RECIPES: Recipe Details

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Austin Al's Pastor Pork Burger with Cumin-Lemon Mayo

No one who cooks can live in Texas and ignore the plethora of spices and fresh ingredients that make up the basics of Tex-Mex cuisine. I love incorporating those flavors and textures into other recipes for an unexpected twist.

This burger recipe is a take on tacos al Pastor, which are small cubes of spicy, marinated, slow-cooked pork served with a sweet pineapple salsa on warm corn tortillas. These juicy burgers have a surprisingly sweet and spicy bite that melds perfectly with the cool crunch of onions and lettuce and the creaminess of ripe avocados. Most restaurants have their own special marinade blends, so I simplified my basting sauce using easy to find ingredients that stay true to the flavor.

While packaged ground pork works in a pinch, it is definitely worth finding a butcher that will grind it fresh for you, or grinding it yourself so you know what you are getting. Good eats!

Ingredients 

4 medium to large jalapenos, grilled, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
One 16oz. can of crushed pineapple, drained; liquid/juice reserved
1 c loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, stems discarded, finely chopped

Meat Mixture:
2 1/2 lbs. fresh ground pork* (keep chilled until ready to use)
1/2 of the chopped, grilled jalapenos
1/4 c drained, crushed pineapple
2T finely chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 t cumin
1/8 t black pepper
1 t salt

Basting Sauce:
all of the reserved pineapple juice, approx. 1/2 to 3/4 c
1/3 c drained, crushed pineapple
1/2 of the chopped, grilled jalapenos
1/2 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped (reserve other half for garnish)
1/4 c white vinegar
1/4 c chile powder
1 T finely chopped cilantro leaves
1 t cumin
1 t dried oregano
1 t salt
1 large clove of garlic

Cumin-Lemon Mayo:
1 c mayonnaise
1 t fresh lemon juice
1/2 t cumin

non-stick spray (I use Smart Balance)
6 Kaiser rolls, split
1/2 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
6 leaves Bibb lettuce, washed and patted dry
1/2 ripe avocado, sliced

Instructions 

1. Grill all 4 whole jalapenos at medium-high heat on a gas grill, until blackened, approx. 4 minutes each side. Place in a sealed plastic baggie for 2 minutes to loosen skin. Peel, seed (discard skin, seeds and stems) and finely chop. Set aside in a small bowl. (Turn off grill until ready for burgers)

2. While jalapenos are grilling, drain crushed pineapple in a mesh sieve over a bowl, pushing down with a spoon to squeeze out juice. Reserve all liquid (about 1/2 - 3/4 c).

3. Finely chop cilantro and set aside in a small bowl (should be about 3T chopped).

4. In a large bowl, gently blend the ground pork, 1/2 of the chopped grilled jalapenos, crushed pineapple, cilantro, cumin, black pepper and salt. [Do not overwork the meat blend.]

5. Form into 6 equal-sized balls. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

6. To make basting sauce, add the reserved drained pineapple juice, crushed pineapple, other 1/2 of the grilled jalapenos, onion, vinegar, chile powder, cilantro, cumin, oregano, salt and garlic clove to a blender or small food chopper and blend until smooth. (Makes enough to use in another dish, so separate half the amount and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days Great for marinating chicken breasts or on grilled tuna.)

7. For Cumin-Lemon Mayo, mix mayonnaise, lemon juice and cumin together. Refrigerate in a closed container until needed.

8. Spray grill rack with non-stick spray. Preheat gas grill to med-high heat.

9. Remove burgers from refrigerator and pour off any liquid that may have drained onto plate. Gently flatten balls to 3/4 inch thick patties. Spray both sides of burgers with non-stick spray.

10. Turn grill down to medium heat. Place burgers on grill, avoiding any areas with tall, direct flames. Cover grill and cook for 6 minutes. Flip burger and baste cooked top side of burger. Cover grill and cook for 6 more minutes. Turn grill to medium-low heat. Flip burgers, baste top side again and cook for 2 minutes. Repeat flipping and basting 1 more time, so that each side has been basted twice, and cooked for an additional 2 minutes on each side with each basting. Cooks meat to medium well.

11. During the last 2-4 minutes of cooking, place the rolls**, inside cut side-down on the outer areas of the rack and grill until lightly toasted.

12. Thinly slice remaining 1/2 onion to use for garnish.

13. To serve, spread 1 T mayo on top of bottom roll, then top with a leaf of lettuce, burger, onion slice, 2-3 avocado slices and roll top.

Total prep and cook time: approx. 1hr. 15min.
Makes 6 burgers
Cooked on a standard gas grill.

Comments 

This recipe uses some of the same ingredients in each component, so I prepare some ingredients, like grilling the jalapenos, draining the pineapple and chopping the cilantro in the beginning, in order to conserve time and energy.

*TIP: If grinding fresh pork, choose cuts like thick, boneless country ribs or center loin roasts that contain about 60% white to 40% red meat. Do not trim fat.

**OPTIONAL TIP: If roll tops are really thick, some of the bread from the inside top half can be pinched or scooped out before toasting. This will hold the avocados in place better, keeping them from immediately squishing out of the sides of the roll with the first bite.