Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Banh Mi Sliders

I'm not sure where I came up with the idea for these sliders.  Sometimes the genesis of a particular recipe is clear, but this is one of those instances where we had ground beef defrosted for no particular purpose, and two nights ago I decided while laying in bed that we should make Vietnamese-inspired burgers.  So I started listing the ingredients that I wanted to include in my burgers until Alex basically told me to go to sleep.  Haha.  Originally I wanted to make actual full-size burgers, but after looking at the width of the baguette I picked up from Sullivan Street Bakery, we realized that there was no way a burger would fit.  So we decided to make some cute little sliders instead.   

We seasoned our sliders with fish sauce, soy sauce, sriracha, shallots, and brown sugar.  Fish sauce sounds like a really strange addition to a burger, but it didn't make it fishy at all.  Instead the fish sauce gave the meat great depth of flavor and replaced the kosher salt I usually throw in my burgers.  The brown sugar gave the meat a nice subtle sweetness that I thought was a very pleasant counterpoint to the other more savory flavors of the burgers.  I have to give credit to Alex there because the brown sugar was his idea.  The sliders were really juicy from the fish sauce, soy, sriracha and shallots, which was awesome because it's very easy to dry sliders out since they are so little.  There is nothing worse than biting into a slider and realizing that the meat is so overcooked and dry that you might as well be chewing on a hockey puck.  I'm not sure that you could taste the sriracha, but every once in a while when you had a bite there was a hint of spice that I don't think came from the jalapenos although it's really hard to say.  The toppings were a really nice touch as well.  I love being able to customize your burgers.  I also love adding things like quickly pickled carrots and daikon because they cut through the rich fattiness of the burger and give it a really nice freshness.  The same goes for the cilantro, jalapeno, and the cucumber.  All of those toppings are traditional banh mi toppings, as is the mayonnaise, although it's not always kewpie mayonnaise.  These might not be my favorite burgers that I have ever made, but they are definitely up there.

Recipe after the jump!

Banh Mi Sliders

3/4 lb. ground beef
2 shallots, minced
1 tbsp sriracha
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp peanut oil
1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and thinly shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1 cup lazy cucumber and daikon pickle (see below)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced (if you don't like things spicy, remove the seeds)
kewpie mayonnaise
baguette, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into slider-size buns, lightly toasted

In a large mixing bowl, mix together ground beef, shallots, sriracha, fish sauce, soy sauce, light brown sugar, and freshly ground black pepper with your hands.  Take care not to overmix.  Form 9 sliders, putting a small depression with your thumb into the center of each slider.

Heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium heat.  Add 1 tbsp peanut oil.  Add sliders to the hot pan, making sure not to overcrowd.  We cooked our sliders in two batches.  Cook the sliders until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side for burgers cooked medium, flipping once.  If you want your sliders well-done, add another minute or two per side.  Using a spatula, remove burgers from the pan.

Build sliders by spreading kewpie mayonnaise to taste on the bottom bun, before adding sliders.  Top with cucumbers, carrot and daikon pickle, cilantro and jalapeno to taste.


Lazy Cucumber and Daikon Pickle

1/2 cup carrot, peeled and thinly shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1/2 cup daikon radish, peeled and thinly shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar or rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup lukewarm water

Combine all ingredients together in a medium, non-reactive mixing bowl.  Stir to combine and dissolve salt and sugar.  Allow to sit in brine for 15 minutes before serving.

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