From kitchen catastrophe to grilled banh mi

There is nothing like a kitchen catastrophe to keep a homecook humble. Occasionally I remove the shaker tops from spices in order to dip a measuring spoon into the jar. The next time I reach for that spice, having forgotten the removal of the shaker top, I might accidentally dump the entire contents into the mixing bowl. If the spice happens to be particularly aggressive, I try to remove as much of the dumped spice as possible.

When a few tablespoons of cayenne pepper belched into a bowl of ground pork meant for burgers, it was time to change direction in the kitchen. A handful of mayo, Panko, and cilantro transformed spicy pork burgers into banh mi, a Vietnamese-meets-French sandwich served with quick-pickled vegetables and spicy sauce. Dinner was not only saved, it was elevated.

As we approach Mother's Day, my thoughts turn to grilled meat. While the rest of you dine with your beloved mom at ladylike brunches complete with mimosas in flutes, I'll hand my mom a scotch and  light the grill. If your mom is a spirited gal, whip up a lunch of grilled banh mi. Read more about springtime grilling, banh mi, and moms at Called to the Table today. 

Banh Mi Burgers 
1 pound ground pork (ground beef, poultry, or fish work equally well)
¼ cup each chopped cilantro, Panko breadcrumbs, mayonnaise
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, skin removed and grated
3 cloves garlic, grated
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon (or less) cayenne pepper

Combine mixture thoroughly and pat into 4 to 6 burgers. Place between paper towels to remove as much moisture from the outside of the burgers as possible. Grill over direct heat, turning once, and cook until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

For the sauce and buns:
Combine ½ to 1 cup mayonnaise, a good handful of chopped cilantro and green onions, a tablespoon of Thai chili paste or your favorite hot sauce, a splash of soy sauce, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon or lime.

Spread a thick layer of sauce on the cut sides of 4 to 6 very soft buns (challah-style work well) and cook over direct heat until grill marks appear.

For the pickled vegetables:
¼ cup honey (or sugar)
½ cup distilled white vinegar
½ to 1 cup water
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, roughly chopped
1 lemongrass stalk, cut into 2 inch pieces and bruised (you can substitute lemongrass with grated zest from 1 lemon or lime zest)
2 teaspoons sesame oil

In saucepan bring all ingredients to boil, then remove from heat and steep for about 30 minutes. Strain solids from liquid and pour over about 1 cup of vegetables that are cut into matchstick-sized pieces. Chill until servings. Suggested vegetables: daikon radish, red pepper, carrots, cucumber, and onion.

To assemble: Place burgers in grilled buns topped with extra sauce and pickled vegetables. Serve with sliced avocado and chopped cilantro.



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