Musical pairing – Let’s Go To The Hop by Danny & The Juniors.
In my childhood town of Walla Walla, there is a little burger joint on Birch street called, ‘The Ice-burg’ that has been a fixture in that community for almost 60 years. My mom and dad dined on those burgers and shakes as teenagers (it was ‘the’ hangout) and I’ve been known to indulge in a chocolate-banana shake . . . ok, maybe two. The place still looks like it did when they opened in 1953 – reminiscent of an old-fashioned Drive-In from movies like ‘American Graffiti’ and ‘Grease’. Voted ‘Best in the West of the Mississippi’ by USA Today, the place is legendary – quite a feat considering Walla Walla is home to several award-winning wines, vineyards and fancy-schmancy restaurants on the West coast. Nostalgic sigh . . .
There isn’t an ‘Ice-burg’ here in the Midwest but I’m always on the hunt for a great burger – juicy, tender meat, dressed with a Walla Walla Sweet or caramelized onions, cold, crisp lettuce, a thick slice of heirloom tomato and melty, sharp cheddar cheese – add a spot of yellow mustard and ketchup and you have a classic, quintessential all-American dish. You can bet that if someone you know is having a BBQ, burgers will most likely be on the menu. I’ve eaten burgers topped with goodies like bacon, avocado, sauteed mushrooms, swiss and blue cheese to name a few – all good, but few compare to burgers served up at ‘The Ice-burg’ or this Smoky Pork burger from Food 52! And I bet you were wondering how I was going to make that segue . . .
The star ingredients in this recipe are a double dose of fennel (both in the patty and in the cabbage slaw) and smoked Spanish paprika. Use a good quality ground pork and smoky bacon and you have a burger that you’ll dream about – or to quote The Pioneer Woman, ‘It’ll make your skirt fly up!’ The Professor and I took bites at the same time, our eyes widened and in unison said, ‘Oh wow!’ The vinegary fennel slaw compliments the richness of the pork and bacon and the smoked Spanish paprika puts this burger over the top – definitely goes on my ‘Best’ burgers list along with The Ice-burg. We grilled ours on our Big Green Egg and topped them with a slice of Manchego cheese – sublime! I have a feeling we’ll be making these quite a bit this summer!
What’s the best burger you’ve ever eaten?
SMOKY PORK BURGERS WITH CABBAGE FENNEL SLAW
Food 52, LASTNIGHTSDINNER
Serves 4 burgers, plus 2 cups of slaw
FOR THE BURGERS:
1 pound ground pork sirloin
1 cup finely chopped bacon, from about 2-3 slices (freezing for about 15 min helps in slicing)
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika (no substitutions!)
4 soft burger rolls or sandwich buns
4 Slices Manchego Cheese
1. Gently toast the fennel seeds in a small dry skillet until aromatic, remove them from the pan and set aside
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the onion, garlic, fennel seeds, salt and smoked paprika, stirring to combine
3. Add the pork and bacon, tossing gently until the seasonings are well incorporated, but don’t overwork the meat
4. Divide the seasoned pork into four portions and shape into patties
5. Place the patties onto a plate or platter and chill for at least one hour – don’t skip this part or the burger will fall apart
6. Light a grill and cook the burgers: 6 minutes over the hot side of the grill, rotating them after the first 3 minutes, then flipping them and cooking them for another 3 minutes on the hot side before moving them to the cool side of the grill for the final 3 minutes. Top with a slice of Manchego cheese.
7. Remove the burgers from the grill and allow them to rest briefly, tented with foil, before serving.
8. Place the burgers on toasted or lightly grilled buns and top each one with a little of the fennel and cabbage slaw.
FOR THE SLAW:
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup shredded fennel bulb
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
1. Combine the vinegars, dijon and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk until the salt is dissolved.
2. Add the oil and whisk until the dressing is emulsified.
3. Place the shredded fennel and cabbage in the bowl on top of the dressing, and toss to combine.
4. Add the fennel fronds and toss again just before serving.