RECIPES: HOMEMADE BURGER BUNS | GROUND TURKEY MINI BURGERS | PEANUT SATAY SAUCE | INDONESIAN “GADO GADO” SALAD
For a brief spell after graduating from college, I lived in a loft in San Francisco with a few friends. It was a chaotic time when everyone was taking different paths but subconsciously wished that student life would never come to an end. Some were working from 9 to late hours, others were making films and photography. Still, others like myself were reflecting on what to do next.
The best memories from life in SOMA (“South of Market Street” area) were the nights when we invited friends and projected films ranging from There Will be Blood to Pootie Tang. We would serve decadent hot dogs wrapped in bacon, “piggy backs” as I like to call them, in the style of the street food you can find on corners of the Mission District; we would eat on the roof while looking at the San Francisco skyline.
The next morning we would walk a couple of blocks over to Susie’s diner for breakfast. Run by two cheerful Chinese ladies, with classic Coke style letter boards and exposed metal on the walls, it was a simple and old-school, shabby but clean diner where we could sit together over coffee and be at ease to talk about last night’s movie and our projects for the next few years, memories from college and current events, jokes and philosophy. It was far from gourmet, but dining is just as much about your surroundings and state of mind as it is about the food. Bacon, eggs, sausage, and orange juice never tasted as good as in those mornings.
Feeling nostalgic, I decided to look up “Susie’s café” online and found out, alas, that it has been permanently closed. In my commiseration for the passing of this cherished place, I read pages and pages of its reviews on Yelp. I was surprised (and entertained) by the polarized debate surrounding the merits and faults of this humble neighborhood joint. One reviewer, Tyler C., compared the owners to his “aunts, but even nicer”, while Bridget P. warned, “The service is hella mean… They will yell at you like it’s no one’s business”. Some expressed that they were “scared to try this place because it is on the same lot as ‘Ed’s auto service’ ”, while others defended the shabby look and the dishes cooked “just the way your mom would make them if you were stumbling home and begged her to make you something to eat and she was nice enough to whip it together.” Whatever the final verdict on its service and gastronomic qualities may be, having a meal there always made me feel great.
A few weeks ago we discovered an American diner in Le Puy-en-Velay, one of the major towns “close to” our hamlet. Entering this room with pictures of Route 66 and the sounds of classic Elvis tracks made me chuckle a little, but the burgers were to die for! We rarely associate France with burgers, and with good reason, but I’ve had some of my best here. The wave of trendy burger joints that invaded Paris these past few years has apparently reached Auvergne. These Franco-American establishments offer an unbeatable combination: regional French ingredients like cantal cheese and foie gras meet the American invention of casual dining.
With our minds on these havens of casual dining, Adélaïde and I decided today to make burgers using whichever ingredients we had in stock. Since we had time on our hands, we decided to go all the way, bake our own buns and also try out a new salad that would go well with the peanut sauce. The result is in the recipe below!