New Orleans French Quarter Spicy Creole Pork Burger With Grilled Eggplant, Fresh Thyme and Smoked Provolone
1/4 ounce envelope Knox unflavored gelatin
2 teaspoons light brown sugar (firmly packed)
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup cold water
2 pounds freshly ground fatty pork shoulder
1/3 cup finely ground bacon fat
1 cup finely chopped fresh green onions
5 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 finely crushed bay leaves
2 teaspoons finely crushed dried sage leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 teaspoons table salt
GRILLED EGGPLANT :
6 1-1/2″ thick eggplant slices
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh thyme
3 teaspoons powdered sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack
6 slices of smoked provolone cheese
6 fresh French rolls, split1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions
6 ripe tomato slices (about 1/2″ thick)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
TO MAKE THE PATTIES:
Add the gelatin and brown sugar to the hot water and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved then add the cold water and stir to form a gelatin/sugar solution.
Gently, but thoroughly, combine the gelatin/sugar solution, ground pork, ground bacon fat, chopped green onions, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, black pepper, crushed bay leaves; crushed dried sage leaves, dried oregano and table salt to form a seasoned patty mixture. Form the patty mixture into 6 equal sized patties. Cover and refrigerate the patties until ready to grill.
TO MAKE THE GRILLED EGGPLANT SLICES:
Preheat a gas grill to medium hot. Brush the eggplant slices with the vegetable oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place on the grill. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until lightly golden brown and slightly charred. Remove from the grill, evenly distribute the chopped fresh thyme and the powdered sugar onto the slices and wrap them tightly in foil or seal in a plastic container, set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.
Preheat a gas grill to medium heat. When the grill is ready, brush the grill rack with the vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning every 3-4, until an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F is reached and the patties are done to preference. Place a provolone cheese slice on each of the patties during the last 3-4 minutes of grilling. Place the French rolls, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly during the last 2 minutes of grilling.
To assemble the burgers, place a cheese-topped patty on each toasted roll bottom, followed by an equal portion of the sliced red onions, a grilled eggplant slice and a tomato slice. Sprinkle the top of each of the tomato slices with an equal portion of the kosher salt, cover with a toasted roll top and serve.
Makes 6 burgers.