This recipe is a burger stuffed in dough, then smothered in sauce. Yes, you read that correctly!
Yes siree Bob!
Your eyes do not deceive you. That is, in fact, a burger stuffed into dough. A burger ravioli, and not just any burger ravioli, this sucker is filled with cheese and smothered in sauce.
Like any good Burger Ravioli should be.
Now don’t freak out and go running in the other direction. This Burger Ravioli will surprise you, I promise. I’ll be honest with too, you have landed on the food blog of the pickiest eater in the world. So if I can handle this bad boy so can you.
I was asked to review Stuffed, The Ultimate Comfort Food Cookbook by Dan Whalen. Page Street Publishing sent me a copy to critique and test some recipes from so I could give my opinion on it. They’ve also graciously provided an extra copy for 1 of my readers. It could be you.
So first you probably want to know the low-down, nitty gritty on this cookbook. So let’s start from the beginning. The author is Dan Whelan who blogs at The Food in my Beard. I’m sure some people think all us food bloggers know each other, but that’s just not the case. I don’t know Dan, we’ve never had the pleasure of meeting. I know his blog from seeing it pop up on stumble upon when I’m goofing on there. My dad had a beard so there’s always that moment of me giggling over his header when it pops up. This has nothing to do with the book or review, just a little bit of trivia for you. I promise I won’t quiz you on that later.
Moving on. There are a few basic things that I want in a cookbook, and this is strictly a personal thing for me. You might look for something else entirely. But since this is my blog I’ll tell you what works for me. The first thing I’m going to do with any cookbook is look at the spine. I know, it’s weird. I dislike binder style cookbooks, I really dislike those half-binder type, have you seen those? The front is coiled but the back is a book. Those confuse the heck out of me, and no matter who the author is I recoil from them immediately. Dan’s book is paperback but it’s a good size one, and when I flip it around to test how fast I’ll bust it I’m convinced it will stand the test of time. I am a dropper folks, so all books must be sturdy since they will hit my tile floor frequently. It’s the perfect size and weight in my hands. This also oddly matters to me a whole bunch. I’m sorry, but it does. I read cookbooks like some people read novels so it’s important they feel comfortable in my hands. Nothing worse than a cookbook that is too large, too heavy or the cover is a weird material that makes you teeth hurt like someone scraped their nails on a chalkboard. None of this has anything to do with the recipes inside but I’m judging a book by it’s cover. And it’s weight, size and binding. Those all have to get checked off the list before I’ll even open the thing. I’m a tough critic, what can I say.
Now let’s get to the inside of this bad boy. It starts with a great introduction where we get to know Dan better. You’ll feel like his pal by the time you finish reading it. Which I dig. I’m not the kind of gal who needs her cookbook author to be an uber-famous chef. I’m looking for real food, from real people, that other real people can actually make. I live in a culinary black hole so cookbooks with fancy ingredients would be a complete waste of my time. Those things are not accessible where I live.
Something else that is super important to me when making a decision when to buy a cookbook is the photos. I want lots of them. I want the book jammed back with food photos, and personal photos. My goal is to get to know the person as well as the recipes. Dan’s book has photos, and they are great quality photos too, but there’s not enough of them for my taste. I’d say 1 photo for every third recipe was the average. I know cookbook companies have a hard time printing an affordable book if there is a photo on each page. They look at the bottom line. However most people want to see a photo of the finished dish so they know if they are doing it right. Not all cookbook buyers are trained chefs or bloggers. Lots are new cooks who want those photos as a guide. I think it’s important to have a photo with each and every recipe.
The book is broken into chapters. Lots of options for stuffing your food, and your face. Here’s some highlights from each chapter.
