Smoky Pork Burgers with Fennel and Red Cabbage Slaw

August 16, 2009
Author Notes

Pork and fennel is one of my favorite flavor combinations, but the inspiration for putting them together in burger form came from, of all places, a food truck. Chef Matt Gennuso of Chez Pascal restaurant here in Providence recently launched his Hewtin’s Dogs Mobile food truck, which serves all manner of creative sausages and sandwiches, and one recent special was a revelation – a juicy slab of bacon-wrapped pork meatloaf served on a soft roll with a crunchy kohlrabi slaw.

I decided to keep the pork and bacon combo but turn it into burgers, seasoned with smoked Spanish paprika and toasted fennel seeds, with a crunchy, vinegary fennel slaw to contrast the rich and juicy pork. If a cheeseburger is your thing, a slice of melted Manchego wouldn’t be out of place. —lastnightsdinner

Test Kitchen Notes

Pork burgers always sound good in theory, but they don't necessarily turn out that way in practice. Ground pork can be dry and must be cooked just so. Lastnightsdinner came up with the perfect solution (and really the solution to so many of life's problems): just add bacon. She has you fold finely (and as we learned, it needs to be really fine) chopped bacon into the ground pork, along with some great aromatics -- fennel seed, onion and smoked paprika. The bacon fat helps keep the burgers moist and adds its own layer of flavor. To go with the burger you make a tart little cabbage and fennel salad, just the right counterpoint to the rich burger. - A&M —The Editors

  • Serves 4 burgers, plus 2 cups of slaw
  • Smoky Pork Burgers
  • 1 pound ground pork sirloin
  • 1 cup finely chopped bacon, from about 2-3 rashers
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
  • 4 soft burger rolls or sandwich buns
  • Fennel and Red Cabbage Slaw
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup shredded fennel bulb
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
In This Recipe
  1. Smoky Pork Burgers
  2. Gently toast the fennel seeds in a small dry skillet until aromatic, remove them from the pan and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the onion, garlic, fennel seeds, salt and smoked paprika, stirring to combine.
  4. Add the pork and bacon, tossing gently until the seasonings are well incorporated, but taking care not to overwork the meat.
  5. Divide the seasoned pork into four portions and shape into patties.
  6. Place the patties onto a plate or platter and chill for at least one hour.
  7. Light a grill and cook the burgers: 6 minutes over the hot side of the grill, rotating them after the first 3 minutes, then flipping them and cooking them for another 3 minutes on the hot side before moving them to the cool side of the grill for the final 3 minutes.
  8. Remove the burgers from the grill and allow them to rest briefly, tented with foil, before serving.
  9. Place the burgers on toasted or lightly grilled buns and top each one with a little of the fennel and cabbage slaw.
  1. Fennel and Red Cabbage Slaw
  2. Combine the vinegars, dijon and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk until the salt is dissolved.
  3. Add the oil and whisk until the dressing is emulsified.
  4. Place the shredded fennel and cabbage in the bowl on top of the dressing, and toss to combine.
  5. Add the fennel fronds and toss again just before serving.

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