Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pork Burger Dinner Party!

As part of what we hope becomes a monthly-or-so occurrence, and as repayment for such a delightful dinner, Nicole and I made dinner for Norm and Katie a few weeks ago. The food was delicious, the drinks refreshing, and the company out of this world.

The menu was simple: sage and rosemary pork burgers, apple slaw, and sweet potato fries with grown up Californias to wash it all down. Simple, but delicious twists on the ever classic burger-n-fry combo.

Here’s how it all comes together:

Before any cooking can get underway, it’s important to stoke the fires of creativity and hunger with a cool refreshing cocktail. Katie and Norm brought the mixings to make an adult variation on the popular Swenson’s libation known as the California. Swenson’s, a popular Akron-area drive-in burger chain makes theirs out of ginger ale, grape juice, and a lemon wedge. We made ours like this:
Fill a highball glass with ice, pour in 1½-2oz of grape vodka (they brought Skyy). Fill remainder of glass with ginger ale and garnish with a slice of lemon.

This is basically a fun, fruity take on a buck or mule, the classic combination of liquor, ginger ale, and citrus. While the grape flavor dominates the concoction, the spicy hints of ginger and the tart bite of the lemon bring balance and depth to the drink. The perfect sipper when standing around a hot grill.

As a side dish we whipped up some “perfect oven sweet potato fries.” I’ve tried similar recipes to this before but this time they actually turned out the way I hoped they would. We started with 2 medium-large sized sweet potatoes which I skinned and chopped into even sized pieces. Or at least as even as I could. I then arranged the potato bits on a cookie sheet and drizzled olive oil over them and tossed to coat all sides. Once they were sufficiently coated I seasoned them with salt and pepper. All set and ready to go I placed them in an oven pre-heated to 450. The baked for 15 minutes the first time before being removed, flipped and baked again for about seven minutes. The recipe called for a 15 then ten minute term in the oven, but after the first 15 things were well on their way so we shortened the second cook time to prevent total charification. The finished product was slightly overdone in a few spots but basically yielded fries that were crisp and toasty on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside. About as good as they get without a deep fryer. We served these with sriracha and a sauce of Nicole’s invention made from sour cream, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Sweet and spicy with that excellent acrid funk from the sour cream, this was the perfect dip for these fried beauties.

The main course came courtesy of a recipe Nicole found in Self magazine. Pork burgers seasoned with thyme and sage, topped with spinach, chive “mayo,” and apple slaw sounded great on paper, seemed easy enough, too, but could we pull it off at home? Totally. Everything was easy to find and assemble, but the results were far beyond anything we expected.

For the burgers: combine ½ pound each of lean ground beef and pork with a tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary and a tablespoon of sage, also chopped fresh, and season with a healthy pinch of salt (about ¼ teaspoon). Since we were feeding five of us and two members of the dining party have removed beef from their diet we subbed more pork in for the beef and doubled all ingredients. This yielded 6 1/3 pound burgers that cooked for about 15 minutes total over both direct and indirect heat.

For the “mayo”: combine 2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh chives with ½ cup of low- or non-fat sour cream. Season liberally with salt and pepper, stirring to combine.

For the slaw: peel and core 3 firm, ripe green apples, ours were Granny Smith. Grate the apples on the widest side of a box grater. Place apples in a bowl and dress with olive oil, 2 teaspoons; lemon juice, 1 teaspoon; and salt, another healthy pinch or two in the ¼ teaspoon neighborhood. Toss ingredients to combine and let sit for flavors to marry.

Once the burgers are finished place them on buns and top with the slaw, “mayo,” and plenty of spinach. Serve with fries and icy cold Californias for a great evening meal.

I managed to cook the burgers perfectly, I’d alternately over and under done things the last few times I’d manned the grill, but this was the confidence boost I needed to get back behind the flipper. Well seared and marked on the outside, just lightly pink, hot, and juicy on the inside. The sage/rosemary combination added muscle and earthiness to the sweet pig flesh and played well with the excellent smokey grill taste. The tangy bite of chives and sour cream added some fattiness to the dish and accompanied the sweet/sour dynamic of the apple slaw perfectly. While the delicate taste of the spinach was all but lost in this complex, flavorful burger, the texture of the crisp green leaves was exactly what this otherwise soft palate meal needed.

It’s unfortunately rare to create something so perfect in the comfort of one’s own swelteringly hot kitchen, but when it happens, especially in the company of friends, it’s truly one of life’s greatest pleasures.


plasterers bristol said...

Yummy this sounds delicious, Gonna give these ago one evening this week, thanks for sharing.


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