Saturday, July 21, 2018

my biggest stunt yet

I've got a burgers-and-chili-dawgs luncheon coming up on Friday the 27th. Today's a major shopping day for many of the things I'll need, but not for everything. For example, it makes no sense to buy cabbage for cole slaw right now: if I made cole slaw over the weekend, it would be wilted and nasty by Friday. Same goes for the beef patties: buying the beef right now is a bit premature: the beef needs to be fresh, so I'll likely buy it Wednesday night and cook it up late Friday morning.

I've been trying to parse out this enormous task, breaking it down into smaller tasks. I think I've solved the bread problem: I had originally wanted to bake my own buns based on a recipe I saw from Korean YouTuber Maangchi, but then I encountered these fantastic "milk buns" being sold at the grocery in the basement of my building. They're the same consistency as Maangchi's bread. I can buy the milk buns, halve them, lightly toast the insides with butter, and voilà—bread done! I still need to make the Shake Shack-style "special sauce," but I think I have most of the ingredients for that. Chili, which is a major feature of the meal, will be made this weekend. Baked beans, with chopped-up hot dog, will also be made in the next 36 hours. Slaw will have to wait until Wednesday or so. The hot dogs are the easiest part: buy them in mass quantities, then begin gently boiling them on Friday morning. They need at least two hours to get to where I want them. Hot-dog buns are a Costco thing: Costco sells large boxes of buns, and any extra buns can be bought at the local "meatateria," which sells a good bit more than regular meat. (Or I can just buy a second box of hot-dog buns from Costco.)

For the meal, I'm offering nothing healthy:

• smash burgers (trimmings of lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion + special sauce)
• chili dawgs
• chili bowl (dogless, burgerless chili w/cheese and jalapeños)
• corn bread (for the chili-bowl option)
• chips (potato and corn, the latter for the chili if desired)
• baked beans
• cole slaw
• corn salad

...that ought to be enough, right?

The group that's coming to the luncheon, the "ipshi team," is by far the largest team in our department: they've got fifteen people, and our R&D team has eight members. That's going to be quite a crowd. Since I already have two folding tables from Costco, we can seat twelve guests with no problem. The three remaining guests can sit at empty work stations, and we R&Ders will sit at our own work stations, too.

One thing that's puzzled me is how to handle the smash burgers. Cooking them on Monday, then storing them in the fridge or freezer, presents the practical problem of having to reheat all that meat on Friday; plus, a lot of the juice might flow out of the meat, leaving you with bad burgers. Cooking the burgers at any time presents the practical problem of smoke: smash burgers are supposed to be made on a ripping-hot pan, with about 45 seconds of searing/cooking per side. That's the whole point of a smash burger: if you sear two small patties that add up to one regular-sized patty, you're doubling the seared surface area and amping up flavor, which is the essence of the charm of a place like Shake Shack (or so they say; I've never been there). I might be able to circumvent the smoke problem with my my new, fairly powerful range-hood fan plus my stand-alone electric fan. I also have to figure out where to insert cheese into the burger-making process. What I think I'm going to do is this: cook up all the burgers (60 small patties) early Friday morning, throw the burgers into a plastic container where they can keep each other warm for an hour or two, cart the whole thing over to work, slap cheese onto the patties as the burgers are being served, and instruct the diners to use the next-door microwave to finish the cooking off: 30-45 seconds ought to be enough time to melt the cheese and significantly reheat the burgers, at least around the edges. The diners can then come back and top their burgers off with trimmings. If I cook and pile up the burgers too early in the morning, I can store them in my oven, at low heat, until it's time to pack them up and transport them.

There's much more to think about, but you get the idea: this luncheon will be the biggest catering project I've ever done. Wish me luck.


Charles said...

I was at Shake Shack a few times last year. The burgers were good, I suppose, but they didn't blow my socks off. In fact, everything struck me as "quite satisfactory." Definitely not bad, and good enough that we went more than once, but not so good that we ever thought, "Oh, man, we gotta go to Shake Shack!" All in all, I think I preferred Five Guys.

Anyway, good luck, you crazy cooking bastard.

Kevin Kim said...

I haven't been to any of the branches, especially not the one that opened (last year?) in Gangnam. Do you still have to wait in a long line to get a damn burger? Can any burger be worth that long of a wait?

My involvement with the Shake Shack burger comes courtesy of Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats, who has a couple videos and articles about the Shake Shack way of making the sauce and the smash burgers. We'll see how my project goes, although I can already say that my choice of the "milk bun" is going to separate me from authentic Shake Shackitude. But if, in the end, it's the taste that matters, then I don't see my choice of bun as tragic. I think it'll all work out.

(I could also add sesame seeds to the buns via egg wash, sprinkled seeds, and a quick trip to the broiler, but we'll see.)

Charles said...

"Do you still have to wait in a long line to get a damn burger? Can any burger be worth that long of a wait?"

I haven't been to the one in Gangnam, but I was at one near 가로숫길, and although I didn't get a burger there (we just got a milkshake), it wasn't a long wait at all. So I would guess that the first answer to your question is "no."

Incidentally, that is also the answer to your second question.

(Oh, and something I didn't mention in my first comment... next time you want to do bread, come to your friend who has been making bread for over a decade now!)

Kevin Kim said...

re: your parenthetical at the end

You're sending me mixed messages, man! You've encouraged me, before, to get into baking, so... do I spread my wings and start baking my own bread, or do I remain dependent and keep relying on you?

Adolescence is so confusing. What are these hairs?

Charles said...

What I mean is: When you're ready to start baking, I'm more than willing to walk you through the initial steps and steer you clear of the pitfalls, etc. To be honest, I would have thought that I would be the first person you'd ask about where to start, as opposed to some random YouTuber.

Kevin Kim said...

Sorry, man. I've been watching the Maangchi videos for a while, and this particular "roll-bbang" recipe looked so easy that even an idiot like me couldn't mess it up.