Friday, May 11, 2012

LAFF Series #2: "The Major" - a burger full of Wow

The Locavore Artisan Food Fair - spring edition is tomorrow and as I promised last month I will be making burgers before and after to highlight some of Ottawa's great artisan food producers.

This burger is full of said "Wow".
Today's creation highlights Major Craig's Chutney, 613's premier chutney producer since 2009. Chutney is a condiment, snack or side dish of chopped and stewed fruits and vegetables mixed with spices that must master a balanced flavour profile. The North India chutney is based on a recipe by owner Andrew Craig's great-great grandfather, who developed an appreciation for this delightful meld of flavours while working for the East India Trading Company in the 1880s. Then, he boarded a DeLorean, set his chronometer for 2009 and with a tizzy of the flux capacitor travelled to the future to bestow his secret recipe to his descendant Andrew. I might not have all the details correct. Needless to say we've all been richer ever since.

I set out to craft a burger around North India's rich, chunky texture and sweet and spicy balance, and ended up with something fairly conservative. I went right back to Indian food for inspiration and the result is a burger I fondly call "The Major." It's a 125g (4.5oz) lean pork patty with Indian spices, onions and garlic, topped by a slice of caramelized fennel bulb, yogurt and Major Craig's North India chutney on a white bun. It was awesome.
The Major at attention

You can buy Major Craig's chutney online through their website or at numerous fine food boutiques across Ottawa. The preferred means of purchase of course is to come out to the LAFF this weekend.

I wasn't surprised at how well the flavours came together. When you're that good, they call you Major.

Instructions after the break

What you'll need 

Makes four burgers - you won't need a food processor

500g lean ground pork
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1.5 tsp ground ginger
1.5 tsp ground turmeric
1.5 tsp chili powder
1/8 vidalia onion, finely diced
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 egg (only if you use an outdoor grill)
Salt and pepper to taste

1 fresh fennel bulb, stalks removed and sliced length-wise into 1 cm slabs
6 tbsp of Major Craig's North India Chutney, sliced lengthwise (kidding, don't do that)
1 cup Greek-style yogurt
4 buns of firm crust and soft crumb
4 large leaves from a Boston lettuce
2 tbsp olive oil
Before embarking on your burger, collect one tablespoon of the chutney with a spoon and eat it. Go ahead and eat another. Ensure that you reserve at least one tablespoon per burger before going ahead and eating the rest of the jar.

For the fennel, you have two choices. First, you can rub the fennel with the olive oil and fry at medium heat for five minutes a side, until it develops a deep brown colour and becomes soft to the touch. Essentially you are looking for the fennel's natural sweetness to be released without losing its characteristic freshness. If you so choose, you can rub the slices in olive oil and roast in the oven for 30-40m at 400 F, or until they turn that rich brown colour.

Caramelizing fennel.
For the patty, mix all ingredients well in a bowl and form into four patties. The egg will add cohesion that is necessary for outdoor grills; you can skip it if you're cooking on an indoor griddle. Keep a light hand on the salt; the other spices are potent and delicious, so only add enough to round out the flavour. Ground pork should be cooked through and despite being lean there will be more than enough fat to keep the patty moist when grilling to well-done. Budget about seven minutes per side on medium-high heat. The turmeric will lend the meat its famous yellow hue, but you'll still be able to spot the tell-tale signs of pink signalling that the piggy isn't quite done.
My onion chunks were large because I was lazy.
Please do as I write, not as I did.

When constructing the burger don't skimp on the yogurt; it lends a cool creaminess that accents the spice of the burger well. Don't even think of substituting it for anything savoury; this dish stays away from heavily salty flavours. I served it alongside a light side salad.


Bun top
Boston lettuce
Bun bottom
The Major in his casuals.

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