Summer dinner party

In honor of Labor Day weekend, here are some recipes to thrill your barbecue-mates. I think my biggest regret for this summer is that we didn’t have nearly enough casual dinner parties out on the deck. The dismal weather in the first half, combined with near-constant travel in the second half, meant we just weren’t around enough to get people over here. One notable exception gathered our friends Lauren and Rafa, who live a mere three blocks away, with our new downstairs neighbors, who had moved in earlier that week. Rafa mixed elderflower-gin-grapefruit cocktails (and mocktails, for Lauren, who is pregnant!), and we ate a rather late dinner after a rather…protracted cocktail hour.

The goods:

I went for upgraded versions of summer classics: The Triple Pork burgers from Sunday Suppers at Lucques (which I’ve been making since Hanover whenever I can summon the strength), an Austrian-style potato salad from the August Cook’s Illustrated, and Goin’s slaw recipe, also from Sunday Suppers. For dessert, plum shortcakes.

I could have sworn that I’d typed up the pork burger recipe at some point, but apparently not. I hate typing recipes.

Ok, I’ve gone and fetched fortifications: a Pimm’s Cup and a snack. (It’s 5:12 p.m. on the Friday before a long weekend!)

First of all, the burgers.
They’re made with ground pork, bacon, and fresh chorizo. I’m going to include the recipe at the end because the ingredient list alone is a mile and a half long (But don’t get discouraged! Power through! Your friends will worship at your feet!)

For your visual edification, here are the spices/flavoring (thyme, chiles de arbol, shallot, garlic, cumin):

And the elements of the meat mixture:

Those were combined, made into patties, chilled, and later grilled and served with aoili, arugula, tomato, and manchego.

Next up, the potato salad, which I’d already made once that week with great success. The basic concept is that you cook the potato pieces in chicken broth with a bit of vinegar to keep them from falling apart, and then mash up some of the cooked potato in cooking liquid to make a creamy dressing with no mayo.

Austrian-Style Potato Salad
from Cook’s Illustrated
(serves 4-6)

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (4 large), peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 T sugar
2 T white wine vinegar
1 T dijon mustard
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 small red onion, chopped fine (about 3/4 cup)
6 cornichons (or dill pickle), minced (about 2 T)
2 T minced fresh chives
Black pepper

1. Bring potatoes, broth, water, 1 teaspoon salt, sugar, and 1 tablespoon vinegar to boil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until potatoes offer no resistance when pierced with a paring knife, 15-17 minutes. [Note: I cooked mine longer and they were still a bit firm for my taste, so test often.] Remove cover, increase heat to high (so cooking liquid will reduce), and cook 2 minutes.

2. Drain potatoes in colander set over large bowl, reserving cooking liquid. Set drained potatoes aside. Pour off and discard all but 1/2 cup cooking liquid (if not enough remains, add water to make 1/2 cup). Whisk remaining tablespoon vinegar, mustard, and oil into cooking liquid.

3. Add 1/2 cup cooked potatoes to bowl with cooking liquid mixture and mash until a thick sauce forms (mixture will be slightly chunky). Add remaining potatoes, onion, cornichons, and chives, fold gently with rubber spatula to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

To call this a hit would be a huge understatement. It was a phenomenal success. The salad is creamy and satisfying but light, and not gloppy since there’s no mayo. Terrific, and I think I’ll make it all winter since it’s great hot.

Next side dish: “Rob’s Famous Coleslaw,” from the same Sunday Supper Menu as the pork burgers. I’d never made it before but I figured I would take a break from my super-simple cider vinegar approach to coleslaw, and give Goin’s a try. (Note: It was handy to use the rest of the bunch of chives from the potato salad in this slaw!)

Rob’s Famous Coleslaw
from Sunday Suppers at Lucques

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 small head red cabbage, about 1 pound, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 small head green cabbage, about 1 pound, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
Healthy pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons minced chives
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a small saucepan, reduce the vinegar by half over medium heat.* Cool 5 minutes, then stir in the honey until it dissolves.
Combine the cabbages, onion and carrot in a large bowl.
Pour the vinegar-honey mixture over the vegetables, toss well to combine, season with salt and pepper and let sit for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Add the mayo, cayenne, and herbs, and toss well. Taste for balance and seasoning.

*I made half a batch for the party, then another half batch later in the week. The second time I skipped reducing the vinegar, and instead used sherry vinegar and stirred the honey into half as much vinegar.

Also excellent. I am such a sucker for cabbage in general, and good slaws in particular. I hate over-dosing on mayo, but this one was perfect.

Finally, for dessert, I macerated a variety of plums in sugar for the afternoon, and then Ben baked biscuits (which I topped with sparkling sugar) and I whipped cream and we made shortcakes. I should have stewed the plums; they didn’t meld well enough!

You still want the pork burger recipe, don’t you? Ok, fine. I live to serve.

Grilled Pork Burgers
from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
Serves 6

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seed
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 árbol, thinly sliced on the bias
2 pounds ground pork
1/4 pound fresh Mexican chorizo, casing removed
3 ounces applewood-smoked bacon, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
6 slices Manchego cheese
6 brioche buns or other good hamburger buns
Romesco sauce [I’ve never made/used this, but she has a recipe for that, too]
2 ounces arugula
Kosher salt
Black pepper
[Sliced tomato, if that’s your thing!]

1. In a medium saucepan, 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 minute. Add the olive oil and shallots. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook a few minutes, stirring 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 pepper, 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 and shallot mixture, and parsley, being careful not to overmix the meat. Season with 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and lots of freshly ground pepper. Shape the meat into six 6-ounce patties. Chill in refrigerator if not using right away.

4. Light the grill 30-40 minutes before cooking, and remove the pork burgers from the refrigerator to come to room temperature. 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 slice of cheese on each one. Cook another 3 minutes or so, until the pork is just cooked through. (It should still be slightly pink in the center.)

5. Slice the buns in half, brush them with olive oil, and toast them on the grill until lightly browned. Spread both sides of the buns with aioli. Place a burger on the bottom half of each bun, and dollop with a generous amount of romesco (if you’re using it). Place some arugula leaves on top [and I always add a slice of very good tomato], and finish with the top half of the bun.

I don’t have any photos of the finished burgers from that dinner, because it was dark as Hades by the time we ate. I did have two small extra patties, which I froze, so I’ll try to add a photo once I cook those.

Edited in honor of Matt, who flipped. out. when there were no pictures (see Bridge’s comment, below). These aren’t great, but here are photos from last year’s batch of pork burgers on my birthday at the lake.

Formed patties:

Finished burgers on too-big-rolls:

This batch was actually better-looking because I formed slightly flatter patties. Yum.

7 thoughts on “Summer dinner party”

  1. Oh Kate, I have to kiss you. This sounds wonderful for this weekend. I’ll get the ingredients this weekend and let you know how everything turns out. I’m especially looking forward to the potato salad. I’m not a big fan of mayo either.

  2. Matt was amazed until he scrolled down and shouted “Where’s the payoff picture?!”
    He really wanted to drool over the final product. Where’s the photo of this gorgeous burger? (I’m making it, btw…soon)

  3. I love no-mayo potato salads–the magazine Fine Cooking has a recipe similar to this, but you use a little chopped bacon, shallot instead of red onion, and olive oil. But really the same idea. Anyway, looks delicious!

  4. JJ, you’ll have to come back and let me know how it went, if you did end up using the recipes!

    Molly, thank you–so sweet.

    Bridge- Is he happy now?

    Sarah- Mmm, bacon. Never a bad idea.

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