Genius Grilled Pork Burgers

Every week, Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore unearths recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: When rethinking the perfect burger, it's what's inside that counts.

Suzanne Goin's Grilled Pork Burgers, from Food52

There are perfect burgers made of beef, salt, and pepper. This is not one of those burgers. And it takes not a little, but a lot more effort, if you commit to doing it right.

Oh, you're still here? Good, because this is probably going to be the best burger you've ever had.

We tend to think about doctoring up burgers from the outside -- with thick strips of bacon, obviously, or themed toppers. But Suzanne Goin, the master of thoughtfully prepared, arrestingly flavorful food, takes perfect burger theory to another level -- by looking first within.

A burger patty isn't so different from a meatball or crab cake. (You don't just make a ball of meat or a cake of crab -- you flavor it!) Here's how Goin goes about it.

She starts with ground pork, and essentially lards it with minced bacon and fresh Mexican chorizo, as you would a roast. "I'm adding the bacon and chorizo to help the meat stay moist, but also to flavor it with all that delicious smoky spiciness," Goin told me.

Next, she gathers up her aromatics -- shallot, garlic, fresh thyme, cumin. But instead of mixing them straight into the meat, she sautés them together first -- sweetening, softening, and unleashing them. The parsley she leaves fresh. Each ingredient has its place.

Suzanne Goin's Grilled Pork Burgers, from Food52Suzanne Goin's Grilled Pork Burgers, from Food52

Now, mix with your hands.

Suzanne Goin's Grilled Pork Burgers, from Food52

Make patties.

Suzanne Goin's Grilled Pork Burgers, from Food52

Grill them (or pan-fry them). Melt Manchego on top.

Suzanne Goin's Grilled Pork Burgers, from Food52Suzanne Goin's Grilled Pork Burgers, from Food52

You could put this on a bun and call it a day -- or take these ideas and riff on them endlessly. Or you can commit to the full Goin Grilled Pork Burger Experience, which also involves a homemade aioli and romesco sauce. Both tack on more time, spent dishes, and probably a slow burn in your dominant shoulder area.

But all of these components can be made ahead -- in fact, the burgers taste better made a day in advance, and aioli and romesco can be used and reused in other meals.

And I promised you the best burger you've ever had, right? That should be reason enough.

Suzanne Goin's Grilled Pork Burgers, from Food52

Suzanne Goin's Grilled Pork Burgers

From Sunday Suppers at Lucques (Knopf, 2005)

1 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
1/2 cup diced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 chiles de arbol, thinly sliced on the bias
2 pounds ground pork
1/4 pound fresh Mexican chorizo, casing removed
3 ounces applewood-smoked bacon, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
6 slices Manchego cheese
6 brioche buns or other good burger buns
2 ounces arugula
Aioli, homemade
Romesco, homemade
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a medium sauté pan, toast the cumin seeds over medium heat a few minutes until the seeds release their aroma and darken slightly. Pound the seeds in a mortar or spice grinder until coarsely ground.

2. Return the pan to the stove over high heat for 1 minutes. Add the olive oil and shallots. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook for a few minutes, sitrring, once or twice, until the shallots start to soften. Add the garlic, thyme, cumin and sliced chile. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grindings of black peppery, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, until the shallots become translucent. Set aside to cool.

3. In a large bowl, use your hands to combine the ground pork, chorizo, bacon, shallot mixture, and parsley, being careful not to overmix the meat. Season with 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Shape the meat into six 6-ounce patties. Chill in the refrigerator if not using right away.

4. Light the grill 30 to 40 minutes before cooking and remove pork burgers from the refrigerator to come to room temperature (if you made them in advance).

5. When the coals are broken down, red, and glowing, brush the pork burgers with olive oil and grill them 3 to 4 minutes on the first side, until they're nicely browned. Turn the burgers over, and place a piece of cheese on each one. Cook another 3 minutes or so, until the pork is cooked through. (It should still be slightly pink in the center.)

6. Slice the buns in half, brush them with olive oil, and toast them on the grill, cut side down, for a minute or so, until they're lightly browned.

7. Spread both sides of the buns and the aioli. Place a burger on the bottom half of each bun, and dollop with a generous amount of romesco. Place some arugula leaves on top, and finish with the top half of the bun.

Save this recipe (and see the recipes for the aioli and romesco sauces) at Food52.

Photos by James Ransom