16180 Flying Cloud Drive, Eden Prairie, MN 55347 (map); 952-934-5299; lionstap.com
Cooking method: griddle
Short Order: Classic, simple burgers done right
Want Fries With That? Crisp and well seasoned
Price: single hamburger, $3.30; double cheeseburger, $7.45; fries: $2.25
Lions Tap is an old place. Cemented in the bluffs of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, outside of Minneapolis, the Tap has been selling burgers since 1958, but it’s far older than that. The low building has been rehabbed and renovated over the years, so that it now resembles a classic, Midwest basement complete with Vikings and Twins collectibles and bucolic wallpaper featuring deer, ducks, and other birds. It feels like a wholesome place, too. Bert and Bonnie Notermann, the owners and formulators of the current burger (served since they purchased the restaurant in the 70′s), are introduced on the menu as “Your Hosts.”
An absurdly detailed pair of prominently hung posters lays out the entire history of the location beginning epically with “The year was 1855…”. From there, the poster traces the story of the Tap as it has evolved from a vegetable market to a beer stand, a bar, a gas station, and back to a bar before the then owners began selling burgers in 1958. Other key details include the fact that the parking lot was blacktopped in 1981 and the specifics of an easement granted to previous owners at the dawn of the twentieth century. No detail is too small for the Tap.
Lions Tap serves the classic ideal of a burger (described as a “purist’s favorite” on the menu) and is better for it. Despite the Jucy Lucy’s inextricable identification with Minneapolis, customers will not find any cheese-stuffed burgers here. Instead, quarter-pound patties are ground and hand-formed daily, cooked to a fine, nearly black sear on a griddle and topped with Lions Tap’s seasoning blend, which most likely contains a bit of garlic and onion powder and black pepper, among other, more secret ingredients.
The resulting beef is plenty juicy, with a meaty bite and properly salty. The single hamburger ($3.30) comes simply with raw or fried onions and pickles, but I opted for a double cheeseburger ($7.45) with fried onions (always go fried). The attention paid to detailing the history of the Lions Tap carries over to the burgers; they’re appropriately minimalist, but carefully constructed.
Other burger options include a mushroom and Swiss burger (single, $4.75; double, $8.95), which has its benefits, but isn’t as memorable as the original.
The California burger (single, $4.60; double, $8.65) comes with lettuce and tomato (not this California Cheeseburger).
Fries ($2.25) are crisp and well seasoned, but you may be better off ordering a second burger as a side.
Root beer on tap and fountain “pop” are available and screamingly sweet, but they me nostalgic for the homemade root beer stand I grew up on in Ohio.
Lions Tap is as advertised—straightforward burgers done right and not overcomplicated. If you’re looking for a classic burger in the Minneapolis area, the Tap has you covered.
About the author: Noah Arenstein is a practicing lawyer, freelance writer, and co-founder and managing editor of Real Cheap Eats, a site dedicated to finding the best dishes under $10 throughout NYC. He can also be found making “Global Jewish Sandwiches” for Scharf & Zoyer. Follow him on Twitter @ChiefHDB.
Green Door Tavern has been around since 1921 and famously sold alcohol during Prohibition. The green door signified the presence of a speakeasy since money (green) was used to pay off the cops. I’d never really thought of it as a food destination, but clearly lots of loyal regulars can’t get enough or it wouldn’t still be around.
The front door and building are slanted like the Leaning Tower of Pisa but that only adds to the historic charm. The only other place in town that can compare is Billy Goat Tavern. Just hope a wolf doesn’t come to blow the house down, because I’m fairly certain he’d succeed.
The menu has been pretty much the same standard tavern fare for more than forty years, but recently Dirk Flanigan (formerly of The Gage and Henri) consulted with the restaurant to elevate the cuisine to gastropub levels. Several new sandwiches and burgers are the result of the collaboration, but my favorite is the crispy braised beef ($12) which is the best sandwich I’ve eaten all year. It’s December and I’ve eaten an awful lot of sandwiches this year, so that statement means a lot.
Owner Lou Waddle owns an angus ranch in Somerset, Kentucky and uses his own beef for a few of the specialty items on the menu, including this one. He starts with a 40-pound cut of beef belly and braises it for eight hours, ending up with nine pounds at the end. “We extract the lean meat,” Waddle says. “We’re taking most of the fat away, but what’s left is incredibly moist.”
It’s juicy indeed, especially when folded in with smashed caraway seeds and havarti cheese on the flat-top grill. The meat mixture is served on a buttered pretzel bun with horseradish sauce and a little mustard. What results is a mass of juicy, fatty, cheesy, meaty deliciousness with crispy bits along the edges. It’s all brightened by the horseradish sauce and mustard. If you need a little more acid and crunch, take a bite of the pickle spear that’s served on the side.
The crinkle cut fries deserve mention too. They are dusted with a tasty barbecue seasoning salt. Just eating this sandwich makes me feel like I can add a small layer of fat to my body to fend against the bitter winter cold.
Editor’s Note: Ask a what? A Certified Cicerone®. That is, a beer expert who has passed a particular certification exam administered by the Craft Beer Institute. You can think of them as beer sommeliers.
