Saturday, January 15, 2011

January 15: Super Tuscan Burgers and Potato Salad with Capers and Celery

1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1/2 cup dry Italian red wine
1/4 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
4 garlic cloves, chopped
   Coarse salt  
   Coarse black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound cremini (baby portobello) mushrooms, sliced
4 crusty rolls, split
8 ounces Mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 cup arugula or spinach leaves, trimmed of stems
   Store-bought potato salad

Combine the pork in a bowl with 1/4 cup of the red wine; the yellow onions, sage, and garlic; and salt and pepper to taste.

Form 4 large patties.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of the EVOO, and set the burgers into the skillet, leaving a space in the center of the pan to pile in the mushrooms. Add the sliced mushrooms to the skillet with the burgers.

Flip the burgers after 6 minutes and toss the mushrooms around as they brown at the center of the skillet. After the mushrooms begin to brown, season them with salt and pepper. (The color will be deeper and the mushrooms will remain firmer if you wait for them to brown before salting.) Cook the burgers for 5 minutes on the second side, then remove them from the pan and place them onto bottom halves of the rolls and arrange on a serving plate. Place the sliced cheese on the burgers, then spoon the hot mushrooms over the cheese.

Cover the plate loosely with foil to slightly melt the cheese. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of wine to the skillet and loosen the pan drippings. Dip the top halves of the rolls into the pan drippings to soak them up.

Pile the arugula on each burger, then set the top halves in place.

Serve with the potato salad.


I actually changed this recipe quite a bit. The first time I made this recipe, I loved the burgers, but I hated the potato salad with capers and celery. Here is the recipe:

4 large Idaho potatoes
Coarse salt
3 tablespoons capers
4 celery ribs and their greens, from the heart of the stalk, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil while you peel and dice the potatoes. Add the potatoes to the boiling water and salt the water liberally. Boil the potatoes until tender, 12 to 15 minutes.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and return them to the warm pot to dry them out. Take the pot over to your cutting board and add the capers, celery, red onions, lemon zest and juice, red wine vinegar, and 3 or 4 tablespoons of the EVOO to the pot. Toss to combine the salad, then season the salad with salt and pepper. Transfer the salad to a serving dish. The potato salad can be served warm or cold. 

Now, maybe it's just my taste, but I don't like this kind of potato salad. For one thing, the potatoes were way to crumby. For another it's just so sour with the lemon juice, vinegar, capers, etc. Anyway, that's why I subbed in the store-bought salad. It was delicious, and it takes no time at all.

About the burgers, I really liked them the first time I tried them. It calls for half pork and half veal, but since veal is hard to find and expensive, I just made it all pork. The recipe also calls for Italian sheep's-milk cheese, but I've never seen that in the store before. It was good with mozzarella. I really don't even know what would be similar to Italian sheep's-milk cheese. I used spinach instead of arugula, because I have spinach for next week's recipe to go with the turkey saltimbocca roll-ups. So I added spinach as an option in the ingredient list. I suppose it doesn't matter what kind of lettuce you use.

For some reason today I couldn't get the cheese to melt, I used too much sage, and all the wine came up on the top of the first bun, so there was none left for the others. If you use a little less sage, I think these would be excellent. Maybe put the cheese on the burgers while they're still in the pan, too. Then add a little more wine to the pan so there's enough for all the buns. We had the t-bones for lunch today, so maybe it was just a letdown to follow such a great, exciting meal. Anyway, they were still good, but they could have been better.


  1. Arugula has a nice nippy bite to it. Spinach, while flavorful, is more bland. Just depends on what flavor you want to accent your burger with!

  2. Pecorino is the name given to all Italian cheeses made from sheep's milk. Pecorino Romano is the name given to cheeses from the Rome area. It takes eight to 12 months to mature, during which time it develops its characteristic flavor - salty, with a fruity tang that becomes steadily more robust. The rind varies in color, depending on the age of the cheese, and may have a protecting coating of lard or oil. The compact interior is white to pale yellow, with irregular, small eyes.

  3. I don't think I would like this burger with pecorino. Well, maybe, but it's really strong. And I think arugula tastes like chicken :)