Inside Sliders: Mini-Burger Mania
by Kate Heyhoe
Sliders, or miniature burgers, are the food splash of the summer. Small burger buns, by brands like Pepperidge Farm and Sara Lee, and freshly made ones from local bakeries, are suddenly popping up in the bread aisle. White Castle introduced its trademarked square-shaped mini-burgers in the 1920s, and purists claim these are the only true sliders (or slyders); everything else is just a mini-hamburger. Nevertheless, when high-end chefs crafted their own handheld delights over the past decade, the trend rocked the food world. So the next logical step was to trickle out of the restaurant and into home kitchens.
Large or small, burgers, like people, have personalities. Which may be one reason why so many of them have first names, last names, or nicknames. Take the DB Burger, for instance, christened after its inventor Daniel Boulud, priced at an eyebrow-raising $50, and dressed in such culinary couture as foie gras, braised short rib, and black truffles. At the other end of the scale are fast food burgers, which tend, like mafia dons and wrestlers, to emphasize their girth: Big Macs, Whoppers, Big Boys, Champburgers, Fatburgers, and such. Across the pond, burgers take on the personality of the locals—a colonial curry burger in Britain, kangaroo burgers in Australia, and the lost-in-translation Mos Burger of Japan.
Most anything in miniature form—from puppies to pastas—has instant allure. In a popularity contest, small burgers can easily tackle Big Macs, and they're seemingly more fun to create. Upscale chefs have gone wild with their sliders, using smoked pork, suckling pig, moose, Kobe beef, black cod and bison, to name a few.
So with mini-burger buns easily available and slider mania leading summer's hit parade, I've crafted a few Global Gourmet-style slider recipes for adventuresome eaters. You won't find these on the average burger menu, and they're likely to disappear faster than you can say White Castle.
New West Knives for Sharper Cooks
From appliances to cook's tools, once-dependable brands are living off their reputations, and some simply don't deliver. Refrigerator parts, it seems, are made to break sequentially, from the first through the fifth years. Small appliances, including rice cookers and tea kettles sold in upscale cookware stores come with sleek design, but when actually used, their performance can be so fatally flawed to elicit a "what were they thinking!?" reaction. Looks, and brands, can be deceiving.
Chef's knives, too, may carry a lofty German or high-end brand name, but often they just don't hold their edge. Others are engineered for visual appeal over comfort and functionality, and branded not by knife-makers, but by other kitchenware names (like small appliance makers or celebrity chefs). There's no logical reason to believe a great coffee-maker company will also craft superior knives.
But joy and rapture! Craftsmanship is alive and well at New West Knifeworks, where attention to detail runs tip to tang, and all they make are knives (no coffee makers). Granted, you pay a price for quality, but these knives are designed to last a lifetime, and they hold their razor-sharp edges for long periods between sharpening. If you prefer a great knife to a power tool, then investing in these babies makes even more sense.
Here's the lowdown on New West Knifeworks' recipe for quality knives, in their Fusionwood and Phoenix lines:
- Essentials: Japanese tradition with Western flair, featuring functional design aspects honed by leading chefs and Japanese craftsmen.
- Blades: Produced in Japan my master craftsmen. Fusionwood: High-carbon stainless steel blades; carbon content is 70% higher than a Wusthof Trident, and Chromium, Nickel and Molybdenum alloys increase hardness, says the company, to 57-59 on the Rockwell C scale (which measures hardness; this range is ideal for performance without being too hard to sharpen). Phoenix: Damascus steel, prized for its weapon-grade strength, enhanced by Japanese Samurai sword-making skills. Bonus: the ornate detailed designs on the blades make them almost too pretty to use—almost.
- Handles: Comfortable handle design is praised by high-end chefs. Crafted in Vermont, the Fusionwood line features hardwood veneers vacuum-impregnated with richly colored dies and engineering-grade phenolic resins. The Phoenix line of Damascus chef knives feature handles of Nobel-Lite, a non-porous Corian-like material that's waterproof, resistant to stains and chemicals, and ultra-durable, even for busy restaurant kitchens.
- Presentation: Form and function, with attention to beauty = total kitchen harmony.
Finally, an honest guarantee: The company's policy is both generous and realistic. Their guarantee:
"All of our knives have a lifetime, 100% satisfaction guarantee for non-commercial use. If for any reason you are not happy with your knife's performance, we will replace it for free. That being said, please do not put your knife in the dishwasher, use it as a screwdriver, or use it to pry with, open cans, cut frozen foods, etc. We ask that you be honest with us—if you break your knife through abuse, we will replace it at half price. [Commercial User Note: Your knife has a lifetime warranty against defects in materials and workmanship. Due to the frequency of use in a commercial kitchen, a knife can receive many lifetimes worth of sharpening in a few years. However, if you grind it down to a toothpick, we will replace it at half price.]"
And their return policy reinforces their commitment to satisfaction:
"The feel of a knife in your hand is one of the most important considerations in using a knife. We encourage you to order our knives to assess the feel of them first hand. If you are not satisfied with the knife for any reason, you can return it unused for a full refund including shipping. If the knife has been used and shows visible wear, please refer to our guarantee above."
You can find out more about New West Knifeworks at their website: newwestknifeworks.com.
What to Eat This Month
Broaden your grilling horizons this summer with global flavors...
World Grilling Recipes
- Cuban-Style Pork Burger
- Clams in Cartoccio
- Moroccan Glazed Ribs
- Prawns Mozambique
- Nicaraguan-Style Churrasco (Skirt Steak)
Chicken of the Month
Copyright © 2010, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page modified July 2010