National Burger Month 05/17/2010: steamedporkbunburger

Clockwise from right: steamedporkbunburger, sr., his lover bokchoy with oyster sauce, and their lovechild steamedporkbunburger, jr.)

I don't know if I can call this a burger either. It's certainly more burger-like than last night's sushi. But this is, like some of my other burgers, a not hamburger pretending to be a hamburger.

This was two days in the making. The initial plan was to turn a Chinese steamed pork bun into a burger. So I started looking for recipes all over the place for steamed pork buns. I found a bunch but was reminded during my search of the wonderful pork buns that David Chang serves at his Momofuku Noodle Bar. I knew that I couldn't do the actual pork belly, and I know I will have to save that for another day-- oh, to have Chang's tender buns in my mouth again. (hahaha)

So I thought I would at least copy that whole folded bun and some cucumber fixins thing and I found this recipe. I at least had the steamed bun part down, or so I thought. My dough was an utter failure at first. It just didn't rise. As the dinner hour approached, I became more despondent. Bettina and Leslie both told me not to be so stressed out about this. In the end, I went and had sushi. When i came back, I found that my dough had finally risen. After a test case using the flat folded bun method, I realized it was best if I just steamed whole chunks of bun without flattening them per the recipe because my test cases were utter failures. Just slice off chunks of dough, about 2 inches high and about 3 inches in diameter and steam these suckers for about five minutes. Reassured that my project hadn't failed yet, I waited another day. And in case my personal attempt fell apart, Leslie went ahead and made her own versions of the buns just to see if those would work differently than mine.

The burger was adapted from this recipe for something called Chinese lion's head pork. It's pretty much the Chinese minced pork recipe version of Vince Carter (can play the small forward and shooting guard positions), or the Chinese minced pork recipe version of Miley Cyrus (triple threat: can sing, can act, and can dance). I mean to say that this lion's head pork thing is a recipe that might work well with any number of dishes-- in soups, dumplings, steamed pork buns, or in this case, steamed pork buns disguised as burgers.

The burger:

1/2 pound ground pork

1 scallion chopped

1/2 tsp ginger, finely minced

1 tbsp oyster sauce

1/2 tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp sugar

1 1/4 tsp rice wine (I actually used sake)

1/4 tsp sesame oil

3/8 tsp salt

1/2 of a beaten egg

2 tbsp corn starch

pepper to taste

1 tbsp oil to fry in

Just mix everything together. The cornstarch dries it up a little and pulls things together. It probably will get stickymushy but thats fine. As long as you form a couple of patties, that's great. Heat the oil up in a pan and get it to around medium. Fry the patties in the pan about 3--4 minutes each side, or until it gets a little golden.

Slice the steamed buns and make burgers.

They kind of tasted like good, fresh steamed pork buns.

National Burger Month 05/11/2010: Pork Adobo

Q: What would Filipino pork adobo look like if it pretended to be a burger?
A: Brown. Pretty damn brown. Come to think of it, all of burger month has been pretty brown. But this was pretty darn brown. Like the skin of oppressed peoples. Pork adobo burger is as brown as they come.

I think in this case the concept was cooler than the execution. I mean it tasted like pork adobo, but the texture of the ground pork just didn't match my expectations. Maybe if I were not Filipino and I have never known what a real adobo tastes like or felt like, I wouldn't object. But even the household German said the texture of the meat was strange. I would prefer that my adobo came in pork and chicken chunks and not ground anything.

So here's how you do an adobong burger.

1/2 pound ground pork
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup Filipino soy sauce
3/4 cup water
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp peppercorns
juice of half a lemon
some ground black pepper

In a skillet, combine the vinegar, the soy sauce, the water, the garlic, the bay leaf, the peppercorns and the lemon juice. Form patties from the pork and spice up with the ground black pepper. Stash the pork patties in the liquid mix for about 20 minutes. After a while, take the patties out and reserve them. Start the stove up and bring the soy-vinegar mixture to a simmer. Once it's simmering, I guess you can plop the pork back in and braise it for about 4 minutes per side. Normally, in an adobo, you would braise the pork or chicken chunks in the simmering liquid for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid reduces, adding water before it totally sizzles away. But since these are patties, you don't have to braise them for 20 minutes. Cooking time was much shorter.

