I have been experimenting with using organic wood chips (hickory and mesquite) when grilling on my charcoal grill the past few summers. I love the smokiness and flavor it adds to both meats and vegetables.
I am also experimenting with smoking summer tomatoes before the summer ends as well as trying some new ideas for pizza on the grill with the added flavors of smoky goodness.
This recipe is something I developed after reading about other cooks and chefs who have been offering this alternative meat burger on their menus.
I love this burger as a change from beef, turkey or chicken and the smoky quality really suits the flavor and texture of the meat.
Make this dish before the summer comes to a close and I promise you will come back to it time and time again.
smoky & spicy pork burgers
for the burgers:
1/2 to 3/4 pound of freshly ground pork shoulder (ask your butcher for best mix of meat to fat for grilling)
sea salt (to taste)
black pepper (to taste)
dash cayenne pepper (to taste)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. cumin (if desired)
spicy hot calabrese dry-cured sausage, (skin removed, minced); approx. 8 or so thin slices, more to taste if desired
good quality cheddar cheese slices (for topping the burgers)
for the fire:
natural, organic charcoal
organic smoking wood chips (I prefer hickory for these, but you can experiment with different flavors too)
for the table:
good quality hamburger buns (grilled/toasted if desired)
lettuce leaves (romaine or red leaf lettuce) washed & dried
summer ripe tomato slices
homemade or good quality barbecue sauce, for serving (if desired, you can also use other condiments of your choice)
In a large deep bowl, add the ground pork and season with salt, black pepper and a dash of cayenne to taste. Mix this with a fork to blend well (do not overmix.)
Add the minced garlic, the minced spicy calabrese salami (you can put the slices of salami in your food processor and blend until minced to speed up the process) and the cumin if using in your burger mixture.
Blend this softly with a fork until all is evenly incorporated, cover with plastic wrap and place on the counter if grilling immediately (see note) or in the refrigerator if grilling later in the day or evening.
Note: Prior to cooking meats, remove from the cold refrigerator about 15 to 20 minutes prior to hitting the grill or pan. The meat will cook more evenly and the flavor is enhanced greatly.
Start your charcoal fire using the natural charcoal and allow to burn down and begin to turn to ash. Add in the smoking chips when you are ready about 5 minutes or so prior to putting the burgers on the grill and allow them to begin burning.
Form burger patties from your meat mixture and, using your thumb, push down the center of the burger to form a small well. This will keep the burgers from swelling up and will allow the meat to cook evenly.
Grill the burgers for about 4 to 8 minutes per side, depending on level of heat from the grill (reference a grilling guide; use a meat thermometer to check the internal temp to be sure.)
Once cooked through, add the cheddar cheese slices, if desired and serve immediately with lettuce leaves, tomato slices, sweet bread and butter pickle chips and your condiment of choice (I prefer them with no condiments at all!)
Note: Photography by Annette Venditti