Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Green Peppercorn and Blue Cheese Sauce for Burgers or Steaks

Last week I received a care package from the folks at Steakhouse Elite.  The package contained some of their Kobe crafted ground beef, hamburger patties, hot dogs and these tips:

Five Tips For Grilling A Better Burger This Summer
  1. It’s all about the beef: A successful barbeque starts long before you light the charcoal: Begin with the best beef, and you’ll end up with a better burger or hot dog. Steakhouse Elite uses Wagyu beef for a luxurious buttery flavor.
  2. Clean and pre-grease your grill: Preheat your grill, and after the heat has been on the rack for five or 10 minutes, clean the grilling surface with a long-handled wire brush. Then, dip a paper towel in vegetable oil and use barbeque tongs to apply a coating of oil so your food won’t stick.
  3. Carefully cook your burgers: One of the biggest mistakes people make when grilling is to turn their burgers too soon or too often. After placing your burgers on the grill, don’t turn them until the juices rise to the top. The clearer the juice, the more well-done your burger is.
  4. Don’t forget the dogs: Hot dogs are always pre-cooked – the point of grilling them is to heat them thoroughly and produce extra flavor and snap. Roll them lightly on the grill to brown them evenly and achieve a consistent temperature throughout each dog.
  5. Give it a rest: When cooking is complete, remove your burgers and franks from the grill, cover with foil and let them rest for about five minutes before serving. This allows the juices to distribute evenly for maximum flavor.
The products arrived fresh, not frozen, so I didn't want to delay in putting them to use.  I gave our neighbor the ground beef and we used the burgers and dogs.  For my burgers, I wanted to go simple but powerful so I made this sauce to be the only condiment other than a little greenery.  

grilled burgers, green peppercorn and blue cheese sauce, steaks

Green Peppercorn and Blue Cheese Sauce for Burgers or Steaks

Source:  www.nibblemethis.com
Prep Time:  5 minutes
Cook Time:  25 minutes

  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon crushed green peppercorns
  • salt to taste, about 1/4 teaspoon for us
  1. Bring the half and half to a simmer in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Be careful to maintain it at a simmer and not let it get into a full boil (see tip in notes).  Once heated to simmering, cook stirring occasionally, until thickened and a "skin" starts to try to form on top, about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the blue cheese in 1/4 cup batches.  Let each batch melt and taste the sauce for the strength of the blue cheese before adding the next until you get your desired flavor balance. 
  3. Stir in the crushed green peppercorns and salt.  Allow to cook until you get your desired consistency, which should only be a few minutes.
  4. Keep warm over very low heat until ready to serve.
  5. To reheat, put over low heat and whisk in 1 tablespoon of cream or half and half until it returns to a sauce consistency.
When simmering milk, I used to use my digital thermometer to make sure I kept the temperature around 195-200°f but that is only a direct read for that instant.  Sometimes I'd get busy prepping other foods and not notice that temp had shot up to boiling or dropped below a simmer.

Now if I have my ChefAlarm which has high and low alarms, so if I have to step away from the sauce, I set the low alarm at 190°f and the high at 200°f.  It it goes up or drops, I'll get the alert quickly before any damage is done.  I love that lower alarm setting, I haven't had that feature on a remote probe thermometer before getting this one.  

I normally make either 1/4 pound or 1/3 pound patties but the Steakhouse Elite come in 6 ounce patties.  This seemed really big but due to the high marbling content of the beef, these will end up the size of regular burgers, so don't panic.

The green peppercorns are vital to this sauce, don't just substitute black pepper.  Although the green ones are the same fruit as the black ones, just picked when immature, the flavors are vastly different.  Green peppercorns have a stronger flavor but a milder heat than their black counterparts.  You can get them either in a brine or freeze dried in a jar on the spice aisle at most grocery stores these days. 

The only seasoning I put on the burgers was a little Himalayan pink salt and that's it.   Of course, I toasted my buns on the grill too, just to add some texture to the burger since I wasn't piling on a bunch of condiments.