We’ve already mentioned a few of our gift ideas for beer lovers and homebrewers, but it never hurts to have a little more help. We turned to beer experts from around the country, asking what gifts are best for the beer-obsessed…plus a few to avoid. Here’s what they had to say.
“Stay away from beer of the month clubs. They often are underwhelming, even to the novice. Pick beers you know they like, or a one-off from a small brewery, something special, perhaps even signed by the brewer. The ultimate gift would be any trip that involves breweries and great craft beer bars: Munich for Oktoberfest, touring the best beer bars in Belgium, tickets to Dark Lord Day, an IPA tour of the California Coast.”—Joshua A. Cass (821 Cafe)
“I love giving gifts to beer lovers that heighten the whole experience of drinking it. For example, little pairings that go well together like a piece of really good chocolate with a Dupont Monk’s Stout, or a bag of gourmet popcorn with an Innis and Gunn. It’s always great to get a good beer but when you get a little experience it’s more memorable.”—Anne Becerra (The Ginger Man)
“The best beer gifts I’ve received are Belgian tulips with my home brewery name etched on them, and a personalized brewing apron. A gift certificate to a homebrew store is always a great gift. Whether they are homebrewers or not, a good homebrew store will have something for every beer nerd.”—Michael Ferrari (Luck)
“Clever bottle openers. I have an iPhone bottle opener from Sierra Nevada that is always a hit, belt buckle openers, keychain openers… It’s my own personal version of a stamp collection.”—Becki Kregoski (Bites ‘n Brews)
“If there is one thing that beer lovers truly appreciate is beer that they haven’t had an opportunity to try before. Go into the store and ask what is brand new, you know the beer that has just come out in the last couple of days and there is no way your beer lover has had before. Also remember this when traveling out of your normal beer purchasing area. Many times there are different items as you get into a new area, so there is a possibility that the beer lover in your life has never even laid eyes on some of those particular beers. These are great surprises.”—Brian Hoppe (Hy-Vee)
“There’s probably a sizable contingent of beer lovers at home still drinking all their beers from the standard shaker pint, so expanding this selection through different types of glassware—goblets, tulips, pilsner flutes—is a great way to enhance future tasting experiences. It’s remarkable how this one modification can change how to approach and appreciate beer.”—James Tai (Pinch)
“Beyond beer and beer books (which are never a bad idea), subscriptions to beer magazines are a good idea. It saves me from going out to pick them up every month.”—Jesse Vallins (The Saint Tavern)
“I would gift some tickets to a local beer festival. There are an exploding number of breweries out there begging to be sampled! A good notebook is great for writing notes, if that’s your thing.”—John Wyzkiewicz (Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant)
“Gift packs with collectible glassware never fail. You get a small collection of great beers and a choice vessel from which to drink them. Duvel, Chimay and La Trappe make some of my favorites. Straight up glassware is cool too. Six stemmed tulip glasses or a couple of fine brandy snifters for Imperial Stouts and Barleywines would be well received.”—Chris Kline (Schnuck Markets)
“The best beer gift I ever got was a homebrewing kit. Brewing beer at home is actually quite easy and fun, and most local homebrew shops even offer classes to get you started. For a more leisurely approach, check to see if there’s a Brew-on-Premise location in your area, where you can take a group of friends to brew and bottle a batch of your own beer using their equipment. Homebrew clubs can also be a fun place to meet other local beer enthusiasts, and can easily be discovered in your area with a quick web search.”—Aaron Libera (Sanford Homebrew Shop)
“Get your friends together, choose a designated driver or two, and plan a brewery/taproom tour featuring the best beer spots in your area! If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with good public transportation, so much the better, no DD required. Here in San Francisco or Oakland you can do a beer tour on foot or on bike, or you could drive to breweries in the North Bay wine country area. If you want to get crazy, find out how much it costs to rent a small bus and driver for a day (if you have a crowd, check in advance to make sure it’s OK to show up at a brewery or bar with a busload of people). Now that’s a gift a beer geek will remember!”—Chris Cohen (San Francisco Homebrewers Guild)
“I use my bottle carrier made from a recycled malt bag all the time, because like most beer lovers I carry bottles to people’s houses to share, and carry bottles home from the store to drink. The bag folds into nothing so you can stick it in your purse or backpack and it’s strong. They do a growler carrier too.”—Crystal Luxmore (beer writer)
You’ve said goodbye to the weekend and dragged yourself to work, so here’s your reward: a brand new My Pie Monday! Cheese in its varied incarnations takes center stage this time, so pull up for a gooey look in the slideshow.
As always, if you happen to whip up a pie at home, be sure to send us a shot for next week’s My Pie Monday. Just take one snapshot of your homemade pizza, briefly describe your cooking method, and follow these instructions to get it to Slice HQ by 8pm EST on Thursday night. Please title your email “My Pie Monday” and make sure to include your Serious Eats username!
Looking for inspiration? Find dozens of recipes and home kitchen adaptations in our Pizza-Making Guide or peruse our collection of past My Pie Monday contributions.
Editor’s note: Here to answer your questions is senior managing editor, former SENY editor, and frequent author of our NYC restaurant reviews Carey Jones. We’ll take a few of your questions each week and give you the New York restaurant advice you’re looking for. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question!
Where On Earth Will I Take This Group?
