try http://www.followgram.me/tstriano and http://www.followgram.me/sacasastylist

Portrait Day

Portrait Day

Make UpThe Crew

If you follow us on Instagram (which you should, Tara at tstriano and me at mdmsacasa) or Twitter or on this blog, you know we’ve been working on a book for the past few months. In recent weeks, we wrapped up photography for the book, reviewed proofs, made edits to content, etc. etc. etc. Crossing the last T was definitely the most exhilarating moment of work on this project, but the most fun was our author portrait photo shoot.

Tara and I are always behind the camera (I try to sneak in here and there, but usually my head gets lopped off) and this was a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence, and we loved it. I don’t know about Tara, but I’m now more than a little reluctant to be the behind-the-scenes chick.

Speaking of which, we look amazing in our author portrait, thanks to photographer Geraldine Pierson and makeup artist Lea Siegel. Those ladies took us from drab to dazzling and for that we thank them profusely.

Our book is due out in the fall, courtesy of our publisher, Quirk Books, but in the meantime, here are a few outtakes highlighting the shenanigans that went on on set!

Home Made Doughnuts

The dog ate our homework. And our set food.

Actually, we have a very good excuse for having left C&S to gather dust, mold, and hairballs: we were working on a BOOK! Our very first, and we are oh-so-thrilled and in that pinch-us-till-we-bruise-because-we-can’t-believe-it phase.

Due out this fall, our first collaboration in print will feature original recipes perfect for the chilly months, so get ready to cozy up with us because we will make it very much worth your while. Guaranteed, or your money back.

For the past few months we’ve been meeting and talking and researching (the research is still classified, but the nature of it will be vodka-clear come fall) and plotting and stressing and sprouting more grays etc. etc. etc. But, finally, in recent weeks, everything came together: I handed in a manuscript with recipes I’m sure will make you giddy, and we got to shooting.

Our shoots began in a Brooklyn brownstone that prop stylist and all-around fabulous girl Emily Rickard has outfitted with her incredible taste and unique style. You must visit her site and blog AppleKetchup for inspiration on how to live.  In the brownstone we shot several of our chapter openers: light, airy, and inviting, Emily’s hand helped us add a touch of welcome and celebration to our images.

Next, we packed, unpacked, packed again, and shot our tabletop images at Good Light Studio in Midtown. We’ve both shot at numerous studios around town, but this is one of our favorites: generous daylight, a too-comfortable kitchen (I was in the depths of despair when I got home to my Lilliputian-sized one), and incredible studio managers. An average of 14 shots a day—in photo speak, that is almost twice as many as are normally accomplished on a normal shoot day—made possible by having two sets going at the same time, as well as the invaluable help of digitech Geraldine Pierson and friend and chef Dean Sheremet—if you haven’t already, do check out his site for recipes and food tips that you shouldn’t be carrying on without.

We realize that this post has turned into an acknowledgments page of sorts, but we really couldn’t have made the shoots and book happen without our crew. Speaking of which, Penelope Bouklas, prop styling goddess, brought us countless surfaces, linens, glasses, plates, and an array of dreamy utensils (one of which I pocketed) that made our lovely book that much lovelier.

Phew. OK, here are some outtakes from the shoot. I’m a ham, so I’m the nerd with the glasses behind the quince branches willing to be photographed. The shot with the grape tomatoes is a peek at one of our juicy double-page spreads, and the doughnuts… Well, you’ve suffered through our Oscar-winner-ish thank you’s so you get a sneak peek recipe. You’ll love it and it will make you the most popular gal or dude at the party. Srsly.

Behind the Scenes

Bloody Mary

CHEATER DOUGHNUTS

Toss the doughnuts in simple cinnamon sugar, or add some extra zing with citrus or vanilla bean sugar, dip them in warm maple syrup (give your guests a small bowl), make them savory with sugar, pinch of salt, pinch of cayenne pepper, fried sage crumbled

1 tin store-bough biscuits
8 cups vegetable oil

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large skillet with high sides over medium-high heat until temperature registers 350°F. (Oil should be 1- to 1 1/2 inches deep). Add half of the doughnuts and half of the doughnut holes and fry until the bottoms turn golden brown, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes small doughnuts and 2 to 2 1/2 minutes for large doughnuts. Using chopsticks or the handles of 2 wooden cooking spoons, turn the doughnuts and holes and fry for until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Transfer doughnuts to a paper towel-lined plate and allow to cool slightly, 1 to 2 minutes before dipping in glaze or coating in sugar. Serve warm.

SPICY SAGE SUGAR
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup sage leaves
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes

Melt butter over medium heat in small skillet. Add sage leaves and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate.

Crumble sage with fingertips and combine with sugar, salt, and Aleppo pepper in large plate. Toss warm doughnuts in sugar and serve immediately.

PLAIN JANE GLAZE
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place confectioners’ sugar and salt in medium bowl. Whisk in melted butter, milk, and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth. Dip doughnuts and serve immediately.

CHOCOLATE GLAZE
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
¾ cup milk

Place confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk in milk and whisk until smooth. Dip doughnuts and serve immediately.

BROWN BUTTER GLAZE
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4  teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk

Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a small stainless steel saucepan. Cook the butter until browned, 5 to 8 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally. The butter will begin to foam; the subsiding foam is an indicator that the butter is almost done.   Once the solids are caramel brown the remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour it into a medium bowl, scraping in all the solids. Add the confectioners’ sugar, salt, vanilla extract and whisk until smooth. Dip doughnuts and serve immediately.

Makes 8 to 10 doughnuts, depending on biscuit tin contents

Time to make the doughnuts: I use Pillsbury® biscuits for this recipe. One roll of “Buttermilk” biscuits yields ten small (about 2 1/2-inch inches in diameter) doughnuts and ten tiny doughnut holes. You’ll need a 1/2-inch round cutter to punch out the holes. One roll of “Grands Homestyle Buttermilk” biscuits yields 8 large (about 3 1/2 inches in diameter) doughnuts and eight doughnut holes. You’ll need a 1-inch round cutter to punch out the holes.

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