Prior to my trip to Las Vegas, I knew two things about Bobby Flay: He’s the barbecue guy and he makes a million different sauces. My ideas of grilling is fairly basic, so I could only assume that all you needed to do to get on Iron Chef America is just pop out a bunch of hamburgers with interesting sauces. How hard is a freaking hamburger? Not very, I’m thinkin’.
So when my spouse and I crossed paths with his Southwestern style restaurant, Mesa Grill, I was surprised. I was even more surprised when my spouse said he wanted to try it out. He takes a bit of time to warm up to certain kinds of food and I was pretty darn sure he had never eaten Southwestern style, so I was leery.
The menu was blown up quite proudly outside, so I quickly skimmed it over. At first I was surprised that it wasn’t a low-class hamburger joint as I had expected, but something so much more.
The food looked dangerous — racy with spice and lots of ingredients we had never tried before. There wasn’t even a single burger on the dinner menu. I was always up for an adventure, but I didn’t want to get in there and watch my spouse get served up something he didn’t like, because then I’d just be bummed out. So I decided for the both of us that we weren’t going.
Instead, we went a couple of restaurants down to a hibachi/sushi place — that absolutely sucked. The grilled asparagus starter was so over-salted that the tips were inedible. I got a beef teriyaki that was grilled to the consistency of shoe leather. Tom’s sushi was apparently not that great, either. Chalking it up to food karma for snubbing Bobby Flay, we left a poor tip and made plans to visit Mesa Grill the next night.
We had an amazing dinner. I can’t find our appetizer on the menu now, but it was small, homemade tortillas with grilled chicken on skewers, caramelized onion and fresh cilantro served as a tiny, build-your-own-fajita type of deal. They were amazing and simple and I could have eaten an entire plate of them. Next, we shared an entree. (By the time we got in to eat it was 12:30am Eastern time, and I was too tired to eat much, which is why we shared.) We had the Spice Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce. If you want to see a photo of the dish, I found one here, taken by another happy diner. You’ll have to scroll down the page just a little bit to see it.
The pork came to us medium rare, as ordered, with one savory sauce and a second sauce that brought a little bit of heat. We scarfed this down and walked out of there with our eyes opened to a whole new style of cuisine.
When I got home, I was chatting with Citizen Chef about my Vegas trip, and the one thing I kept coming back to was our dinner at Mesa Grill. Sure, Bouchon was amazing, but I had expected it to be. Mesa Grill, on the other hand, was eye opening and gave me a whole new respect for Bobby Flay and his style of food. CC made a comment that I thought was appropriate: “It’s nice to know that at the heart of (the fame, the hype, the television, etc.) is a real chef.”
He’s right. I picked up the Mesa Grill cookbook and started making some of Bobby Flay’s food. So far I’ve totally mangled everything I’ve touched (LOL) but I’m not giving up. I’m very interested in this whole new world of Southwestern flavors and I’m determined to get good at it.
My new Food and Wine magazine hit my mailbox this week (and their freaking website) and I was thrilled to see they had a feature on Bobby Flay, who provided them with a few of his recipes…
Okay, I’ve learned that it’s a lot harder making Bobby Flay’s food than I originally thought, but I can definitely make a hamburger.
Bobby Flay’s Beef Burgers with Peanut-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Adapted from Food & Wine
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons pure ancho chile powder
1 canned chipotle in adobo, minced
1/2 cup water
3 1/2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 hamburger buns, split
1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck
1/2 cup shredded cheddar (3 ounces)
1 scallion, finely chopped
Lettuce and tomato slices, for serving
In a medium saucepan, heat the 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the onion and ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the tomato puree, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, honey, molasses, ancho chile powder, chipotle and water. Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a blender. Add the peanut butter and puree until smooth. Season the barbecue sauce with salt and pepper.
Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the cut sides of the buns with oil and grill until toasted, about 30 seconds. Spread some of the barbecue sauce on the buns.
Form the meat into four 1-inch-thick patties and brush with oil. Season with salt and pepper and grill over high heat, turning once, until nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes. Brush the burgers with some of the sauce and grill until lightly glazed, about 2 minutes. Top with the cheddar and scallion, close the grill and cook just until the cheese is completely melted, about 1 minute. Set the burgers on the buns, top with lettuce and tomato and serve right away.
The barbecue sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 months.
My only real beef (get it?) is the amount of barbecue sauce this makes. Even halving the ingredient list gives you enough for dozens of burgers. I think the thought process behind it is that because it can be kept for up to 2 months, you’ll be bringing it out and using it on other meats for the rest of the summer. In defense of this thought process, the sauce is quite delicious. I could best imagine it going on grilled chicken. By itself it is incredibly spicy, but spread only on the buns and the burgers, mounded with cheese, vine ripened tomatoes and crisp lettuce, an overbearing spiciness wasn’t a factor. In fact, I didn’t really even get the spiciness when eating it. It also wasn’t overbearingly barbecue-y — okay, not a word. What I mean by that is, with any other barbecue sauce, especially jarred, I’m always railroaded by an overbearing tangy zing that dominates the meat. In the case of store-bought sauces, the sauce becomes the star and the meat is sort of an afterthought. With this little bit of added sauce, everything is complimented and the flavors of the meat and vegetables really shine through.
Nice work, Chef.
As if you had any doubts as to my cooking method, I made this on my George Foreman and it came out beautifully. The grill was set to high heat and I toasted the buns first, then I put a bit of vegetable oil on the grilling plates before adding the patties.
During the cooking process, I kept the Foreman open, not closed. This meant a longer cooking time, but I was fine with that. I actually think it came out better this way, because compacting your hamburger can often lead to poor results.
Cooking these on an open Foreman actually worked out well. I used a beef with 20% fat, which both Bobby Flay and America’s Test Kitchen recommends.
Of course, off the top of my head I can’t remember why, but I’m pretty sure it’s a good reason. It ended up being one delicious burger, so they’re definitely on to something.
I served my burgers with a glass of red wine from Francis Coppola’s vineyard and baked onion rings by Alexis, which are typically found in the organic section.