I’m sure you get a lot of “Where should I take this huge group?” questions, but I’ve got a doozy. Dinner for my family and my brother’s girlfriend’s family, who are meeting for the first time. There are 9 of us, including: 1 vegan (who also eats mollusks because they don’t have central nervous systems? but not dairy? … don’t ask me), 1 vegetarian, 1 gluten-free fellow, and 1 gentleman who pretty much only eats steak and lasagna. And I mean only. (I proposed Otto, and it got voted down for being too weird, which… yeah.)
Then there are two folks who work in the food industry, so they don’t want somewhere completely terrible. And I don’t want to do a straight-up steakhouse because A) the vegan, and B) I’d rather the meal weren’t super-expensive, because there are so many of us. If I had a group of friends this picky, I’d tell them to just get over it, but you can’t really do that with family. And most of them don’t live in the city, so I’m definitely on the hook for this one.
Any suggestions for this rather difficult group?
And I thought my family was difficult! Otto is in fact my standby for situations of this sort, but if that’s too out there—let’s see what we can do.
When you say “lasagna,” I think Rubirosa. (I mean, look at it.) While operating firmly within the bounds of classic Italian-American fare—fried calamari! Caprese salads!—its menu is plenty diverse, and I’ve never had a dish I haven’t enjoyed, from their sandwiches on up. Plenty of meat-free pizzas and pastas for the vegetarians and vegans. It’s even in Little Italy (…almost) for out-of-towners who like that sort of thing. Better stroll through the tackier stretches of Mulberry a few blocks south than eat there.
If you’d prefer full-on old-school, Bamonte’s is your friend. The century-old Williamsburg restaurant is the rare red-sauce joint that’s stood the test of time, with classics you might not’ve ordered in years: clams casino, chicken francese, tiramisu. Lasagna, check. Vegan pastas, check. Comfortingly affordable prices and ample portions: check.
While not inexpensive, I’ve had luck with Saxon + Parole for large groups—reassuring American steaks and pork chops for the more traditional crowd, fabulous cocktails and a dry-aged burger for the young New Yorker set, creative salads and ample seafood options for my mom who loves both. (And your vegan-who-eats-mollusks might do well by the seafood platter.) No vegetarian entrees, but plenty of the starters are meat-free, and some are ample enough to make a second course; I’m looking at you, “slow poached egg, toasted hazelnuts, Brussels sprouts leaves, truffle hollandaise.” Portobello mushroom mousse for the non-carnivores, chicken liver mousse pots for the rest.
Readers—what was your most difficult group to find a restaurant for? And where did you end up going?
Email email@example.com with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question. All questions will be read, though unfortunately not all can be answered.
It’s time for another round of The Food Lab. Got a suggestion for an upcoming topic? Email Kenji here, and he’ll do his best to answer your queries in a future post. Become a fan of The Food Lab on Facebook or follow it on Twitter for play-by-plays on future kitchen tests and recipe experiments.
I associate different appliances with different times of the year. The vacuum cleaner comes out in the summer as the dogs start to shed their fall coats. (Ironically, the vacuum cleaner also comes out around November when my building decides to kick in its central-heating-which-I-have-no-control-over and the dogs again lose the beginnings of their new winter coats.) Spring is when I have regular dates with the laundry machine, as I tend to lean dangerously far back on my balcony chair with a glass of wine more often than I should.
In the winter, it’s the oven. We have a not-small-for-New-York but still pretty small apartment that I try to keep cool at the behest of my wife (who is forever opening windows and complaining of smells). But in the winter, hyperactive central heating or not, I can’t help myself. My body craves roasted things, and more often than not, those roasted things are fall and winter vegetables: the roots and brassicas (and let’s not forget the occasional fungus) that put their best foot forward when sweetened, intensified, browned, or crisped (as the case may be) in the oven.
Now, you can roast vegetables the easy way: just toss everything with oil, throw them on a rimmed baking sheet, and cook them in a hot oven until tender. I do that often when I’m not feeling up to more specialized treatments. But to get the most out of your roasted vegetables, it helps to understand each one’s unique characteristics. What they are, where you want them to go, and how to take them there.
Today on The Food Lab, we’re taking a look at some of my favorites.
This is a long one (but with lots of pictures!), so you can feel free to jump straight to a section with these links, or if you’ve got the time (and honestly, who doesn’t like procrastinating on a cold winter day?), you can read through the whole thing start to finish. If you don’t leave hungry, please email me directly for a full refund.
- How to Roast Mushrooms
- How to Roast Sweet Potatoes and Yams
- How to Roast Carrots and Parsnips
- How to Roast Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli
- How to Roast Potatoes
- How to Roast Beets
- How to Roast Onions and Shallots
How to Roast Mushrooms
Let’s face it: raw mushrooms are bland, and having those raw slices added to my salads as a kid were part of the reason I grew up really disliking them. The other reason is that when not properly roasted, they can be, well, slimy. A properly roasted mushroom, on the other hand, is meaty, intense, and deeply flavored. That’s what we’re after.
The Basics: Quarter mushrooms, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, roast in a 375°F oven for 15 minutes, drain liquid, and continue roasting until browned.