Green Peppercorn and Blue Cheese Sauce for Burgers or Steaks

 Based on the labels, the fat content on these runs about 20-26% by weight and visibly you could tell this beef had extensive marbling.  The melting point of the Waygu fat is also lower than regular beef (Livestong) That means a lot of fat will render out during cooking which is a good thing except for that can cause flare ups so I thought it would be a good idea to use my set of GrillGrates on my kamado grill. 

GrillGrates, burgers

Usually I am using these for killer sear marks.  But in this case, I am using them because it vaporizes a good bit of the rendered fat before it can ever drop down to the coals where it can cause flare ups and smoldering grease fires. 

GrillGrates, burger, kamado

The burgers turned out to be fantastic.  They had the buttery taste and delicate texture that you expect from Wagyu beef.  The sharp tasting Green Peppercorn and Blue Cheese sauce was the ideal condiment for the rich, beefy taste.

My neighbor made the ground beef into patties and tested his in a skillet, also just using a little sea salt for seasoning.  The rendered fat was so plentiful (over 1/4 cup) that it was almost like shallow frying the burgers.   John topped his pretty traditionally with cheddar, mustard, ketchup, onion and pickle and reported that he would rank really high on the "best burger" list.

Finally, we tried out the hot dogs.  Normally I'm a bratwurst guy because hot dogs leave me hungry.  Not these big, beefy franks.  As you can see they are not some skinny wiener, these babies are fat!  

I grilled them and served them in my favorite way, Carolina "All the Way", with slaw, chili, onions, and mustard.  (Cheese is for Coney's)

All the way hot dog, carolina style hotdog

These dogs are the real deal.  The first thing I noticed is that these have that distinctive "snap" which hot dog aficionados look for when biting into a dog.  They have the premium flavor that only 100% beef dogs have.

A Word About Kobe
The words Kobe and Wagyu are thrown around in menus, marketing pitches, and online conversations like they are interchangeable but they aren't.  So I was wary about the "Kobe Crafted" label and what it meant so I asked the folks at Steakhouse Elite.  They take pride in their quality products and had nothing to hide.  They were very open about the labeling. 

Kobe Beef 
Kobe is a regional designation specific to a breed of Wagyu cattle produced in Japan.  Much like sparkling wine can only be Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of France.  It's rare that you'll ever have Kobe in the United States but it is possible now that exportation began in 2012.

American Kobe
Steakhouse Elite imports that same breed of cattle and uses a specialized diet to produce their American Kobe or Wagyu beef.  To be considered Wagyu by the USDA, the cattle must have at least 50% of the imported breed's genetics and under 30 months old.  Note that this is genetically proven which is a higher standard to reach than phenotyping like the Certified Angus program uses which bases the breed determination on appearance. 

Kobe Crafted
This is Steakhouse Elite's fusion of their 100% American raised Wagyu and traditional beef.  It is this blend that they use to make their burgers and hot dogs. 

I saw some advantages to this blend of beef.  
  1. For one, a 6 ounce patty of pure Kobe beef would have about 320 grams of fat (Livestrong).  Holy artery clogging weight gain, Batman!  
  2. Plus with all that fat, there's shrinkage, she knows about shrinkage right?  You'd have to start with over a half pound patty to end up with a quarter pounder! (Just guessing, I haven't tried this.)  
  3. Using a blend will also lower the price point making this more accessible to the average Joe, like me.
But those three things aside, it really comes down to finding the right taste and texture and that's what Steakhouse Elite aimed to do with their mixture. Personally, I think they got it right because these burgers reminded me of some of the blends we have made when grinding our own fresh beef with tenderloin, ribeye, and flank steak. 

You can find Steakhouse Elite at the following retailers:

So the $25,000 question:  Chris, you got the products for free and liked them. BUT - will you spend your own money on them?    Yes, I likely will this summer when I'm in the mood for a special burger and don't feel like grinding my own fresh beef.