I served these on warm Filipino pan de sal buns and topped with a salad of mango, tomato and onion.

It tastes right. It just didn't feel right. It was certainly brown enough.


National Burger Month 05/08/2010: Breakfast - pork sausage and french toast

So I am beginning to take liberties with the definition of burger. I guess I should really name this series "What would ___ dress up like if ___ pretended to be a burger. " Today, it would be "What would sausage and french toast dress up like if sausage and french toast pretended to be a burger."

I made french toast using the recipe I documented here for Andrea's Happyoca Strhubarb Breakfast. Cut them with a cookie cutter to make nice little rounds. If in the Bay Area, the Trader Joe's around here carry a wonderful Cinnamon Twist Bread from Semifreddi's. I think they're a kind of a regional super bakery that sells their stuff at local markets. In all my years of french toast making, I think that Semifreddi's cinnamon twist bread is the best for french toast.

And then I fried up some pork sausage that I procured at my favorite Santa Cruz grocery, Shopper's Corner. They sell sausage without the casings at Shopper's Corner which is very convenient for making patties. I guess I could've gone Jimmy Dean but this was better. Incidentally I also used some of the farmer's market strawberries that Bettina had bought without asking her. She went off on a totally unplanned trip to New Mexico to do nothing but look at pretty rocks. So before the strawberries turned to mush I decided I'd steal them from her.

If I had really wanted to make this fancy I probably would've found some mascarpone to top it with. But it was good the way it was.

This is what sausage and french toast would look like if sausage and french toast pretended to be a burger:

National Burger Month 05/05/2010: Karl Marx's Birthday Special-- The Grillete

May 5 is a special day. Most people say it's Cinco de Mayo, and the last time we did this we celebrated with a special Cinco de Mayo burger. But this day is also notable because it is the anniversary of Karl Marx's birth. Happy birthday, mein freund!

keeping it social

Over dinner, I got to introduce more people to the wonderful world of National Burger Month! I figured that it would be nice to celebrate today with something that our buddy Karl might have eaten back in the day. Frikadelle is made of different minced meats (usually a mixture of pork, veal or beef) and a few spices. In other places it could be called a meatball. But tonight we're calling it a burger. Some would say that the American burger traces its roots to this very German dish (and many a red blooded American would vehemently disagree with this because the American institution that is the hamburger cannot be tainted by anything Euro, and by extension commie). But these little patties of goodness do go back centuries, long before the King started flipping Whoppers. And I kind of like the image of Karl Marx tossing back a few of these suckas with his friend Friedrich Engels over a few steins of bier (on Friedrich's tab no doubt-- Karl pretty much lived off of the playboy Engels's wallet). And so in his honor, we eat frikadelle. Or more precisely, grillete, which is what they call these bad boys in the old German Democratic Republic. If we're doing Marx, we might as well do it East Berlin style.

The frikadelle (AKA grillete):
1/2 pound ground chuck (those who know me know that I only like my beef from organic grass-fed cows named Chuck)
1/2 pound ground pork
1 egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, grated
1/2 cup of parsley minced
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all up and fry at medium-high heat.

Top with sauerkraut. I bought some really delicious sauerkraut from this stall at the Santa Cruz Farmer's Market called Farmhouse Culture. Really delicious sauerkraut.

Place on toasted buns and plate them. Serve next to your copy of Marx's Kapital Vol. 1 so that the international working class can infuse your dinner with plenty of love and goodness.

this is what democracy looks like in the daytime

National Burger Month Day 30: A day for leftovers; A duo of decidedly non-kosher lamb burgers

To those people (one or two at most, I am sure) who are even keeping up (out of sheer boredom I am sure) with my observance of National Burger Month, I apologize for being remiss in my blog updates. The parental units are visiting burger headquarters and all sort of work has gone into schlepping around town entertaining the guests. Through this all, I remained dedicated to the last two days of National Burger Month and I did really end with a bang. This post is a little catching up with the month update.