The Full Story: Conventional wisdom tells you never to wash mushrooms, but it’s ok, you can go ahead and do it. Even after a prolonged soak, they gain about 2% of their total weight in water—not enough to make a big difference in cook time. You can wash them in cold water, spin them dry in a salad spinner, and proceed as normal, though I’d advise cutting and trimming them before washing, because like the seminal 1986 Bon Jovi album, they’re a bit slippery when wet.*
*don’t you just love contemporary topical references?
A moderate temperature is good for mushrooms, as you want to give them plenty of time to lose their internal moisture and concentrate in flavor—at 325°F, this can take over an hour, but there are ways to speed up the process.
See, mushrooms have a sponge-like structure that very easily exudes its moisture. As this moisture escapes, it uses up the energy provided by the oven to evaporate. Until this moisture is mostly gone, it’s very difficult for a mushroom to reach high enough temperatures for significant browning to take place.
I found that by letting the mushrooms roast for a good 15 minutes, then draining off the liquid that gets exuded into the tray, I not only could reduce total cooking time by about 15% and improve browning, but I’d also get the added bonus of an intense mushroom-flavored liquid to cook with. I like to think of it as a vegan soy sauce.
By the time the mushrooms have browned, they’ll have shrunk down to about 50% of their original size (and oddly, the rules of mathematics don’t seem to apply here, because they’re way more than 200% more flavorful).
Roasted mushrooms are great on their own tossed with a few herbs and olive oil, or as an ingredient in other dishes. Try adding them to your pasta, tossing them with sautéed green beans, or serving them cold with salads.
Get the recipe!
How to Roast Sweet Potatoes
Have you ever noticed that eating sweet potatoes is a bit like a game of Russian roulette where sometimes you get something sweet, intense, and amazing, and other times you get something starchy and bland? There’s a reason for that: depending on how sweet potatoes are raised and stored, their relative starch and sugar contents can vary, affecting their final flavor. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to stack that game and make sure that you win every single time?
Luckily, there is.
The Basics: Cover with water in a pot and heat to 150°F. Let rest for 1 hour. Toss with olive oil and roast at 400°F for 50 minutes, flipping once.
The Full Story: In case you’re forgotten your 9th grade biology, starch is made from sugar. More precisely, starch is a polysaccharide, which means that it’s a large molecule consisting of many smaller sugar molecules (in this case, glucose). The thing about sugar is, unless it’s broken down to relatively simple forms, it doesn’t taste sweet to us. Our tongue simply doesn’t recognize it.
It helps to imagine sugar molecules as the gang from The Little Rascals. When they’re all standing in a row, it’s easy for us to identify them as kids. But stack them up on each other and throw a trench coat on ‘em, and they’re effectively hidden.
Sweet potatoes contain plenty of starch molecules. The goal when roasting them is to try and break down as many of the starch molecules as possible into sweet-tasting maltose (a sugar consisting of two glucose molecules). Pull off the trench coat and knock that child-stack down, if you will. We do this with the help of enzymes.
Sweet potatoes naturally contain an enzyme that breaks down starches into maltose. That enzyme is most effective in the 135°F to 170°F temperature zone (any higher and it deactivates completely), which means that the longer a sweet potato spends in that zone, the sweeter it becomes.
Slow-roasting helps by letting it slowly rise through that range, but an even more effective way is to par-cook the potatoes in water and hold them there. In my testing, I found that an hour at around 150°F is more than enough time to effect this change. I start my sweet potatoes by heating them in a pot, covering them, and letting them rest while I busy myself with other tasks. You can even do this step a few days in advance with no worries.
Once par-cooked, they roast just like any other vegetable, with the exception that they turn remarkably sweet as they caramelize. I like to roast them and then toss them with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, herbs, and honey to accentuate that sweetness. Maple syrup would also be fantastic.
Get the recipe!
How to Roast Carrots and Parsnips
Roasting intensifies a parsnip or carrot’s flavor, but ideally it also produces some amount of caramelization and browning in order to add complexity and a bit of extra sweetness to the mix. The issue is getting them soft and caramelized without letting them shrivel up too much. Nobody likes a shriveled carrot.
The Basics: Par-boiling skin-on carrots and parsnips lets you soften them without losing too much moisture. Follow up by browning in a 375°F oven for about 40 minutes.
The Full Story: If you can find those cute little baby carrots with the tuft of greens that look like a character from a Disney movie (preferably something fuzzy from Bambi) ought to be chewing on it, then you can cook them whole; Just trim the greens down to a half inch or so (and you can even use the tenderest fronds for garnishing the finished plate).
If all you’ve got is the big ol’ regular supermarket carrots and parsnips, you’ll want to cut them into baby carrot-sized sticks by splitting them lengthwise a couple times, then cutting them into segments. I like to cook mine with their skins scrubbed but intact because a) it tastes better, b) I’m too lazy to peel ‘em, and c) don’t know that rustic is so in these days?
If you try to roast them through in the oven 100% of the way, you end up with shriveled, wrinkled remains. Instead, I find it’s much better to par-cook them in salted water; They’ll tenderize without shrinking. (This step can be done in advance.)
Carrots have a natural affinity for spices (or at least, in my home they do), so I’ll generally toss them with olive oil mixed with some variety of spice blend before roasting, whether it’s a chili powder (Japanese shichimi togarashi is great), a curry blend, or, in this case, harissa with a touch of cumin and black pepper.
