The Shake Shack Saga Continues (do-it-yourself version)

Ciao Readers!

So, that last post really exacerbated my longing for a Shake Shack burger (and I am glad I amused at least one of you who knows I was a long-time vegetarian).  I confess that I am one of those people who, once they get an idea in their head, can’t let it go until they make it come to fruition.  Which brings me to my current quest to replicate the illusive magical burger at home.

Fortunately for me, a writer for Epicurious already did the hard part – deciphering exactly how and what goes into making the perfect faux Shake Shack burger.  Now, all that was left for me to do was to track down the exact ingredients and replicate the process.  Okay, let’s take a time-out here – do you think I’m nuts at this point? Do rationale people go through all of this over food?  Have I been permanently psychologically damaged by watching too much Food Network?  In any case…

I think it’s the buns that make the burger, and fortunately, Shake Shack buys buns that anyone (anyone who lives on the East Coast) can buy at their grocery, Martin’s Potato Rolls.  For those of us in New Mexico, the internet does the trick (as I write this I am tracking my buns’ trip from Pennsylvania).  The rest of the ingredients are things you can find at most groceries (though be sure to buy really good quality, thick, fresh, crispy pickles; the ones I found at Sprouts are pictured below).  I did have to get the butcher to grind the meat for me as you need 3/4 to 1/4 sirloin to brisket (am I sounding nuts again?) but other than that, really no sweat. (The butcher did ask me why in the world would I need ground brisket, and no, he had no clue what Shake Shack is.)

So, as soon as those buns get here, we’ll conduct the experiment, take pictures and report…. (for those of you who know I have to get my gallbladder out and that I shouldn’t be eating fatty foods, rest assured I am only going to try a bite, just to sate my taste for now; after that I’ll just watch Steve enjoy his).

[Two days later]  Yay! The mail lady just delivered the buns!!!  Hmmmm……..seems I accidentally ordered mini slider-sized ones (pictured below), so I guess our burgers won’t be 100% spot on, but serendipitously bite-sized – and boy do these buns feel soft!  Only 2 days till the weekend and our test run.  Stay tuned…

[Two more days later] Okay, today’s the day!  So, I made the secret Shack sauce, Steve mixed the meats I had previously ground by the butcher, I opened the jar of pickles and got the fresh veggies ready.  Then, we properly smashed and grilled the burgers, buttered and browned only the insides of the buns and lastly added cheese to Steve’s……..and………drumroll please………..voila!!!!!  Do they taste like my dreams you ask?

……Almost.  They were without a doubt the best homemade burgers we’ve ever made.  The buns were oh so soft, the meat nice and caramelized on the outside, the pickles fresh and crisp and the secret sauce yummy.   But something from my dreams was missing – the fact that the last two times we had these burgers we were on fabluous vacations and someone else made them for us!!!   So, if you are asking is it worth the effort to make these burgers, the answer is an unequivocal “YES.”   But, if you ever have the chance to go on a fabulous trip AND eat a Shake Shack burger – even better!

Here’s how we did it (notice my improving photo-staging techniques):











Balloon Fiesta Fun!

Hola Readers!

It’s been quite a while!  As you know, we’re back here in the Land of Enchantment…and one of the most enchanting things about New Mexico (and Albuquerque in particular) is the International Balloon Fiesta!  This morning the weather was perfect and there were hundreds of balloons aloft, so I had to share some photos.

For those of you unfamiliar with the festival, hundreds of hot air balloons (many in “special shapes”) from around the world take off every morning from the festival grounds throughout the 9 day event (always the first 2 weekends of October), and then in the evenings stay tethered to the ground while lighting their burners for the “Balloon Glow.”   Since the balloons take off at about 7:00 a.m., you have to leave your house very early (we got a late start today – 5:45) and then sit in traffic to park – but once you’re there, there are balloons, food and merriment galore!  (I love hearing the excitement in the voices of first-timers – sometimes, like this morning, in several foreign languages.) And, in honor of the gluttonous pleasure of American festivals, yes, that is me eating a giant turkey leg at 9:30 a.m. (YUM)!  Enjoy…

 

“The Puppetinos Leave New Mexico” (The Prequel)

Ciao Readers!  And Happy (early) Birthday Sachi!!!