NBM Day 30 was supposed to be part of my trifecta of triumphant burgers for closing out the celebration (day 1 was my döner burger). I planned to make a Filipino Crispy Pata burger. Crispy Pata is a Filipino dish where they poach a pork shank for a while, and then deep fry it, hence adding the crispy to its name. I had elaborate plans for procuring a pork shank, boiling it, then chopping it up into bits before forming patties for the deep fryer. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a pork shank in time, and with the impending parental visit, had barely enough time to clean the house, and no time to make day two of my trifecta of triumphant burgers for closing out the celebration. All I had were leftovers.

Stupid me, I didn't label my minced meat. I didn't know if I was making a pork burger or a lamb burger, and my nose is not sensitive enough to tell apart one batch of uncooked meat from another. So to solve my identification problem, I just made the pork sleep with the lamb-- the perfect unkosher combination caught in a bout of interspecies melding. I topped the frankenburgers with more leftover stuff-- spinach, tomatoes and goat cheese. The results wasn't bad at all. I made a duo of frankenburgers, one in a traditional bun and the other in a pita.

National Burger Month Day 27: Garlicky Pork Burgers

(fade in)

We're in a living room. A bespectacled guy is shimmying around with a steering wheel in his hands. The television is on, and Super Mario Kart is whirring in the Wii. We hear a squeaky little voice.

Pork: Hey!
Me: Wha? Oh you. Hi, Pork.
Pork: So...
Me: Um.
Pork: So, you've been ignoring me.
Me: Ignore? You? I just had pork. Last week.
Pork: That's a week too long.
Me: As I recall I extolled your wonders.
Pork: Yes, but that was barbecue. You drowned me in sauce.
Me: And?
Pork: And you might as well have marinated me in soy sauce and called me bulgogi.
Me: But that's beef.
Pork: Never mind. You didn't allow my natural flavors to shine without drenching me in brown stuff.
Me: It was a little red... But anyway, your point?
Pork: I deserve to be in the spotlight. Really in the spotlight.
Me: How do you propose we do that?
Pork: There's this fellow from New York. He's written a few books. I think his name is Bittman. Mark. He says just a little bit of minced garlic and a little bit of fennel seed would make me even more hip. None of that country bumpkin barbecue sauce stuff.
Me: Bittman huh?
Pork: Yes.
Me: How again?
Pork: You take about half a pound of succulent little ground me, mix in about a teaspoon of minced garlic, and then mix in about a teaspoon of fennel seed. Then just grill me over medium-high heat for about five minutes per side. Really easy. I like the tropics, you know.
Me: That sounds delicious.

(five minutes pass)

Pork: (exasperated) Well?
Me: Huh? Oh sure. Yeah. I'm such a pushover. (under my breath: Jeez!)

Only the sound of the television this time, and Super Mario Kart is whirring in the Wii.

(fade to black)

National Burger Month Day 19: Barbecue Pork Burger with Cornbread

Trader Joe's saves the day. We had a burger emergency last night. I was planning to make corn bread from scratch but as I took my baking goods out of the cupboards last night, I discovered that my all-purpose flour and my cornmeal were infested by mealworms! (shock and dismay!) We bake somewhat frequently in the house, so how the mealworms got in there, I don't know. Admittedly, the cornmeal and the all-purpose flour were the only bags of grain in the cupboard not in a glass jar or not in a giant ziploc bag. We ended up trashing most of the contents in our baking cupboard out of gross-out-by-association paranoia and I have resolved to purchase more glass canisters with which to store flour, cornmeal, etc. Unfortunately, this meant that my cornbread plans had to change. I hopped in my car and made a beeline for Trader Joe's. They didn't have cornmeal so my first concession to ready-to-cook boxed mixes happened tonight. TJ's makes a cornbread mix, and it was pretty good. And the baking time was just enough for us to make the rest of the dinner.

BBQ Pork Burger Bunned in Cornbread

I started with a BBQ sauce that was inspired by Elise Bauer's Pulled Pork Sandwich recipe. My plan called for a similar sauce for marinating ground pork.

In rough amounts, for 3 burgers:
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle pepper (canned), minced
2 tsp chipotle chili powder
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp mustard
2/3 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp worcestershire sauce

The burgers themselves are made from ground pork (about 3/4 pounds), with salt and pepper tossed in. After forming them into patties, rub them with the barbecue sauce (and if you want to set some aside to pour onto the burgers after they grill, do so before you rub and marinate). Leave the burgers marinating in the sauce for about 30-45 minutes. We grilled the burgers on a medium-hot grill for about 4 1/2 minutes per side.