Parsnips are more distinctly flavored and I prefer to keep them simple, adding some herbs at the end.
After tossing, they go into a moderately hot oven until they’re nicely browned on a few sides. It takes about 40 minutes.
After I remove them from the oven, I’ll toss my carrots and parsnips with an herb that meshes appropriately with my choice of spices—cilantro goes well with harissa, as does a little pool of crème fraîche to keep things cool.
Get the recipe!
How to Roast Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli
They may not look the same, but Brussels sprouts and broccoli are closely related and can be cooked much the same way when it comes to roasting. Both benefit from extremely high heat and browning to the point of a near-char in order to intensify their sweetness and bring out their unique nutty flavor without becoming overwhelmingly sulfurous.
The Basics: Split Brussels sprouts in half and cut broccoli into 1 1/2- to 2-inch florets. Toss with olive oil, season, and roast in a 500°F oven until tender and charred.
The Full Story: Brussels sprouts and broccoli are unique creatures. When cooked poorly, they can give off a strongly sulfurous aroma that many find unpleasant. But if you can crack through that aroma and release the natural sweetness hiding underneath, then you’re rewarded with two of the most delicious vegetables around.
The key is to use the full-on frontal assault, no prisoners taken, blast the sh*t out of ‘em approach, a.k.a very high heat. This allows the exteriors of the vegetables to caramelize and brown, producing sweet by-products, while at the same time making sure that they don’t have enough time to develop the really sulfurous aromas that slower cooking can yield.
While the oven preheats to 500°F, I split my Brussels sprouts or divide my broccoli into florets before tossing them with olive oil. In order to get them as hot as possible as fast as possible, I preheat their roasting pan too.
Tossing the vegetables as they cook can lead to more even browning, but letting them rest on one side will produce more interesting textural contrasts. I like to switch it up depending on the mood I’m in.
If you want to get really decadent, Brussels sprouts in particular love cured pork. Crisp up some bacon, pancetta, or chorizo in a skillet, save the crisp bits, use the fat to roast the sprouts, then toss them together with the meat when they come out of the oven.
Get the recipes!
I’ve written about crispy roast potatoes on more than one occasion, but honestly, they’re one thing I never get tired of. Who can resist a thick, craggy, crunchy crust around a soft, fluffy center? Not me, that’s who.
But if you want the best, craggiest, crustiest potatoes, it’s not as simple as just throwing them in a hot oven. You need to take steps to build that crust up.
The Basics: Par-boil cut potatoes in vinegar-spiked water in order to gelatinize their starch without breaking them down. Drain, toss until roughed-up, then roast in a very hot oven until crisp.
The Full Story: That crust on a roast potato begins its formation when starch molecules are released from inside potato cells that burst as they cook. Those starch molecules then interact with each other in the presence of water to form a gelatinized layer. Eventually, this gelatinized layer dehydrates, creating the crisp crust we crave.
So: the thicker that layer, the better the crust.
Because starch only swells and gelatinizes in the presence of water and there’s only so much liquid inside a roasting potato, the key to building up this layer is to par-boil the potato, which breaks cells while providing plenty of liquid to help that starch swell up.
There’s one problem with boiling, however: it causes potatoes to break down. So the question is, how do you boil potatoes to gelatinize starch without them falling apart on you?
It turns out that pectin, the polysaccharide glue that holds vegetable cells together, is strongly affected by pH. The more acidic the environment, the more tightly it holds cells together. By adding a splash of vinegar into our boiling water, we can hydrate and tenderize our potatoes without letting them fall apart.
How do we get them even more crisp? By adding surface area. Once the potatoes are par-cooked, I toss them with olive oil (or duck fat or beef drippings, as the case may be), and when I say toss them, I mean really beat them around the bowl until they get a film of starch-and-fat paste on their surface.
A subsequent visit to a 500°F oven, and they become absolutely insanely crisp. There are currently no laws against being too crisp, but if there were, these potatoes would be facing some serious jail time.
Get the recipes!
How to Roast Cauliflower, Cabbage, and Romanesco
Cauliflower and broccoli look similar at first, and they share the same end goal when roasting—sweet nuttiness from browning and caramelization—but cauliflower is much more dense and thus needs to be treated differently to get there. Dense heads of cabbage can be cooked in a very similar manner.
The Basics: Split your trimmed cauliflower or cabbage into six to eight wedges through the core, toss with oil, season, and roast at 500°F until browned and tender, flipping once during cooking.
The Full Story: As with other brassica, high heat is what you’re after here in order to get the most flavor out of cauliflower or cabbage.
Fat wedges like this help build up a nice contrast between deeply browned exterior and tender, meaty interior. It’s cauliflower that eats almost like a steak.
Roasted cauliflower is great on its own with just a drizzle of really good olive oil or lemon, but I like to turn mine into a warm salad with a more elaborate vinaigrette.
This one is inspired by a dish my friend Einat Admony occasionally serves at her awesome restaurant Balaboosta, with a toasted pine nut vinaigrette made with raisins, capers, and a tough of honey.
Get the recipe!
How to Roast Beets
Beets are my wife’s favorite food, which means by extension they’re the vegetable I roast most often. When done right they become candy sweet while still maintaining an intense earthiness. I like to do everything I can do accentuate those flavors.