Chapter One: Stuffed Breads:
- Pepperoni Bread
- Beef and Broccoli Empanadas
- Meatball Wellington
- Vietnamese Burritos
- Bulgogi Calzones
Chapter Two: Stuffed Pasta and Rice:
- Loaded Potato Pierogi
- Carnitas Burrito Manicotti
- Cheesesteak Pot Sticker
- Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Blue Cheese Arancini
- Lobster Stuffed Fried Mac and Cheese Balls
Chapter Three: Stuffed Meats:
- Parmesan Truffle French Fry Stuffed Burger
- Meat Wrapped Corn on the Cob
- Shepherd’s/Cottage Pie Meatballs
- French Onion Stuffed Fillet
- Pork Stuffed Tofu with Noodles
Chapter Four: Stuffed Veggies and Fruits:
- Pineapple Bacon Jalapeño Bites
- Chorizo Kale and Chicken Stuffed Poblanos
- Meat Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes
- Bacon Stuffed Peaches
- Pork Stuffed Apple Rings
Chapter 5: Stuffed Sweets:
- Cherry Pie Stuffed Chocolate Cake
- Basil Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries
- Avocado Éclairs
- Peach Habanero Stuffed Pizzelles
- Giant Peanut Butter Cup
Chapter Six: Basics:
- Pico de Gallo
- Fresh Pasta Dough
- Pizza Dough
- Cream Sauce
These are just some of the amazing stuffed recipes Dan has whipped up for the cookbook. It’s filled with really cool flavour combinations that push boundaries. If I can be frank, and you know I will, it reminds me food truck cuisine. It’s edgy and outer limits for some people. However there are so many people who love the idea of taking things you wouldn’t think go together and making them work. Food trucks are famous for it. Dan’s book reminds of that style of cooking. Comfort food for the risk taker, for the person who doesn’t just want a plain bowl of pasta at the end of the day. If you are that kind of person, and I’m thinking some of you are, this book is for you.
I chose to make Dan’s Cheeseburger Ravioli Burger. It intrigued me so much I just had to try it. I’ll give you the low-down on what I loved about it, and what I didn’t. You know I don’t pull punches here. Not my style.
I love the idea of this recipe. I’m a huge burger girl, I have a grill site so burgers are definitely high on my “must eat regularly” list. I’m also a huge carb girl, I love pasta more than life itself. Not even kidding. So combining the two intrigued, yet frightened me.
The first go at the recipe did not work. I tried to use store bought dough. It did not wrap properly around the burger. I also tried to wrap the burger while the burger was hot. So all it did was slide around on the cheese and dough. It was impossible for me to wrap the burger while hot. I tried three times with three different cheeses. So I threw in the towel that day and figured I was just having an epic bad day in the kitchen.
The next day I decided to make homemade dough. This worked out better. But my issue with this is if you’re like me you make a monster sized burger, but your pasta machine does not make monster wide pasta. So what I learned was make smaller burgers, or hand roll dough so it’s wide enough. Otherwise the burger will not fit in the dough. I chose to downsize my burger so it would fit. Make sure you get a good seal. Attempt number one was not sealed well enough and I had water in my burger, not cool. I’m usually better at wrapping but that sucker got away from me. Attempt number two was perfect. No water, sizing was bang on, and it cooked perfectly.
I also found that popping the ravioli in a saucepan with the sauce and cooking it for a minute or so worked better than just pouring it on the bun and the burger. The first attempt at slapping these suckers together had the ravioli sliding off the bun when I tried to walk away with it in my hand. It seems to stick better if you cook the ravioli in the sauce for a bit. Gives it more staying power.
As for taste, I was impressed. I’m going to be honest, I thought I would hate it. It was pretty out of bounds for me. I could have picked something safer but I actually really enjoy trying new things. So this was a great experiment with fusion food. I was pleasantly surprised. I give Dan two thumbs up on the recipe. I used his dough recipe just to make sure the recipe came together the second time perfectly. His dough recipe was great, easy to make and not overly complicated.
Now my thoughts on who should buy this book. Anyone with an adventurous spirit. It’s a departure from what you would consider “normal” comfort food, but that’s okay. That’s part of the fun of this book. I will say this, because I adore my readers and always feel the need to be 100% honest at all times, I think the book is not for beginner cooks. Some of the recipes could be tackled by a new cook, but most things we stuff take a little finesse and know how. There’s some recipes that would be easy enough for a beginner, but any of the pasta recipes I’m not so sure. I would say this would be a book for intermediate cooks. Someone who cooks enough to own a pasta machine, food processor or stand mixer would be who I would target this to. Also anyone who loves to try new techniques and flavours. This book will definitely blow your mind with the coolest fusion food around. Dan really has a talent for taking American cuisine and turning it on it’s head. And I dig that about him.
Places to stalk Cravings of a Lunatic!
- 3 cups flour extra if doing the well method
- 4 eggs
- Small splash olive oil
- Small pinch salt
- 1 large onion
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- A little over 1 pound of lean ground beef
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese
- 8 slices of American cheese
- 4 burger buns
If using a food processor, or stand mixer combine ingredients in bowl and give a whir till the ingredients come together.
