Experimentation: Meat and Potatoes

I somehow ended up with half a pound of pork sausage this past week. I don’t often buy ground pork, but after a triumphant breakfast calzone attempt (scrambled eggs, browned sausage, and cheddar cheese all folded up inside a pizza crust? Yes please!), I had half a package left to play with. The flavors of garlic and ginger crept into my mind, and in a moment of gourmet-level-clarity, they were joined by the words Asian Inspired Sausage Burger. With some potatoes shivering in the garage and a feverishly nodding, all-but-drooling response from my husband, I decided to go whole hog, so to speak, and make fries as our side. With the recipe coming together in my head, I bought fresh Kaiser rolls, a springy, fresh, brighter-than-bright-green bunch of broccoli rabe, and set myself to work.

For the fries:

2 russet potatoes, scrubbed clean

1-2 tsp. Coarse salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 TB olive oil

2 TB minced fresh parsley

1 TB finely minced garlic

Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut the potatoes into four thin planks by halving the potato lengthwise and then halving each half. Cut each plank into strips the size you want your fries to be. On a cookie sheet or in a bowl, toss the potato strips in salt, pepper, and olive oil. Arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet – if possible so that the fries do not touch each other. This will allow for uniform crispness. Bake for 35-45 minutes, turning fries every ten minutes, or until desired crunch is attained. Sprinkle with garlic and parsley and serve immediately.

Fries have to have a sauce, and since we were going Asian inspired with the burgers I wanted something more exciting than ketchup (also, in an admission that I know marks me as practically un-American, I will reveal to you that I don’t like ketchup. I don’t know why, I just don’t. It makes eating french fries at restaurants a sometimes tedious business). I rifled through my fridge and found some likely looking customers.

Fry sauce:

¼ cup ketchup

2 TB chili garlic sauce or to taste

2 TB black bean sauce or to taste(oyster sauce would work here too)

Combine well and serve with fries.

While the fries were growing progressively toasty and the sauce was, well, awaiting some skinny dippers, I set to work on the main event.

For 2 burgers:

½ lb. ground pork sausage (or beef, or turkey, or chicken)

1 TB finely minced or grated garlic (use a microplane to grate)

1 TB finely minced or grated ginger

1-2 TB black bean sauce (oyster sauce would probably work well too)

plenty of freshly ground black pepper

2 TB minced fresh parsley

1 bunch broccoli rabe, thick stems and florets removed

Mix all ingredients except the broccoli rabe gently in a medium bowl with a fork or with your hands. Press into two patties slightly wider in circumference than the buns you will be using. I made them fairly thin so they would cook faster.

Heat a TB of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the burgers. Cook, flipping only once, until nicely browned and fully cooked. Time will depend on how thick you have made the patties; I think ours took only 4-5 minutes per side, if not less.

Meanwhile, blanch broccoli rabe in boiling water and then shock in ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and dry well, then chop roughly. At the last minute, split, butter, and broil the buns until golden, and toss the broccoli rabe with a little sesame oil in a hot skillet until it is warm and any remaining water has sizzled away.

Serve burgers on hot toasted buns topped with broccoli rabe saute beside a big pile of piping hot fries. Because there was plenty of flavor mixed into the patty I didn’t think the burgers needed any condiment adornment, but if you feel they are dry or want an extra kick, use the fry sauce or condiment of your choice to dress them up.

These were really, really good. The garlic and the ginger gave the burgers a bright, mouth-warming zing. I’m not going to say they made the burgers spicy because that’s not the right word, but they definitely upped the excitement of the sausage and gave it a new flair. The black bean sauce added salty umami saliva-inspiring richness so that I didn’t miss the cheese I usually can’t be without. The broccoli rabe cut the rich saltiness of the burger with its bitter notes, which meant a lovely duel of flavors across my tongue. The french fry accompaniment was a delightful treat – they were crunchy and crisp but starchy and light inside. The salt, garlic and parsley were bright bursts of freshness I wanted to lap up even after the fries were gone, and the sauce was a pleasant way of tying them in with the flavor profile of the burgers.

A sesame bun or ciabatta roll would also have made a nice vehicle for burger delivery, and pairing them with Rogue Brewery’s Morimoto Soba Ale would have been a beautiful choice, and almost stereotypically in keeping with the theme. But you know, stereotypes are so often based on a kernel of truth, and the kernel here is deliciousness.

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