The Basics: Form a tight foil pouch and roast the beets inside with a little oil and some herbs. Once roasted, they slip right out of their skins under running water.
The Full Story:
There may be more than one way to cook a beet, but there’s only one way that I go back to again and again. Boiling beets is fast and efficient, but it pains me to see all that wonderful beet juice going down the drain when I finally dump the liquid. Roasting them plain works alright, but they can end up dry and shriveled, and it takes literally* forever.
My method of choice is a hybrid. By placing the beets into a tightly sealed heavy-duty foil pouch and placing them in a hot oven, you create a sealed, steam-filled environment, giving you the fast-cooking benefits of a moisture (moist air is far more efficient at transferring heat than dry air), along with the flavor and texture benefits that come from trapping all of the aroma in that pouch along with the beets. Just make sure to seal the ends really well so that no steam escapes.
A moderately hot 375°F oven is the way to go with beets.
Added bonus: as soon as they’re cooked, their peels slip straight off.
To accentuate and play off their sweetness, I almost always add a touch of sweetener to whatever dressing I’m making for them—honey is my go-to. Nuts and citrus also pair well with beets, as do cheeses (particularly goat cheese).
Get the recipes!
- Beet and Citrus Salad with Pine Nut Vinaigrette
- Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Eggs, Pomegranate, and Marcona Almond Vinaigrette
How to Roast Small Onions and Shallots
Roasting cipollini or pearl onions or shallots has the same goals and caramelizing standard onions for soup or dip: The results should be meltingly tender and incredibly sweet.
The Basics: Start your onions in a skillet with butter, then transfer the skillet directly to a moderate (325°F) oven and roast, tossing occasionally, until completely tender and caramelized.
The Full Story: Onions are high in sugar but are prone to burning. You want to very slowly cook them so that their sugars break down and form sweeter compounds all while making sure that they don’t burn and turn bitter. The easiest way to do this is to start them in a skillet.
I like to use butter for my onions, though olive oil works fine as well. By starting them in a skillet then transferring that skillet to the oven, it allows you to very easily toss and flip the onions as they cook, which is important: They get very soft if you’re doing it right, so you’ll want that easy-flip built in to the cooking vessel.
Pearl onions or shallots will work just fine, but cipollini are significantly sweeter than either and thus all the better for caramelizing.
Get the recipe!
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.
- Easy Roasted Mushrooms
- Roasted Carrots with Harissa and Crème Fraîche
- Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Roasted Cauliflower With Pine Nut, Raisin, and Caper Vinaigrette
- Easy Roasted Cipollini Onions
- Ultra-Crispy New Potatoes With Garlic, Herbs, and Lemon
- Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Eggs, Pomegranate, and Marcona Almond Vinaigrette
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- Ultra-Crispy Roast Potatoes
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The first time I saw a mustard field in full bloom was from the window of a car during a family vacation in France. It was an extraordinary sight; mustard flowers are a stunningly bright shade of yellow, and to see them blanketing the landscape beneath a vibrant blue sky is to feel for a moment as though you’re on the surface of the sun.
That may explain my feeling that mustard should always be hot, and why the spicier French and English mustards have a bigger place in my pantry than the sweet bright American version. English mustard claims the crown when it comes to serious heat, but hot, creamy French-style Dijon mustard has the most versatility.
Dijon mustard is a vital ingredient in just about every sandwich I make. It’s perfect with eggs or potatoes (i.e.: devilled eggs, egg salad, mashed potato, potato salad), and provides the right finishing note for simple cheese dishes like mac and cheese, raclette, or a grilled cheese sandwich. Add it to hot dishes at the end, not the start, to retain the spiciness on the palette.
Dijon and melted butter make a delicious simple sauce for fish or roasted vegetables (you can use lemon juice for acidity and flour to thicken), and Dijon is essential to one of the simplest and best vinaigrettes you can hope to make.
The use of mustard in food goes back to ancient times. It was known to the Egyptians three millennia ago, it appears in the Bible as part of Hebrew cuisine, and it was used by every Mediterranean civilization up through the Greeks and the Romans.
As anyone who’s eaten mustard greens surely recognizes, mustard is part of the brassica family of plants, which also gave the world cabbage, collard greens, and cauliflower. Yet it’s the seeds rather than the leaves that are most celebrated for their culinary use. The Romans have the earliest recorded recipes for prepared mustard. Pliny the Elder wrote in his Natural History about mixing ground mustard seed with vinegar, though he used it to treat scorpion stings rather than to flavor a ham sandwich.
The Romans used mustard as both a prepared sauce and as freshly crushed seasoning, like pepper, and the word “mustard” may come from the Roman “mustum ardens.” which broadly translates as “spicy grape juice.” The Romans brought mustard to every corner of their empire, but it was in Gaul that it really took hold. Mustard became a foundation stone of French cuisine and a favorite of such worthies as Charlemagne, Louis XIV, and Pope John XXII of Avignon. It’s no surprise that a former Roman trading post, Dijon, came to establish itself as a commercial mustard powerhouse.
