The Dude abides

As we do every year, we welcomed summer with our annual viewing of "The Big Lebowski." In the past we invited friends to our fest, but over the years T and I realized that no one else truly appreciates our tradition. Now we keep the party intimate.

The uninitiated might think "The Big Lebowski" is an odd choice for Memorial Day, but it a perfect fit. America the beautiful, indeed: a conscientious objector, a reactionary veteran, a meek veteran, a fragile pacifist, a pederast, and a Yorkshire terrier posing as a Pomeranian go bowling. References to Vietnam and the first George Bush's war on Iraq, a bowling alley attendant Saddam Hussein doppelganger, German nihilists, a soiled rug, smut king Jackie Treehorn, Woo, the kidnapping of Bunny the nymphomaniac, a ringer full of Walter's dirty whites, and possibly the best soundtrack ever made tie the plot together. And then there's Maude.

Our Memorial Day Big Lebowski menu rarely wavers. This year, toes intact, we began the event with breakfast at our local Original Pancake House. At the Original Pancake House they serve pigs-in-blanket as well as oodles of lingonberries. (Obligatory Non-Lebowski Interjection: My beef with OPH is their resolute claim that the maple syrup they serve is real. "We make it ourselves!" the perky server boasted. OPH, you are doing a disservice to your customers by 1. instructing them that maple syrup is made by humans and not by trees, and 2. not providing an option for customers to purchase actual real - perhaps I should use the term pure - maple syrup. Only a nihilist would accept fake. But, hey that's just, like, my opinion, man.).

An ode to the In-N-Out burger in a city where the franchise does not exist demands grilled In-N-Out wanna-be's. This year we tried my friend Kelly's friend's mother's Red Wine Hamburgers topped with Gruyere and cheddar, arugula tossed in buttermilk-herb dressing, pickles, and Balsamic-Maple Caramelized Onions (take that, OPH!). We made ourselves comfy on the couch with burgers, fries, and a shared carafe of Caucasians (White Russians), and the Dude abides once again.

Red Wine Burgers with Balsamic-Maple Caramelized Onions
Makes 4 burgers

1 pound ground beef or bison
3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup red wine
2 to 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients; set aside for 30 minutes. Form into four patties. Grill, melt Gruyere and cheddar on top of each patty; serve with maple caramelized onions and grilled buns (spread thick with mayonnaise and grill until marks appear).

Balsamic-Maple Caramelized Onions
2 small yellow onions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons each balsamic vinegar and maple syrup

In small saute pan melt butter in olive oil over very low heat. Add onions and stir to coat. As onions begin to slowly caramelize add vinegar and maple. Continue cooking over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are sweet and caramelized, about 40 minutes.


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