The resulting burgers were tasty. Since ground pork isn't as lean as beef, these things were juicier. The barbecue sauce was terrific. The cornbread, while not made from scratch, was also a perfect pairing (of course it would be, this was bbq pork). I loved it and I would have eaten more had I not stuffed myself before dinner with my new addiction, Dark Chocolate Covered Joe-Joes cookies from Trader Joe's. John respectfully abstained from the pork because he is training to be an ascetic.

Said Andrea to her burger, "So sweet, so spicy, so porky."

National Burger Month Day 12: Undermining the Tofu Burger

Tonight's burger was the most challenging burger we've made yet. After yesterday's bulgogi burger, I felt the need to leave the beef alone for a little bit. I suggested to the team that perhaps we could try our hand at tofu. But I also think all of us kind of realized how boring a prospect tofu in a burger would be. Personally, I've never met a tofu burger that I truly liked. Even in my days as a closeted carnivorous vegetarian (back when I hid from my friends the fact that I occasionally ate burgers and that I wasn't at all ovo-lacto) I never had a good tofu burger. I think it was Andrea who suggested we put bacon on our tofu burgers. Haha, funny, we thought. But then I remembered that Top Chef recently had an episode about tofu soaked in rendered beef fat. And the chefs who came up with that stuff won that challenge. So we decided that the only tofu burgers that we could possibly do for National Burger Month needed to soak in rendered beef fat, be fried on bacon grease, and be topped by strips of bacon.

And so was born the tofu burger, marinated in rendered beef fat, topped with a thai green curry, soy fried snow peas, and crisp bacon. It was inspired by and adapted from the Top Chef recipe by Dale and Richard.

The burger:
20 oz super-firm tofu, cut into 1 inch chunks
1.5 cups beef fat, rendered
2 tbsp scallions, chopped
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1 tbsp cilantro
2 tbsp green curry sauce
1 tbsp chipotle pepper, minced
5 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp sesame oil
1 egg
1 cup panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

The crust:
2 tbsp coriander
1/2 cup sliced almonds

I rendered the beef fat first. I didn't do the labor intensive boil-the-fat-and-reboil-and-reboil method for rendering. I just simmered it in a pan until I got a bunch of greasy oil. I coated the tofu chunks in this oil and let them be for about half an hour, as I prepped everything else.

Threw the tofu, egg, chipotle pepper, ginger, scallion, cilantro, canola and sesame oils in a food processor and pulsed until the mixture was a smooth slurry. After this, the breadcrumbs were mixed in with the tofu.

Formed the tofu into patties, which were then dragged in a bowl full of the crust mixture. They were then ready to fry. But before this happened, we had to do the bacon, which we fried on a griddle, making sure to leave enough bacon grease to fry the burgers in.

As a side dish, I prepared some snow peas, which I stir fried briefly with some garlic and soy sauce.

Burgers were fried for about 4 minutes per side and laid onto toasted english muffins. Once ready, we spooned some green curry sauce (store bought) onto the burgers and then topped them with a piece of bacon and a pod of snow peas.

Not a beef burger.

The burgers were actually pretty good, though I wouldn't call them a homerun. I wanted more. I wanted the beef to show through the tofu. I wanted to take a bite and realize that this was tofu the way it was meant to be: full of flavor and full of depth. Looking back, I think I should've pulverize the tofu more before marinating it. But really, the burgers were extremely tasty. The green curry was delicious and the coriander lent the burgers a sweet, smoky taste. The snow peas were fragrant and crispy. The real star, and the key ingredient, was the bacon. It went so well with the curry sauce and the curry infused in the burger.

Overall, I think this was a good effort, but not a spectacular burger for National Burger Month. I wanted to be able to say "I can't believe this is tofu." If that were my only goal, then we only had middling results. But my real goal was to undermine the idea of tofu burger. And I think we succeeded in doing this. Go team.

I realized that I would've been much happier as a vegetarian a few years ago if I ate more bacon.