German Cuban Pork Burger

Have you ever heard of a grilled burger that’s topped with sauerkraut? Or how about one that features a mound of sliced bratwurst?

I’d never seen a recipe like that until a story came my way from Noelle Carter of the Los Angeles Times. The Times Test Kitchen manager challenged readers to submit their favorite recipes for the newspaper’s first Battle of the Burgers. Almost 90 recipes were submitted from all over the country, with readers across the nation voting to choose their favorites.

After the voting, the list was narrowed to 20 burgers, which were judged by Food section editors and staff at the Times. They came up with five favorites, including the following, which I found most interesting, especially since it contained the abovementioned sauerkraut and bratwurst.

German Cuban Pork Burger
4 pounds ground pork
3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 12-ounce jar spicy brown mustard, divided
6 fresh bratwurst links
1 pound bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
1 14-ounce can sauerkraut, drained
1 cup butter, at room temperature
6 pretzel buns or regular hamburger buns, halved
2 large sliced dill pickles
½ pound sliced Swiss cheese
In a large bowl, mix together the ground pork, relish and a tablespoon of mustard. (The relish keeps the pork moist.) Do not overwork, but mix until ingredients are evenly combined. Divide the meat into 6 portions and form the burgers, matching the size to the buns.
Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat until hot. Place the burgers, then the bratwurst links, on the grill to start cooking.
While the burgers and links are grilling, start the bacon. In a skillet heated over medium-high heat until hot (use a cast iron skillet if cooking on the grill), render the bacon, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes. Add chopped onion to the skillet and cook until the onion is softened, stirring frequently, 6 to 8 minutes.
Stir in the sauerkraut with the bacon and onions, cooking down the mixture to marry the flavors. Continue to cook until the hamburgers and sausages are grilled on all sides, an additional 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the burgers, sausages and skillet from the heat, setting all aside to keep them warm. Cut the bratwurst into thin crosswise slices.
In a small bowl, whisk together the butter and remaining mustard; this makes about 2 cups spread, slightly more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The mustard butter will keep for 1 to 2 weeks, covered and refrigerated.
Spread or brush the mustard butter over the cut halves of each bun (about 2 tablespoons per half, depending on the size of the bun). Toast the buns on the cooler side of the grill or on the grill pan.
Assemble the burgers: Mound the sliced bratwurst on top of each burger (1 bratwurst per burger), then top with the sliced pickle, kraut, bacon and onion mixture. Divide the sliced Swiss cheese among the burgers, covering each mound of toppings with cheese. Place the burgers back on the grill or on the grill pan, closing the grill or covering the pan with a large roasting pan until the cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes. (You can also melt the cheese by placing the burgers on a baking sheet in a hot oven.)
Place the assembled burgers in the toasted buns and serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per burger: 1,773 calories, 88 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 136 grams fat (58 grams saturated),; 406 milligrams cholesterol, 7 grams sugar, 3,012 milligrams sodium.