Hamburgers al Pastor

As our regular readers know, I have a bit of a soft spot for tacos al pastor, the classic, bright red Mexican street food featuring thin slices of annatto-and-pineapple marinated pork, thinly carved off a vertical spit (or trompo) into corn tortillas and topped with plenty of chopped white onions and a few chunks of pineapple. While we have figured out a reasonable facsimile to make at home, the texture of the meat is much, much different, since it isn’t sliced off a vertical rotisserie. And once that single element had changed, I was looking for another way to combine these same flavors into something new.

Since we were already somewhat Americanizing a classic Mexican dish, it didn’t seem like much of a stretch to go all the way, and present it in hamburger form. Our hamburger patty is made from freshly-ground pork shoulder, that has steeped in ground ancho chilies and achiote for a few hours before grinding. Then, we top the burger in a fresh pineapple & jalapeno salsa, and rest it on a thin bed of guacamole, on a buttered, grilled hamburger roll. It’s an entirely different dish, and at the same time, instantly familiar to anyone that loves Mexican street food.

Follow our general grinding guidelines for grinding the meat: in short, make sure your meat, bowls, and the grinder itself are all super cold. Grind your pork using the coarse blade, and check to make sure it doesn’t need cleaning halfway through, since there is a fair amount of pork fat being passed through. Grind the pork only once; if you pass the ground pork through the grinder again, you’ll end up with mushy burgers. Grill the burgers slowly to ensure they are cooked through; undercooked pork can be dangerous, and the red-dyed coloring of the ground meat can make it tricky to check for doneness.

We used a salsa to get our pineapple element in there; if you are grilling these, I would also experiment with simply adding a grilled pineapple ring and a slice of onion. And of course, watch your jalapeno use: If you use hot peppers in the guacamole, don’t use them in the salsa, and vice-versa.

Hamburgers al Pastor
Makes about 8 burgers

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb boneless pork shoulder roast, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 large dried ancho chiles, stems and seed removed
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon crushed whole black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of achiote
  • 1 lime
  • Classic Guacamole (recipe follows)
  • Pineapple & Jalapeno Salsa (recipe follows)
  • 8 hamburger buns
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Method:

  1. In a small saucepan, cover dried chiles with water and bring to a boil. When the chiles soften, use a fork to transfer them to the bowl of a food processor, and pulse with cinnamon, oregano, black pepper, salt, onion powder, garlic, and achiote until smooth. If mixture is too dry, add some of the liquid from the ancho chile pan. Cover cubed pork with the mixture, toss until all pieces are coated in the marinade, cover, and chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours, or overnight.
  2. Chill meat grinder, blades, all bowls, and the cubed pork mixture for 10-15 minutes before grinding. Grind meat using the coarse blade into a chilled bowl. Press ground pork into 4-ounce patties, and cook in a large, hot frying pan, covered, over medium heat, flipping occasionally. Outsides of burgers will char slightly; cook until well done, about 4 minutes per side.
  3. Butter insides of each split hamburger bun, and toast face-down in a separate frying pan. To assemble the burgers, spread bottom half of buns with 1-2 tablespoons of Classic Guacamole, place the pastor burger patty, and then top with the Pineapple & Jalapeno Salsa.

Classic Guacamole

Ingredients:

  • 2 large, ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
  • 1 tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
    (Omit jalapeno if using guacamole as part of burger recipe, above, since the pineapple salsa already contains jalapeno)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, and mash with a fork until avocados are smooth. Serve with tortilla chips. To store, place plastic wrap directly on surface of leftover guacamole to prevent air from getting to the avocado.

Pineapple & Jalapeno Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 large pineapple, skinned, cored, and finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 2 medium jalapenos, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • Juice from 2 small limes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl, and chill, covered, for at least one hour before serving.

Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road," as well as the junk food blog "Spork & Barrel," and "Brocavore," a blog about food trucks and street food culture. His contributions include Serious Eats, Down East, Eat Rockland, L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post and his food truck, "'Wich, Please," was named "Hottest Restaurant in Maine" for 2015 by Eater. Finally, he finds it very silly to be trying to write this in the third person.

21 Comments

    1. I’m 99{3d9e2dd3ff4a6ad7c579f6992fba32c39af0ae46cb1a0bfdb9adec03cc9df88f} happy with how they turned out. I would add a bit more spice, which I did after finishing the burgers, with my trusty bottle of El Yucateco.

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    1. You can use a food processor…just get your cubed pork chunks very cold first (but not quite frozen) and pulse in very short bursts, so you don’t end up with a paste.

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  1. think I just found my new favorite burger. We have a place here in LA, the Larder at Tavern, that makes a Pork Pork Pork burger — pork shoulder and chorizo patty, a mash up of harissa & romesco, and manchego. I love it but I think I’m going to love this better. Question from a native Californian who goes to Maine for a week every summer . . . ever have the “7 napkin burger” at the store in Owl’s Head? My husband and I love Maine . . . looking forward to reading around your blog

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