Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Winter Gods Are Anti-Burgin'

So Chef John over at Food Wishes (a long-time inspiration to my cooking, and usually in more profound ways than this) put up a little video showing how to portion sliders with a muffin tin yesterday, which inspired me to make some sort of burger for lunch even though we're in the middle of winter, which is not exactly high burgin' season. I refused, of course, to absorb his lesson about even portioning or mimic the simplicity of his beef + pepper + salt burger formula; instead, I set out to make highly-seasoned, hand-formed pork patties.

Before starting any other prep, I put a non-stick pan on medium-high heat.

The overall plan to was to make a Sichuan-ish version of the pork filling I use most often for pot-stickers/wontons. I got out my mortar and pestle (more on buying kitchen supplies from laboratory supply companies in a future post) and ground together some black pepper, salt, and quite a few Sichuan peppercorns. On later examination, it didn't make any sense to grind the salt along with the peppercorns.

The spice blend was mixed with some decently fatty ground pork (ground at home a while ago then frozen, don't remember the cut), sliced scallions, minced garlic, grated ginger, and a drop or two of toasted sesame oil.

The mix looked like it had a great proportion of fat and smelled excellent, though it could have taken a few more Sichuan peppercorns. I formed two small patties by hand and of course they came out a bit uneven, but as soon as they hit the pan they smelled so great I couldn't make myself care. I cooked the first side for 4 minutes and flipped it over to find beautiful browning.

Then, suddenly, disaster! I was making a bit of sauce (Yeo's Sweet Chilli Sauce, a bit of soy sauce, a drop of sesame oil) for the burgers when out of the cabinet I was opening tumbled a glass jar full of some dried herb. The glass shattered and shards went flying onto the floor, into my prep area, and possibly into the cooking meat.

Goodbye, sweet burgers.

After cleaning up the glass, I found myself still desiring to feed on a hot mass of meat, but now I lacked ground pork. Luckily, I found a bag of half-frozen ground lamb in the fridge. I cut a portion of that off and did a quick-and-dirty defrost in the microwave (managed to only cook maybe 3-5% of the meat). In the de-glassed mortar and pestle, I ground up some cumin seeds, a few coriander seeds, cloves, black pepper, salt, and some fresh-ground cinnamon (what a different fresh-ground makes even with cinnamon, which I think is great pre-ground!) and mixed all that with the lamb.

The resulting patty fried up decently and tasted quite Hui-ish, but next time I should probably put in some sichuan peppercorns and a ton of ground hot chilies. Also, the lamb was far leaner than the lost pork, so the juiciness level was disappointing.

Random note: I guess the Chinese like burgers well enough, but they definitely like them some fried chicken. The familiar Colonel is EVERYWHERE over there.


  1. You sure you want sichuan peppercorns in there, directly in the burg? I mean I could see letting it sit in a peppercorn-infused sauce and soak up that flava for a while, but actually eating peppercorns can be a bit much. Something I try to avoid, anyway, when I'm eating hotpot- although it did work out pretty well last summer that time you did it.

    Ah, here's to the upcoming burg season- mohican 09 represent.

  2. The sichuan peppercorns I've managed to get here have all of the flavor of the genuine Chinese article but very little of the numbing effect. Which is too bad, in my opinion. I definitely put some in a burger I made for one of the '08 burgins, and nobody freaked out because they couldn't feel their mouth.