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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Burger to Adore

It may be that my brain begins eagerly anticipating the weekend, on Tuesday…
or, it could be that despite living in California, Memorial Day still signals a green light to fire up the grill more regularly. 
or, it could be that I'm just strange and food-obsessed.
For the past two weeks not a day has gone by that I have not thought about or talked about The Burger That Will Blow Your Mind.

It all started a couple weeks ago, innocently enough. 
Friends coming over for Memorial Day. 
My menu planning zigged (maybe an early French-y-Bastille-Day-inspired meal?) and zagged (a Southern feast, featuring ribs of some kind?) and then, yes,
they zig-zagged (what about ribs, with French flair?!  They exist!  Look for the Travers au Porc Caramel recipe in the totally awesome My Paris Kitchen from David Lebovitz.)  Until, I turned to Suzanne Goin, my hero, and the rock star chef at two of my LA restaurant favorites…Lucques and A.O.C.  Her book,
Sunday Suppers atLucques has a pork burger with slaw that stopped me in my tracks. 

The few times I’ve chosen to go with pork burgers on the grill have been simple affairs…take ground pork…season liberally with a couple glops of BBQ sauce…shape into patties and grill.  NBD.   Now, you may well choose to go that route when you want to change things up a bit, BUT I urge you to be bold and go the way of the restaurant chef!  Just this once!  I know I know…any excursion into cooking-from-a-restaurant-cookbook means extra steps, fancy ingredients and more often than not, LOADS of extra pots, pans and dishes.  (For me, it’s hard to restrain my bitterness at this inevitability.  THEY have dishwashers on staff for heavenssakes!  GAH!)  But, therein lies the secret.  That extra time and those additional  steps mean multiple layers of flavor that will give you The Best Burger Ever. Food 52 calls it “genius” and they’d be right.  I’d venture to call it a complete burger overhaul which will spoil you forever.

This burger is epic, people!  Built from a mixture of ground pork combined with a fragrant sauté of shallots, garlic and herbs, a dose of zippy Mexican chorizo and finely minced bacon, it’s a total flavor bomb of gigantic proportions. 

The stroke of genius for me though are the accoutrements.  In this case, a brioche hamburger bun, toasted on the grill, of course.  A slice of Manchego cheese on top.  Manchego.  Yes.  A sheep’s cheese from Spain.  (What did I tell you about those chef types and their recipes?!)  Don’t ask questions.  Just get yourself to a market with a proper cheese section and get some!  And, then the true brilliance…aioli and Romesco sauce in place of mayo and ketchup.  I know you’re cursing me right now, but I say ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’!  Know that you are building The Best Burger Ever, suck it up and KEEP GOING!  Because, wait…there’s more! 

You top this monumental burger with, but of course…The Best Slaw of All Time.
Called Rob’s Famous Slaw in the book, it’s a mix of  shredded green and red cabbage with some grated carrot, bound with a syrupy, vinegar reduction-enhanced (you know it…the extra step!)  mayo.  It is the perfect tart and tangy foil to the porky goodness of the burger. 

There you have it ladies and gentlemen.  Burger Nirvana from which there is no return.  Recruit your favorite dishwasher and do it!

Lucques Pork Burger with coleslaw
serves 6

For the burgers

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
1/2 cup diced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 large pinch chili pepper flakes
2 lbs. ground pork
1/4 lb. fresh Mexican chorizo, casing removed
3 oz. apple-wood-smoked bacon, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
6 slices Manchego cheese
6 brioche burger buns

Aioli and Romesco (in place of mayo and ketchup) + handful of arugula, for garnish

1.  In a medium saute pan, toast the cumin seeds over medium heat a few minutes, until the seeds are fragrant.  Pound the seeds in a mortar or spice grinder until coarsely ground.

2.  Return the pan to the stove and preheat over high heat for 1 minute.  Add the olive oil and shallots.  Turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook a few minutes, stirring once or twice, until the shallots start to soften.  Add the garlic, thyme, ground cum and chile flakes.  Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grindings of black pepper and cook 3-4 minutes, until the shallots become translucent and set aside to cool a bit.

3.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground pork, chorizo, bacon and shallot mixture with parsley being careful not to over mix the meat.  Season with 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Shape the meat into six patties.  Chill in the refrigerator if you're not grilling right away.

4.  Grill burgers 3-4 minutes per side.  Add cheese if using and continue grilling until pork is just cooked through.  Serve on toasted buns slathered with aioli, Romesco and garnished with some arugula leaves on top.  
Plate with side of coleslaw.

For the coleslaw

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 small head red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 small head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 cup mayonnaise
large pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons minced chives
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1.  In a small saucepan, reduce the vinegar by half over medium heat.  Cool 5 minutes and then stir in the honey until it dissolves.

2.  Combine the cabbages, onion, and carrot in a large bowl.   Pour the vinegar-honey mixture over the vegetables, and toss well to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Let sit 15 minutes for flavors to meld, tossing occasionally.

3.  Add the mayonnaise, cayenne and herbs, tossing well.  Taste for seasoning.  
Serve alongside the pork burgers.