“Pork patties” may not sound very appetizing, and I’ll admit that I was skeptical about how these would turn out, but this is a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, so we know it was tested extensively by the folks at America’s Test Kitchen until they got it just right. We’re big fans of Cook’s Illustrated and subscribe to them online (great site to find tried & true recipes for dishes you may be cooking for the first time), receive their magazines at home (6 issues per year, packed with interesting cooking tips, info and recipes) and have many of their “best of” books (highly recommend this one for weeknight cooking.) I’m also always on the look-out for any of their special edition magazines, usually available in the grocery store. Their Fall 2011 issue of “30-Minute Suppers” has 64 recipes that are perfect for a weeknight meal, including this pork recipe and several others we have tried and enjoyed. But enough of this non-sponsored free commercial for Cook’s Illustrated — back to the pork patties! We were pleasantly surprised by how delicious they turned out, most likely due to the unique combination of flavors from several Thai-style ingredients: fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, shallot, serrano chile, lemongrass and cilantro — blended together with ground pork, an egg and fresh breadcrumbs that resulted in flavorful patties with the ideal crispy-outside-moist-inside texture. These patties have an unexpectedly sophisticated flavor (makes me want to name them something more refined than “patties”), especially considering how quick and easy they are to prepare in under half an hour.
Start by beating 1 egg, 2 tablespoons fish sauce (available in the Asian section of most grocery stores), 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1 tablespoon brown sugar together in a small bowl.
Tear 2 slices of fresh white bread into small pieces, then use a fork to mash the pieces in with the egg mixture so the bread soaks up the liquid.
Prepare the veggies: remove the seeds and ribs from the serrano chile (or leave them in if you like it spicy) and chop it up; peel and mince the shallot; trim the bottom part (about 5 inches) of a lemongrass stalk and mince it; then chop up about 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro.
Add the shallot, chile, lemongrass and 1/2 cup of ground pork to a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat the pork mixture on medium-high speed until smooth — about 2-3 minutes. You could also mix everything together by hand, but using the mixer helps to emulsify the ingredients and make everything more smooth. (Yet another great thing about Cook’s Illustrated’s recipes is that they always include a little extra information about why certain things work (or don’t work) better than others. So whenever we cook one of their dishes, we also feel like we learned something, which just adds to the overall cooking experience. Ok, I’ll stop with the Cook’s Illustrated Love now, promise.)
Add the remaining ground pork (using 1 pound of pork total, there should be a little bit more than a cup of pork remaining), the bread mixture and the cilantro to the mixer and mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated — about 30-40 seconds. Divide the pork mixture into 6-8 portions and shape into half-inch thick patties.
Heat a tablespoon of oil (vegetable, canola or peanut) in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches to avoid crowding the skillet, cook the patties until browned on both sides and cooked through — about 5 minutes per side.
We served the patties over jasmine rice and, per Cook’s Illustrated’s suggested recipe, a bean sprout salad (post coming soon!) I originally thought the patties might need a sauce of some sort, but they had wonderful spicy and fresh Thai flavor all on their own. We’ll definitely make these again. Next time maybe we’ll use half of the pork mixture for patties, then freeze the other half to use another time to make little pork meatballs for this ramen noodle dish. Two meals for the price of one recipe!