RECIPES: Recipe Details

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Japazuelan "Korokke" Burgers with Soy-Miso Glazed Grilled Rice Cakes

Growing up in my "Japazuelan" household, dinners read like a would-be chapter from Memoirs of a Latin Geisha. The comforting smell of carne mechada (Venezuelan shredded beef) stewing away in its sweet tomato goodness, and the intoxicating smell of fried plantains lured me into the kitchen, while the waft of miso soup and grilled fish reeled my dad's appetite. This burger encompasses the flavors of my unique childhood, where pabellon and empanadas for lunch was typical (and my favorite!), and a limited traditional Japanese menu (with its ubiquitous white rice) always graced the dinner table. This is a great local burger that not only showcases another side of the much-beloved Japanese cuisine to America, but also encapsulates the soul of a new wave of Venezuelan emigres to the U.S. seeking the American dream. (And you're bound to hit gold with this burger!)

Ingredients 

Soy-Miso Glazed Grilled Rice Cakes:

- 2 cups Japanese short-grain rice

- 2 1/2 cups water

- 2 tablespoons soy sauce

- 2 tablespoons mirin

- 2 teaspoons white miso

- 2 teaspoons sugar

* you will need a large stainless steel cooling rack (with a tightly spaced square grid pattern)

Tonkatsu Sauce (Japanese croquette and cutlet sauce):

- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon Worcestershire (preferably Lea and Perrins brand)

- 1/2 cup ketchup

- 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

- 3 tablespoons soy sauce

- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (smooth, not whole grain; preferably Grey Poupon brand)

- 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder

Japanese-style "Korokke" (Croquette) Patties:

- 1 cup store-bought mashed potato (such as Country Crock Homestyle Mashed Potato Side Dish)

- 3 tablespoons heavy cream

- 2 lbs good-quality ground chuck

- 3 tablespoons sliced green onion

- 2 small garlic cloves, finely diced

- 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) Tonkatsu sauce

- 1/2 cup panko

- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Plantains:

- 2 ripe plantains

- Vegetable oil, enough to come up about ½ inch up the sides of a large non-stick skillet

Caraotas Negras (Stewed Black Beans):

- 1 can black beans (preferably Bush’s)

- 1 bay leaf

- 1 piece of red bell pepper, optional (about 1/4 of a small red bell pepper)

- 1/4 small onion, optional (left whole)

Vegetable oil, for brushing the grill rack

6 slices mild yellow cheddar

12 slices Japanese-style, thick-cut soft white bread (or slice a loaf of good-quality, soft, white sandwich bread into twelve 1/2 inch slices)

Instructions 

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

For the Soy-Miso Glazed Grilled Rice Cakes:

1. Place the rice into a medium-large bowl and cover with cold water. Rub the rice between your fingers for a few seconds (the water will become very milky). Drain the rice in a fine mesh strainer or rice colander and dump back into the bowl. Repeat three or four times until the water runs clear. Dump the rice back into the bowl and cover with water (at least one or two inches above the level of the rice) and soak for about 15 to 20 minutes.

2. In the meantime, line a sheet pan with parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, mirin, miso and sugar; mix and set aside.

3. When the grill is ready, drain the rice and dump into a medium pot. Add the water and place on the grill rack at medium-high heat. Cook uncovered until approximately half of the water has cooked off (about ten minutes).

4. Then cover the pot with a lid and cook until all the water is absorbed, about another seven to ten minutes. Take off the heat and fluff the cooked rice gently with a fork.

5. Dump the cooked rice onto the center of the prepared sheet pan and gather into a relatively tight mound. Flatten the rice with your greased palms, gathering the edges in towards the center to keep the rice compact and flatten to about 1/4 inch thickness. Spray a 3-inch round cutter with non-stick spray and cut out 6 rice cakes. Brush one side of the rice cakes with the soy-miso glaze.

6. Set the cooling rack on top of the grill rack and spray with cooking spray. Carefully transfer the rice cut-outs with a spatula (glaze side down) onto the wire rack and grill for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Brush the top with the soy-miso glaze and flip, cooking this side for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes as well. Repeat one more time, brushing more glaze on each side but cooking each side for only 30 seconds or so on each side, and grilling until the tops of the rice cakes are crispy and slightly charred.

For the Tonkatsu sauce:

1. While the rice is cooking, start the tonkatsu sauce by combining the Worcestershire, ketchup, brown sugar, soy sauce, mustard, and five spice powder in a medium pot. Whisk until thoroughly mixed.

2. When the grill is ready, place the sauce pan on the grill rack and cook until reduced by half, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take the pan off the heat once in a while if the mixture bubbles away too vigorously.

For the Beans:

1. In a small pot, add the beans, bay leaf, red pepper and onion and simmer until ready to serve.

For the Korokke Patties:

1. Add the mashed potato and heavy cream into a small bowl and gently incorporate the cream into the mashed potato with a fork to loosen it.

2. In a medium bowl, add the ground chuck, mashed potato and cream mixture, sliced green onions and garlic. Mix slightly with your fingers.

3. Once the tonkatsu sauce is cooked and slightly cooled, add the tonkatsu sauce, panko, salt and pepper to the meat mixture and mix gently with your fingers. Do not overmix! Shape into six equal-sized patties.

4. Brush the grill rack with oil and place the patties on the rack, cover and cook, turning once, until done, about 5 to 8 minutes on each side for medium. Baste twice on each side with a thin layer of the tonkatsu sauce as the patties cook.

5. Add the cheese slices on top of each patty during the last 3 minutes or so of grilling to melt.

Plantains:

1. While the burgers cook, peel the plantains and slice into1/3 inch thick slices on a diagonal.

2. Add the oil to a large non-stick skillet and place on the grill rack. Once the oil is hot (test the temperature by wetting your fingertips and flicking the water onto the oil; if it sizzles, then you're good to go!), slide as many plantain slices into the pan without overcrowding. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Flip over with tongs and cook again for another 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat with any remaining plantain slices, although you will not need all the plantain.

To assemble the burgers:

1. To assemble the burgers, cut the ends off the bread slices to end up with a square just slightly larger on each side then the patty. Toast slightly on the edge of the grill, just enough to get some color but still remain soft on the inside.

2. Place about two tablespoons of the stewed beans on six of the toasted bread slices and top with the grilled rice cake. Top the rice cakes with a few slices of the fried plantains. Top with the cooked patty and add the bread tops and serve.