Wine Resolution #2 + Truffle Grilled Cheese

photoI’m the kind of person who likes to make lists and then add check marks next to the tasks I complete. Memorial Day weekend allowed me to cross off another wine resolution: Go to a Wine Bar and have a flight of wine.

Andrew and I headed to Bottle Rock in Culver City, a place we had been meaning to try since September. Their concept is simple: order wines by the glass from a prepared list, or order any wine on the menu (at least two glasses) and they’ll open a new bottle. The rest of the bottle will be saved and it’s written on the board for other customers to try. (I know what you’re thinking, we didn’t actually have a flight, but it still counts, especially since this is the first of many wine bars we plan to try.)

We started with a glass of white (Chardonnay for me, Sauvignon Blanc for Andrew) with a cheese platter, then moved to reds for caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes and burrata cheese and their claim to fame, truffle grilled cheese. Let’s just say the grilled cheese was melt-in-your-mouth amazing, so amazing, in fact, that we ordered two.

Here's  a photo of our attempt to recreate it. The white bread slathered with butter was dead-on, but the truffle goat cheese didn’t quite pull through. On our walk back from Whole Foods it occurred to me that the cheese at Bottle Rock was likely a cow’s milk cheese so it would melt like cheddar does. Using goat cheese was the first attempt at many to get it right, and although we didn’t manage to pull it off completely, it's all part of the fun on a culinary adventure. But  don't say you haven't been warned. If you go, order the grilled cheese and you’ll never look back.

A Big Juicy Burger + Homemade Hamburger Buns

Sometimes I rate the quality of a food magazine by the number of pages I dog-ear. A magazine is even better if I find my way back to those pages and make the recipes that initially piqued my interest. Lately, Food & Wine has been hit or miss for me. It just depends on the month, the theme, the recipes themselves, but there have been enough useful issues to warrant renewing my subscription year after year.


So, each year around this time magazines do their summer grilling/summer parties issues, but I was not prepared for what was in store this time around. I’m telling you, I must have dog-eared every other page in the June issue. The cover recipe alone (a big, juicy burger) made my husband pick up the magazine from the ottoman in the living room and bring it to me in the kitchen, hold it up proudly and ask: “When can we make this?”


I have a good feeling about summer. And now that we’ve sold the grill that didn’t fit on our patio and replaced it with a smaller, still functional version that does fit, we’re ready to go. So let’s start grill season off with a classic. Summer is probably the only time I’ll eat a hamburger. I never order them in restaurants, and aside from the occasional In-n-Out drive-through after loading up our trunk at Costco, I pretty much avoid them all together. But now that I’ve discovered I can make my own hamburger buns (people, this was a revelation!), there might be a few more burgers on our menu this season. And if you have ever been to the mostly-West coast burger mecca that is In-n-Out, well, they just might have some competition.


Big Juicy Burger

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine

The original recipe is below, but to make these burgers more like In-n-Out’s, I replaced the raw, red onions with chopped, caramelized onions. Saute them in a pan with olive oil, salt and pepper for about 15-20 minutes. I also omitted the bacon and lost the BLT element, but you’re more than welcome to use it.


1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon grated onion

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped tarragon

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

12 ounces thickly sliced bacon

1 1/3 pounds ground beef chuck

1 1/3 pounds ground beef sirloin

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 6 slices

6 hamburger buns, split and toasted

6 iceberg lettuce leaves

6 slices of tomato

6 slices of red onion


For the Russian Tarragon dressing, in a medium bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the ketchup, red wine vinegar, onion, parsley, tarragon and Worcestershire sauce. Cover and refrigerate.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderately high heat, turning once, until crisp, about 6 minutes. Drain and cut the bacon into large pieces.

Light a grill and fill a large bowl with ice water. Gently mix the ground chuck with the ground sirloin, salt and pepper. Form the meat into six 4-inch patties, about 1 1/4 inches thick. Submerge the patties in the cold water and let soak for 30 seconds. Immediately transfer the burgers to the grill and brush with some of the melted butter. Grill over high heat for 9 minutes for medium-rare meat, turning once or twice and brushing occasionally with butter. Top the burgers with the cheese during the last minute of grilling and let melt.

Spread the Russian dressing on the buns. Set the lettuce leaves and tomato slices on the bottom halves and top with the burgers, red onion and bacon. Close the burgers, cut in half and serve right away.


Homemade Hamburger Buns

Recipe courtesy Annie’s Eats

The buns ended up smaller than I expected. I might not have waited long enough for the second rise, but regardless, I ended up with 9, slider-size buns. Next time I’ll make five large buns instead, but you can play around with the recipe until it’s right for you.


1 tbsp. sugar
2 ¼ tsp. instant yeast
¼ cup warm water (105°-115°)
1 cup warm milk (105°-115°)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt
3 to 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. cold water
sesame, poppy or caraway seeds, or coarse salt, for topping


In a bowl of an electric mixer, dissolve the sugar and then the yeast in the warm water.  Add the milk, oil, salt and 1 ½ cups of flour to the yeast mixture.  Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.  Gradually add flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Switch to the dough hook and knead until you have a smooth and elastic dough, about 7-9 minutes.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl.  Turn once to coat the entire ball of dough in oil.  Cover with a tightly-woven dampened towel and let rise until doubled, about one hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface.  Working with oiled hands, divide the dough into 9 equal pieces.  Shape each piece into a ball, and flatten into 3 ½ -inch disks.  For soft-sided buns, place them on a well-seasoned baking sheet a half-inch apart so they will grow together when they rise.  For crisper bun, place them three inches apart.

Cover with a towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

15 minutes before you want to bake the buns, preheat the oven to 400°.  Just before baking, brush the tops of the buns lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle with any desired toppings.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190°.  When the buns are done, remove them from the baking sheet to cool on a wire rack.  This will prevent the crust from becoming soggy.

* Note: This particular dough should be quite slack, i.e. very relaxed in order to make soft and tender buns.  So you want to add only enough more flour, past the 3 cup point, to make the dough just kneadable, sprinkling in only enough more to keep it from sticking to you or the work surface.