What sets Dijon mustard apart? Originally it was verjuice, the sour juice of unripe grapes, which Dijon-based mustard maker Jean Naigeon used in place of vinegar for a smoother product. Yet the term Dijon mustard is not one of Europe’s many protected designations, meaning there are no rules about how or where the product is made. Dijon mustards tend to follow the same style, but the majority are now made outside Dijon, and it’s near impossible today to find any made with verjuice.
The closest thing to real Dijon that you’ll find on supermarket shelves may be Grey Poupon, not coincidentally judged the best classic Dijon in a Serious Eats taste test. Grey Poupon proudly boasts right there on the label that it’s made with white wine, and that combination of white wine and vinegar is as close as you’re likely to get to the flavor of verjuice. There is nothing called “poupon” in Grey Poupon, nor does the name represent its pale color; Messrs Grey and Poupon were actually the founders of the brand. Maurice Grey developed new technology for milling and separating mustard seeds in the mid 19th century, and Auguste Poupon bankrolled the operation. Both were based in Dijon, but the product is now made in New York by Kraft and largely unknown in France.
Because there is no regulation about what makes a mustard Dijon, I advise paying attention to the labels to make sure what you’re buying will have a flavor and consistency that cuts the mustard, so to speak. Dijon should not be the bright yellow of the mustard crop, but a more modest creamy shade. The impact is all in the flavor, which is hot, strong and complex.
Look for Dijon mustard with the least number of ingredients. Only water, mustard seeds and vinegar are necessary; wine is welcome. Additional acids and sulfites are just about impossible to avoid, though mustard doesn’t need a lot of preservatives. As no less an authority than French’s will attest, there are no ingredients in mustard that spoil. The product can be safely stored at room temperature, away from heat and light, but the flavor and color may hold up best in the refrigerator.
Many brands include turmeric, paprika or garlic, so be aware of those differences when deciding which brand you prefer. Even Grey Poupon lists mysterious “spices” among its ingredients.
Mustard in a squeezy bottle may contain additional thickeners to change the consistency, though I’m at a loss to why anyone would want to serve Dijon mustard in a squeezy bottle. One doesn’t generally trail thick snakes of it across a hot dog. Indeed, if you’re used to American mustard, be very careful not to use Dijon interchangeably. Though Dijon is not traditionally the absolutely hottest mustard, the intensity of its flavor may come as an eye-watering surprise!
Refreshing a conversation on the best breads served at Bay Area restaurants, locals rave about the fried bread under burrata at State Bird Provisions, the soft white crumb that comes with an olive-anchovy tapenade at Oakland’s Barlata, and the all-you-can-eat slices from Bouchon served at Ad Hoc.
We’re turning 7 this week, which in internet (like dog) years, makes us almost 50. And yet as I reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going, I feel more like a youngster with my whole future in front of me. Because as much as we’ve accomplished—starting with a piece of paper in 2006 filled with my dreams and ideas to taking millions of people along on a seriously delicious ride today—I know that there’s so much more to come.
New stories and community ideas percolate at SE Headquarters like a freshly brewed pot of coffee. We’ll be rolling them out over the course of the new year: regularly scheduled events, new columns, new writers, and new ways to present our content, all providing the unique combination of utility and pleasure Serious Eats is known for to an ever-growing community. So get ready, serious eaters, for many more years of serious deliciousness brought to you by the greater SE crew, our community, our contributors, and our advertisers and marketing partners, all of whom have allowed us to grow into the most precocious seven year-old imaginable. Here’s to many more years. Happy Birthday to us!
About the author: Ed Levine is the founder of Serious Eats.
News broke last week that Dairy Queen will be opening in Union Square later this month (its first New York City location outside of Staten Island), and once the Serious Eats office heard, well, let’s say things got heated. After words were exchanged and tongues were stuck out, native Midwesterner Jamie Feldmar and native New Yorker Max Falkowitz retreated to their desks to write out their debate in more civilized terms. Their arguments are reprinted below, starting with pro-Dairy Queen Jamie.
Let me start this thing off by explaining that I’m a cranky old man. I read books instead of tablets, drink rye on the rocks and fall asleep, and own a cardigan collection that rivals Mr. Rodgers’. I’m not exactly the type to revel in the chain-ification of a city as fabled as New York—I shook my fist at the 7-11 on Bowery, bemoaned the I-Hop on 14th Street, and refuse to visit the Steak ‘n Shake in Midtown. What drew me to New York years ago was the city’s staunch independence from markers of suburban mediocrity, its dynamism, and its proud, profound weirdness.
And yet…there is always an exception, and for me, that exception is Dairy Queen. I will put things bluntly: I fucking love Dairy Queen. Always have, always will. And when I heard that DQ just signed a lease on a new space near Union Square, I squealed—as much as a cranky old man can squeal—with unfettered delight.
I freely admit that part of my love for Dairy Queen is nostalgic (and in this way, perhaps Max and I aren’t so different—we’re both caught in the honeytrap of wishing for the good old days); I grew up eating it in Chicago, where I developed a “secret code” with my dad for sneaking out from under my mother’s health-conscious eye for a Blizzard: “Q me.” The DQ of my youth was a standalone building with a sloping red roof and a retro aesthetic, with walls covered in vintage-looking ice cream menus. But Dairy Queen isn’t just a Midwestern thing, though it was founded in Joliet, Illinois. I’ve been Q’d at DQ’s all over the country, most memorably at the base of a long, winding road through Arizona canyonland. Dairy Queen, regardless of your personal feelings toward it, is an iconic part of the American landscape.