Back by popular demand, today I again present “The Puppetinos,” starring in their very own prequel.  In this episode, we go back across the pond and see how it all began (thanks for seeding the NM idea, Tuscan Traveler!) (and thanks to my sis-in-law for the photo of Hurricane’s “Disaster Burrito”).  And yes, I know, I currently have too much time on my hands…

So, dear Readers, I will leave you with this video for now.  As Steve has time off from work coming up and we have a fabulous train trip through three countries planned, I am going to sign off for a couple weeks and come back when I have new and interesting things to say (you’ll get to find out which countries then….).  (Hopefully my toe will be healed enough in time for our trip!)

Feel free to send an old-fashioned e-mail in the meantime (wow – is e-mail already passé?).  Ciao for now!

Ode to Our “Old” Home (Albuquerque)

Since this blog is entitled “New Mexico to Italy,” I thought it was about time to give a shout-out to the place we’re leaving.  I also thought you readers from abroad would appreciate a view of this side of the pond (on a semi-related aside, my assignment for Italian class this week is to present this post in Italian – gasp!).   This is specifically about the place and not the people (you know who you are and that we’re gonna miss you!).  Here are just a few of the cool things about our current home we’re going to miss:

International Balloon Fiesta – this is the largest balloon festival in the world, with upwards of 800 balloons coming from all over the world each year (for 9 days in early in October).  In the morning they take off and in the evenings they stay tethered to the ground for a “balloon glow.”  Balloons are pretty common here (when the winds are calm I can always see at least few on my morning run) and we have been up in one a few times (the unwritten rule is that you “crew” – help man the balloon – to earn a flight).  I have no idea how we got on the topic of balloons in my school in Italy but everyone seemed amazed when I said they could come visit and go up in one – reminding me how truly special/unique the experience is!  Here are just a couple of the many hundreds of photos I have take over the years…


                                           

Sandia Mountain – this is the beautiful mountain that turns “sandia” (watermelon) colored in the evening.  It is great for hiking and skiing.  It is also the way I have not gotten lost for the past 18 years (you can see it from everywhere in town so you always know which way is East).  A couple of years ago I hiked up to the top (9 miles total, to over 10,000 ft.) and then took the tram down (the signs claim it is the world’s longest tram, but I have seen similar claims at other trams…).   (you can read more/see more photos here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandia_Mountains).

The Fiery Food Show – this is the HUGE spicy food festival here that we have been attending for most of the past 17 years (first weekend of March).  There are hundreds of booths where you can taste-test the latest in spicy foods – some are so hot that you get a sticker or some-other trinket if you can actually stand to try them!  Here I am with my sister-in-law a few years ago (and here she is after tasting something VERY spicy!):

Run for the Zoo (and other runs) – I really love running in New Mexico.  Except for the middle of summer, it is almost always perfect weather here in the mornings for a run and there are so many cool organized runs.  I started off with 5k’s, then after many years worked up to 10k’s, then finally to half marathons.  The biggest and most fun is the “Run for the Zoo,”  where you actually run both for the zoo (it’s a fund-raiser) and through the back of the zoo (in how many 10k’s do you get to wave to elephants?!).  Just ran this year’s on May 6.

 

Huevos Rancheros (and all other Mexican, Tex-Mex and New Mexican food!) – It’s always about the food with me!  The best thing about food in New Mexico is the Hatch green chile.  Every year at the end of the summer, the chile is harvested in Hatch, NM, and brought to groceries and stands all over the state.  The tradition is you buy a huge sack full and then wait in line outside to have it roasted in a big roaster (you can pick from gringo mild to HOT – we like it HOT!).  You bring it home and peel it (an all day affair, and one which we learned the hard way our first year here requires wearing gloves!), then bag it up and freeze it to see you through the year of green chile stews, huevos rancheros, green-chile-cheese fries, and just about anything else you can to add green chile to.  YUM!

There are many more great things about Albuquerque – the nearly perpetual sunshine, rollerblading along the Bosque (nature area that runs along the Rio Grande), our very cool Zoo and BioPark, funky Nob Hill where you can stroll and shop and eat outside (closest thing we have to a European city center).  And, yes, there are also not-so-great things we won’t miss… hearing about yet another visitor having their vehicle/belongings stolen from a motel parking lot, the fact that police have shot and killed dozens of people in the past couple of years, Walmart (and the other Walmart, and the smaller, but no less annoying Walmart), the spring winds, and having to drive almost everywhere!  But, as with most things, I am sure we will look back with rose-colored glasses and miss the balloon-filled sky come October…

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