If using the well technique, start with your flour and pile it into a mound. Make a well in the middle of it.
Add your eggs in the middle. Add a pinch of salt and a splash of olive oil.
Now take a fork and start mixing your eggs, gradually start adding more flour to it from the sides and keep working it and working it until the flour is incorporated. It's sort of a tacky mess at this point, but keep going. Once it becomes impossible for the fork to work start using your hands. Just get in there and work the dough and flour together by kneading it. If your dough won't take on any more flour it's okay to have some left.
Now wrap the dough in plastic wrap tightly and set aside for 30 minutes.
Once that time is up you need to either run it through a pasta machine, or hand roll it. I have a pasta attachment for my mixer. I ran it through 4 times on the larger setting, then I gradually make the opening smaller. Do not go too thin, it may not hold up to the burger. You want you dough a bit thicker.
For the Sauce:
Slice your onion into thin, round slices. Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onions and some salt to the pan. Cook the onions until very brown, about 20 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, worchestershire sauce, and oregano. Taste and add some salt if needed. Simmer while you make the rest of the meal.
Divide the meat into 4 equal pieces and form into Season with salt and pepper. In a hot frying pan, sear the burgers for about 2 minutes per side to brown. They will be fairly undercooked in the middle.
Roll out your dough as desired. Remember too thin will be problematic. Dan recommends the third-thinnest setting on your pasta roller. This is thicker than normal for ravioli but will hold up to the burger. Cut your dough into squares that are just large enough to contain the burger. On one square put 2 tablespoons of ricotta, then put the burger on top. Now top with 2 slices of American cheese. Finally, top with the second square of pasta. Lightly wet the edges of the dough to seal the ravioli as tightly as possible. You can use your hands or a fork to press down, or both. The fork will help the seal.
Bring a pot of salted water to a light boil over medium-high heat. Gently drop a ravioli into the water. Keep an eye on it and let it lightly simmer for about 8 minutes.
Slide onto a bun and serve with sauce.
Serve with a big old stuff your face smile!
Recipe from Stuffed: The Ultimate Comfort Food Cookbook by Dan Whalen. (Page Street Publishing; August 2013) Printed with permission. You can find Dan at The Food in my Beard
My notes and changes to suit our taste:
I made one batch Dan's way. Fabulous. But we're not huge ricotta fans. So i swapped the second batch out for mozzarella. It's the cheese we like best even though it's not traditional for ravioli or burgers.
I found popping the ravioli into the hot sauce for a few minutes after it cooked in the water helped the texture tremendously. It kept the ravioli from slip-sliding off the bun.
I think these would be wicked good as sliders. Just sayin'! Idea for book two perhaps, Dan? I think an Asian fusion sliders would rock.
For anyone who is new to making pasta I suggest you head over to Dan’s site where he has a great step by step photo tutorial. It’s super helpful for folks who have not made their own dough before. Your burger will look sort of like the photo below before hitting the water. This was pre-fork seal.
See, neat right. Below is a photo of mine cut open. This was one of the rarer versions. I cooked mine twice as long for the last batch since I’m a well done kind of gal.
This one was a bit rare for me. I like a really well done burger. But this gives you a good visual of the inside of this burger. You can see the dough is slightly thicker than a normal ravioli. That’s important to the integrity of the burger. A thin dough will not hold up well. Trust me, I tried it. Dan is right about it needing to be thick.
You can enter to win below, or if you like you can order it on Amazon though my affiliate link for Stuffed: The Ultimate Comfort Food Cookbook. Post contains affiliate links. I get a few cents for each cookbook if you buy it through that link. It keeps me knee deep in cheese for recipes like this one.
Deets on the giveaway:
Open to U.S. and Canada!
Must be 18 years of age to enter!
Thanks to Page Street Publishing for the pleasure of working with you again. Also a huge thanks to Dan Whelan for putting up with folks like me critiquing your book. You did an amazing job with this cookbook Dan. It’s interesting and unique, in an amazing way. There’s a whole whack of recipes I want to try when my son visits. He’s in Calgary where food trucks are popular and fusion food is all the rage. I think he’s going to fall in love with your cookbook. I may even pass my copy to him when I’m done playing with it. Congrats on a job well done Dan. The cookbook is fantastic and you should be really proud of it.
Toodles and smoochies! xx