If you need any more evidence that gourmet burgers have become firmly entrenched in the full-service mainstream, you can find it by paging through either of the two terrific books we're reviewing this month: Hubert Keller's Burger Bar: Build Your Own Ultimate Burgers (Wiley, $22.95); or Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries & Shakes (Clarkson Potter, $25.95). We think many RH readers could benefit by purchasing both and putting their recipes and techniques to work, pronto.
Both authors are high-profile chefs who have noted fine dining restaurants (Fleur de Lys in San Francisco for Keller; Mesa Grill in New York City for Flay) and operate extensions of them in Las Vegas (Keller runs a Fleur de Lys at Mandalay Bay; Flay's Mesa Grill is in Caesars Palace). More importantly, both own emerging upscale burger mini-chains.
Keller's three Burger Bars are located in Las Vegas, San Francisco and St. Louis. Flay's trio of Bobby's Burger Palaces are situated on Long Island (one unit) and northern New Jersey (two stores). More than anyone, these two know what's working, right now, in the burger segment.
The books are about the same length (168 pages for Keller; 162 pages for Flay) and cover much the same ground. Each begins with a solid grounding in professional-level burger preparation and cooking technique, and then moves on to innovative takes on the basics, courtesy of imaginative toppings and condiments. Items such as Keller's Blue Cheese-stuffed Bacon Sliders or Flay's signature Crunchburger would be best-sellers in just about any operation. So would many of the beyond-beef alternatives, on which the Keller book is particularly strong.
Both authors explore the essentials of making perfect French fries and onion rings, with the how and the why spelled out in great detail. Sauces, condiments and desserts get a similar in-depth treatment.
But it's the beverage chapters where Flay really shines. His milkshake lineup includes such tantalizers as a “fresh mint-chocolate speckled milkshake,” “lemon meringue pie milkshake,” and the delicious-sounding “toasted marshmallow milkshake.” Try 'em,
We imagine your initial reaction to these books will be to experience an urge to visit a Burger Bar or Bobby's Burger Palace to try some of the food for yourself, followed immediately by a stronger urge to skip the trip and just put some of these items directly onto your menu instead. We suggest giving in to both.
Notes on Cooking
By Lauren Braun Costello and Russell Reich
RCR Creative Press; $21.95
You probably already know everything contained in this slim (136 pages) book. Each of its 216 short blurbs succinctly describes practical cooking lessons and standards that most RH readers either picked up in cooking school or had drilled into their heads during their early years of work in a professional kitchen. Yet it's a priceless collection of culinary wisdom, if you happen to be the person who has to do the head-drilling in the professional kitchen you now run. Just buy a few copies, pass them out to your novice line cooks, and tell them to read it — two or three times. This one takes the most-cooking-information-in-the-fewest-words prize.
By Carole Bloom
You probably know how well trios or quartets or one-bite samplers or other shooter-equivalent desserts sell today. So let's get going on creating some great new ones for your menu. Bloom's book contains 87 recipes for these pint-sized pleasures, covering the entire gamut of dessert options. Blessedly, you won't need a whiz-bang pastry chef on staff to reproduce most of them. Yet Bloom's recipes yield finished products that look and taste as though you did. Even the mini-cookie recipes are knockouts.