Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Square two

If you’ve been following along here the last couple of months, you’ve probably gathered that we’ve been trying to buy a house.

One house in particular, in fact. Since before we got here. We found it on the internet before we left Australia, and went to see it five days after we arrived. Then we spent the next nearly three months dealing with banks (six of them, if you count trying to get the mortgage and trying to get all our funds into one place), organizing inspections, negotiating, and faxing enough documents hither and yon to deforest a small state park. It was that cliché: a roller coaster of emotions: non-stop and, at times, nauseating. My father-in-law, who works in finance, consoled me more than once with the maxim that “Every deal dies a thousand deaths.”


On Saturday, it looked like we were finally there. The sellers had accepted the best offer we could wangle out of the bank. We were talking about scheduling the closing date. On Saturday night, I made hamburgers and fries for dinner, and as we sat around the hotel apartment table, we allowed ourselves to dream about the future for the first time: how maybe the next time we had hamburgers, they’d be cooked on our grill in our back yard, instead of in a rented skillet on a rented electric stove.

On Sunday the sellers changed their minds and pulled out of the deal. They couldn’t accept that neither of the banks that we asked would finance a mortgage at the price they wanted, and they decided they’d rather not sell the house to us at all than cut the price by 9%.

So we’re back to Square One, wiser but poorer. Well, not quite Square One: at least now we know we should be able to get a mortgage, and all of our funds are in the same bank, instead of scattered across three continents.

Maybe Square Two.

But we’ve still got a roof over our heads. And it won’t be so bad even if we do have to make stovetop hamburgers again, because they were pretty great. DP has already asked when we can have them again, and for someone who likes hamburgers as much as he does, that is high praise indeed.



Hopeful hamburger dinner
I thought of calling this meal “real fast food,” but the fast part doesn’t really apply, especially since I made the hamburger buns myself (see picture). And really, there’s not much similarity between this meal and a trip to the drive-thru. For that, I am very thankful. I don’t care if I never eat another mass-produced hamburger again, but these are a different story.

(ETA this image because I was so proud of my homemade hamburgers & buns--see here for more info!)

Menu
- hamburgers on homemade buns (I followed this recipe for buns to the letter, so I won’t rewrite it here; the only thing I added was some sesame seed and poppy seed topping on some) with the usual toppings: ketchup, mustard, onions, cheese, pickles
- oven fries
- grilled zucchini and tomato salad (just as good with sautéed zucchini)


Stovetop hamburgers
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
This mixture, known as a panade, is specially designed to stay moist even when cooked to well done. It does its job.

1.5 lb/750 g best ground beef
1 slice good-quality honey wheat bread, crusts removed, chopped into small pieces
2 Tbsp whole milk
¾ tsp salt
¾ tsp pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp oil or bacon fat

Mash bread and milk together in a medium-sized bowl until you have a consistent mush. Add salt, pepper, garlic, and soy sauce and mix thoroughly. Break beef up into bowl in small pieces, then mix with your hands as you would meatloaf. Shape beef mixture into hamburger patties; indent the top of each one (this keeps them from bulging during cooking) and set aside for the moment.

Heat oil or fat in a skillet on the stove on medium. When the pan is hot, place as many patties (indented side up) as will fit in the skillet without crowding. Cook on one side for about 5 minutes, then flip over and cook for another 2-4 minutes. If making cheeseburgers, add cheese at this point, and cover skillet to make sure the cheese melts.

Makes 4-6 hamburger patties.


Oven fries
1 large or 2 small potatoes per person being served
olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 425F/205C. Generously oil a baking sheet and put in the oven to heat. Scrub the potatoes clean but do not peel. Slice the potatoes lengthwise into wedges about ½ in (1 cm) thick. Place in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to combine, making sure that all of the potatoes are coated with a thin layer of oil.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and arrange the potato wedges (I like to put mine with the skin side down so they don’t stick). Roast in the oven for at least 30 minutes, or until the wedges are brown and crispy. Remove from the oven, sprinkle liberally with salt and less so with pepper, and serve immediately.

9 comments:

Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm so sorry the house deal fell through, Nancy! I'm sure the perfect place is just waiting for you, and hopefully you'll find it very soon! Does the fact you're looking to buy mean that you'll be staying in Kansas a while?

The burgers look yum - though I've never heard of honey wheat bread before! :)

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Celia, thanks for the sympathy, and the vote of confidence--after briefly being overpowered by gloom, we are back up and looking, and already have another possibility.

As to staying a while: we think so, but with DP you never really know! But this seems like a good place to get on the property ladder.

Honey wheat is just a healthy alternative to mass-produced white bread--I'm sure any kind of bread can be substituted!

Cookie baker Lynn said... Best Blogger Tips

What a disappointment! My daughter and SIL bought a house and went through the same roller coaster of hope and disappointment. But they did eventually end up in just the right place. I'm sure that perfect place is out there for you!

The buns look gorgeous!

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks Lynn! The recipe was perfect--thanks for sharing it! I'm looking forward to the day when I make it in my *own* kitchen.

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

PS Your comment reminded me that I meant to put one of your High 5s on this post, which I have now done!

Mark Scarbrough said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm so very sorry, Nancy. Ick. What a horrid thing. Again, I'm sorry. But shoot, I'd eat those burgers with you. I love honey wheat bread. When we lived in a motel room in Chicago for four months while my parents decided on a house, I wish my Mom had done something like this. Instead, I lived on take-out pizza. Even in Chicago, it gets old.

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh, Mark, thanks for the sympathy--and the jolt of perspective. This kitchen may not be up to my standards, but at least I *have* a kitchen. I shudder to think what kind of a state we'd all be in if I didn't!

countryfriedmama said... Best Blogger Tips

So sorry to hear about the house. We went through a similar roller coaster on the selling end when we moved a few years ago, and it is not something I am eager to repeat. I hope your new target is even better than the old. Good luck with it!

(And I'm with you on the drive-thru burgers. Earth Day 2010 resolution: Deprive my children of the American fast food experience.)

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks, CFM--things are looking up on the house front. And if you need some moral support to bolster your resolution, I recommend watching "Food, Inc." I did the other night and right now I never want to eat anything touched by the food "industry" again as long as I live.

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