Greetings from the tundra. And happy turkey day!
For some reason I was up crazy early this morning. Before even the sun could crest over the icy Minnesota horizon. Was this anticipation for the cooking ahead? Pre-thanksgiving jitters? Maybe. Are you feeling them too?
But before I head down to the kitchen to start making my semolina crust for a butternut tart appetizer I thought I’d be constructive with my pre-dawn minutes and post a few pics from our visit to the heartland thus far. As you can see from the photo of Conor all bundled up, it snowed yesterday! And the temperature reading this morning is a hearty 8 degrees! Single digits, my friends.
One of our first visits on Tuesday was to a now infamous burger joint in Minneapolis called Matt’s. Joe and Ruth were eager to take me there for lunch, ever since it won “best jucy lucy” in the Twin Cities, according to a contest held with its main rival on The Travel Channel.
Ruth warned me that the place is a dive–but I love dives!! I’m a dive kind of girl. And actually the place was more your charming kind of dive. Like the place where the guys hang out in the movie Beautiful Girls when they’re not plowing snow and pining for Uma Thurman.
Charming, no? There’s even a dude in hunting camo. Behind the bar was a tiny grill (you can sort of see it’s golden glow to the right) where all the burgers are cooked. Where basically everything is cooked. The menu is as simple as you can get: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, grilled cheese, fries, and the wonderful and slightly dangerous jucy lucy…
So what is so special about a jucy lucy? Well it is basically just a burger stuffed with cheese in the middle that melts while it cooks on the grill so when you take that first bite you get a warm gush of cheesy deliciousness. Some places just stuff a huge patty with a hunk of cheese. But the Matt’s version has a bit more finesse. They actually make two separate patties and then sandwich the cheese in the middle of them, pressing around the edges to seal it shut.
It is simply dressed with pickles. That’s it. No lettuce, no tomato, no onions, no bacon, nada.
As I mentioned before, this burger can be very dangerous to eat. You might grab hold of the thing and in a moment of ravenous anticipation, take a huge bite out of it, breaking into the molten core and sending a huge squirt of hot cheese onto your chin and down your groovy winter sweater. I watched this happen to my relatives and took note, gingerly nibbling away on the edges because I only brought one groovy winter sweater with me on this trip and I can’t get it all crusted with molten cheese.
Needless to say, the juicy was completely scrumptious. You don’t need all the fixings, the pickles are just the right touch, and I can’t imagine growing up eating these things and then moving away and craving it all the time. So good.
Yesterday, by chance, we happened upon a Penzeys spice shop. Have you been? They’re a great family owned business that sources only the best spices and sells them ground, whole, and in creative blends. You can order all of their amazing products from their catalogs. More fun though is to peruse the store (they even have a kid section where Conor drew pictures on a table shaped like a schooner, that’s him in the lumberjack hat above).
How can you resist a spice blend called Sunny Paris? A herbal mix of purple shallots, chervil, chives, dill weed, tarragon, green peppercorns…I also got some hardcore Vietnamese cinnamon, jerk seasoning, a Trinidad spice mix, hot chocolate powder, and ground aleppo pepper.
They have a great catalog/magazine where you can get recipe ideas and order the spices as a gift–perfect for the holidays, right?
And yesterday we went to the butcher to pick up our turkey. While admiring the vast display of jerky, I couldn’t help but take a photo of the deer sign. When the butcher noticed me with the camera he asked my father-in-law if maybe I don’t get out enough…funny guy.
That’s it for now. I’m headed to the kitchen for a mug of coffee and to prepare for the big day ahead. Hope you’re all with family and friends today, cozy in the glow of a warm oven. And remember don’t get stressed! That bird will get cooked one way or another.