THE BEST LABOR DAY COOKOUT MENU: Avocado Quesadillas (on the grill); Pork Burgers with Thyme Mayo & Red Cabbage Crunch; String Beans with Mustard Dressing and Cured Shallots; Pomodoro Fresco Pasta Salad; Watermelon Ice Cream Cake; Spiked Lemonade
Since I was a vegetarian until recently, I haven’t been a burger lover for long. In fact, throughout my life, I’ve never liked the texture of burgers and instead have been partial to veggie burgers and other types of patties, croquettes
, and cakes
. But ground beef? Not necessarily my favorite thing to mix, shape, and grill (or fry).
Enter the pork butt. Alex
calls pork the Cadillac of meats, and last week at dinner we explained why to our guests at my mom’s house. It’s just so fatty. And fat makes a great burger.
Pork burgers are simple, flavorful, and a great change of pace if you’ve been grilling regular burgers all summer long. They take really well to condiments too. Mark Bittman sung their praises a while back
, which is the original inspiration for this recipe. I recommended Bittman’s take on the burgers to my sister Jill, who successfully made them (and who insists you must eat them on honey-wheat English muffins, which I failed to find). Jill, in turn, recommended the burgers back to me.
They were easy to make with guests in the kitchen–well, perhaps that was because I had the guests, Peter and Eileen, working as sous chefs.
those are not my hands doing the chopping
And they were easy enough to grill in the dark, though it was Peter doing the grilling, not me. (It is nice that you cook pork to a uniform done-ness, so the grillmaster is not stuck trying to suit eaters’ rare, medium, or well done desires.) With the creaminess of herb-spiked mayo and the crunchiness of my mom’s cabbage slaw, these burgers say Labor Day to me. Repeatedly and quite, quite loudly. Now they’re yours to make this weekend.
From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Pork Burgers with Thyme Mayo and Red Cabbage Crunch
3.5 lb ground pork*
1 stalk fennel, minced (about a cup)*
1/2 yellow onion, minced (about half a cup)*
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Lots of fresh pepper
Thyme Mayo (recipe below)
Red Cabbage Crunch (recipe below)
12 to 14 English muffins, toasted, preferably on the grill
*Tip: if your market does not have ground pork, buy the pork butt itself. Ask your butcher to cut it into 1-inch chunks. Then process the cubes in your mini prep or food processor. You can also use the processor to chop up the fennel, onion, and garlic–it’s fine if they’re almost like a paste.
To make the burgers, combine the ground meat, onion, fennel, salt, and as much fresh pepper as you can grind before your hands get paralyzed. Shape the burgers into 12-14 patties. (They should have a diameter of 5-6″ and be 1 1/2″ thick.)
Grill on a medium-high fire, with the grate set about five inches from the flames. Cook for 5-6 minutes per side, until the burgers are firm, slightly smaller than when you started, and have just the slightest trace of pink in the inside. Push the burgers to the outside of the grill, away from the flame, and grill the English muffins.
You can also broil the burgers for the same amount of time. Or you can cook them in a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes per side.
Arrange the burgers on a platter, along with the English muffins. Set out the Thyme Mayo and the Red Cabbage Crunch, and allow guests to assemble their burgers.
1/3 cup mayo
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Combine the ingredients. Scoop into a small bowl for serving.
Red Cabbage Crunch
1 small red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon neutral oil
Combine all the ingredients. Allow to sit for at least an hour. Taste and add more salt, sugar, or vinegar as needed.