Being a Top Chef contestant can be grueling and exhausting and crazy fun. When we're all wiped out from nonstop competition, we do what we do best: eat good food. Some of my most memorable meals with those talented chefs involved banh mi, traditional Vietnamese sandwiches that layer cured meats, sausages, and pickled vegetables in small, soft versions of French baguettes. I love anything with pickles and fresh cilantro! I've put those flavors in a burger patty here and sandwiched them in my favorite French roll: buttery brioche. The rich bread makes all the difference, as does high-quality pork.
1/2 cup julienned peeled carrots
1/2 cup julienned peeled daikon radish
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup very thinly sliced scallions (green onions)
1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
Canola oil, for the pan
4 brioche buns, split and toasted
12 fresh cilantro sprigs
1. In a medium bowl, toss the carrots, daikon, lime juice, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let stand while you make the burgers.
2. In a large bowl, combine the pork, scallions, lime zest, garlic, ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon salt with your hands until well mixed. Form into four 1/2-inch-thick patties that are slightly larger than your buns.
3. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Rub it with oil to coat. Add a few patties. They should fit comfortably in a single layer; don't crowd the pan. Cook until browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes, then flip and cook until the meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Repeat with the remaining patties.
4. Spread mayonnaise on both sides of the buns. Place a patty on each bottom bun, and top with the cilantro, carrots, and daikon. Sandwich with the top buns and serve immediately.
To grate ginger without getting its stringy fibers, grate it lengthwise, along the fibers.
Swap Out: You can use ground dark meat chicken instead of pork.
Some Like It Hot: Squirt sriracha all over the burgers. And if you really like cilantro, mince a bunch and mix it with the mayo.
From Carla's Comfort Foods by Carla Hall, Atria Books 2014.
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