Friday, November 9, 2012

The Taste of Imagination

I am in St. Louis covering the Kingsford Invitational BBQ contest.  Last night during the opening dinner world champion Pitmaster, Chris Lilly, talked about food trends and one of those trends was related to "artisan burgers".  I already had this post scheduled to run while I was away.  Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good :)

About two weeks I saw this Cajun Cuzin Burger pop up on The Wild Olive's fan page on Facebook.

Picture credit:  The Wild Olive

They taunted me with it with their description:  Tonight we are serving our Cajun Cuzin burger which is the cousin to the Gouda Burger. It is a 8 oz prime beef patty with fresh organic arugula, and topped with a tasso and smoked gouda cheese sauce.

Tasso and smoked gouda cheese sauce.....drool.

So why didn't I just go buy one?  Because they are over 500 miles away in the small town of Crestview, FL. 

I have eaten at The Wild Olive once this Spring and if you are ever in Crestview or passing through on your way to Destin, I highly recommend stopping in.  

For a restaurant that is located in a remodeled house and has a gravel parking lot, you might be amazed at how wonderful The Wild Olive is.  It has a charming decor inside and the staff are friendly.  They are BYOB for wine and beer.  The menu varies frequently depending on the freshest local ingredients available. 

The food that I had was fantastic.  They actually had ABT's (stuffed, bacon wrapped, smoked jalapenos) on their menu when I was there, so you know I had them for my appetizer.   For an entree I had a strip steak with a knock out demi glace that put a smile on my face.  

So when Alexis saw the burger picture and said, "Oh my, can you imagine how good that would taste?"

Ummm....yeah, I can imagine.  And I did that night.  And imagined it the next day.  A few days later too.  Finally, I had enough.  I made my own Cajun Cuzin burger.

The most difficult part was buying tasso ham around here.  Tasso is a heavily seasoned cured and smoked ham or shoulder that is used in a lot of Cajun cooking.   I have had it in restaurants but have not seen it in stores.  No problem, I made my own using a recipe from the Jamison's book Smoke and Spice.

4 lbs of pork butt sliced into 1" steaks.

Ready to go in the fridge for a cure.

After smoking.  I think I have enough for a year!

I only needed a 1/4 cup! 
Based on what I imagined their sauce would taste like, this is what I did for the sauce. 

  • 1/4 cup tasso ham, minced
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp AP flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of half and half
  • 3 oz smoked gouda cheese, shredded (about a cup of shredded)
  • 1 tsp whatsthishere sauce
  • 3/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3/4 tsp smoked salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper

  1. Saute the ham in butter until the fat is rendered, about 4-5 minutes.  Whisk in the flour to form a blonde roux.
  2. Slowly whisk in half and half and then simmer until reduced, about 10 minutes.
  3. Whisk the cheese in using small batches, until well blended.  Season with the paprika, salt, and pepper.

Makes way too much for just 4 burgers but it was damn good.

They used prime beef but all I had was choice.  Grilled up 4 half pound patties.  Did I mention this was way too much sauce for 4 burgers?

They used arugula.  Meh.  I'm not crazy about arugula by itself so I used spring mix and all was good.

We loved these burgers and they are what I imagine the Cajun Cuzin would taste like.

The good news is that we will be in Crestview in the next few weeks.  Let's hope they still have it on their menu then so I can find out if my imagination was close.

[Standard Disclaimer]  I have no affiliation with The Wild Olive.