Any true DQ fan knows that Blizzards are the chain’s calling card. Max suggested that a Blizzard is interchangeable with a McFlurry, a suggestion that cut me to the core. Blizzards are a totally unique, distinct invention of DQ, and their flavor and texture cannot be mimicked. A few years ago, our own lovely Bravetart wrote of the Blizzard, describing its poetic taste as “cold, creamy whiteness…frosty simplicity. The way we, as children, imagined snow might taste in Candyland.” I’d say that’s about right, and anyone who thinks you can achieve even a fraction of the transcendental joy of licking a Blizzard off a cherry-red plastic spoon with a goddamn McFlurry…not only is that person misguided, but perhaps that person has never experienced joy.
Some (cough) might take issue with the fact that a giant corporate chain is snapping up valuable real estate in what was once a vibrant hub of city life. Part of what makes New York New York is that the city is constantly evolving, and this, too, is part of that growth. There are hundreds of independent food businesses thriving across the city (like these ones in Union Square); and Dairy Queen is not displacing them—if anything, it’s merely a cheap addition to a rich edible landscape.
I will admit that DQ’s turn in recent years toward offering a broader menu of savory items like chicken fingers and hamburgers has left me unenthused. As far as I’m concerned, the chain should stick to the classics: Blizzards and soft serve. And I’m under no illusions that Dairy Queen uses anything close to real dairy in their sugar-and-chemical-laden confections. I don’t care. If you want fancy soft serve, go to Momofuku Milk Bar. And sure, I love a Mr. Frosty on a hot summer day, but Mr. Frosty does not have Blizzards, and it does not trawl the streets with their seductive chimes in the off-season. My argument may be emotional, and possibly even irrational, but that’s what some food does to you: it makes you a little crazy.
So to anyone who opposes the new NYCDQ, I have only two words: Q you.
God Stave the Queen
Growing up in this city and spending most of my life here, I’ve never eaten at a Dairy Queen. I have nothing against it, and I’d be happy to get some on my next trip out of town. But I sure as hell don’t want it here.
If New York has any reason to call itself great, it’s because it’s a city of particulars. Delivery Indian burritos at 2 a.m.? You got it. Trucks that roam our streets with grizzled men dispensing swirly cones of chemical-flavored soft serve? Sure thing. Your favorite homeless person in the park who always has a kind word to say on your walk to work? New York’s here for them all.
But such things, to say nothing of killer pizza and bagels and people who know that you wait on line at Katz’s or Shake Shack, come at a price. It means New York is lacking in amenities the rest of the country takes for granted, like porches and parking spaces and people that say “excuse me.” That’s just fine with me, because there’s a price for everything. Living in New York, in all its terrible beauty, should command a high one.
Is the price worth it? Well for me, my deep pride in this city comes in large part from our local industry that defies the need or desire for whitewashed, cookie-cutter businesses. Local doesn’t mean better, but it does mean independent, a statement of sorts: “we can make it on our own.”
Whenever we get a new national chain, we become a bit more like everyone else, and New York’s funky uniqueness gets diminished just a little more. It’s one thing when famed restaurants from other cities open up here, or immigrants set up culinary and commercial enclaves in one or another neighborhood. When someone else’s local becomes New York’s local, the city’s diversity is enriched all the more. But a national empire like DQ isn’t anyone’s home—it’s an invasive species that replicates itself without end and without any care for its host population. Not to sound apocalyptic about it, but what’s the next chain that’ll learn by example that New York is a market to be reaped and sown?
It’d be incorrect to draw causal lines between the growth of national chains and the shuttering of New York businesses, and I’m not going to say Starbucks killed local coffee shops, but its aggressive expansionist tactics certainly helped. 7-11′s citywide colonization hasn’t closed all convenience stores, but every drunk purchase of chips at 3 a.m. there is a lost opportunity for the owner of some bodega cat. 14th Street wasn’t pretty before, but IHOP made it a whole lot uglier. And it’s a cruel joke that neighborhood institutions keep dying off to become fertile soil for more banks.
The problem isn’t only national chains out-competing local business. It’s their very presence blanketing us in a sameness that makes New York less and less special. The city is a big place, and it can take hits from national chains while retaining its local character, but every such incursion contributes to drowning out some of what makes New York New York.
So if you want your crummy soft serve, hit up any Mr. Softee truck in the summer (or Big Gay Ice Cream year-round for actually good soft serve). If you need a Blizzard, a Shake Shack Concrete or your corner diner’s milkshake can satisfy a similar need. Are they exactly the same as DQ’s proprietary concoction? Of course not, but they’re ours, delicious in their own ways. We should take some pride in them.
Dairy Queen’s Union Square debut doesn’t spell the death of local culture, especially in a city that’s always changing and a neighborhood that’s already stuffed to the gills with chains. And hey, even I’m grateful for conveniences like Starbucks providing a tax-free municipal public bathroom service for our city. But there comes a point when the weeds of bland national corporations begin to choke out our town crops. Dairy Queen may look unassuming, but once we let it in, there’s no going back.
How do you feel about Dairy Queen coming to Union Square? Sound off in the comments.