Tropical Pineapple Salsa Burger with Okra Fungee (polenta)
I know, it’s the middle of winter (for many of us), but the alphabet doesn’t give us any wiggle room. Next stop on our tour of the world is Antigua and Barbuda. This country is an island nation that comprises the two main islands of Antigua and Barbuda (duh) and a small uninhabited island nature preserve called Redonda.
The islands are located in the Eastern Caribbean, just Southeast of Puerto Rico. Isn’t the map super helpful? – I always wondered what those specks were!
The flavors of the country are influenced by the many different cultures that have settled on the islands – Amerindian, African and British.
The challenge with creating recipes for the Caribbean nations is that each country is generally quite small (hence the “speck” comment) and there is a ton of cross pollenization of flavors and ingredients. So, with each country, I’m trying to find what their unique spin/ingredient is. Antigua contributes to the local flavors the Antiguan Black Pineapple, so I decided to concentrate on pineapple for the flavor of this burger. Of course, I couldn’t find any source for Antiguan Black Pineapple, so I was forced to use plain old store bought pineapple. The big difference (according to various sources on the internet) is that the Antiguan version is reported to be the sweetest pineapple that you can find. It is important that you use fresh pineapple that is at peak ripeness. Look for pineapple that is golden and that has evenly sized diamond patterning throughout. The first time I made this recipe, pineapple was in season and it made a really sweet (in a good way) salsa. This time, neither pineapple nor mango were in season, so I had to rely on imported versions that were less flavorful. It was still good and the papaya from Belize was really sweet, it just made a slightly different flavor then if you make this when the fruit is really good. I will say, it was a nice change of pace and almost made us forget that there’s three feet of snow in our front yard, almost…
Some of you may be tempted to ask if you can use canned pineapple and the simple answer is, if you like canned pineapple, sure. It will taste like canned pineapple (a totally different flavor than real fresh pineapple). I do not recommend it, but what you do in your kitchen has to make you happy, so just make food you like.
This is one of the easier recipes to make. Don’t let the fungee scare you, it’s just polenta. If you don’t want to make polenta I recommend just using an Italian bread for your bun. I do not recommend the pre-made polenta – I’ve only tasted it once (to see if it could be used instead of making homemade) and I thought it was vile.
The polenta takes about an hour to make – but it is not labor intensive. Everything else can be made fast. This recipe isn’t spicy so even my 10 month old was able to eat the burger and the fungee, and even my father thought this was delicious. Pork and fruit – a classic combination.
Antigua and Barbuda Burger
3 oz prosciutto
1 pound ground pork (ground chicken can be used too)
½ teaspoon allspice
2 Tablespoons coconut oil (you can substitute peanut oil)
8 Tablespoons Pineapple Mango Salsa
4 Okra Fungee “Buns”
Slice prosciutto into strips. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat, add prosciutto and cook until lightly browned (about 3 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.
Mix ground pork and allspice in a bowl. Form four patties. Heat oil on a grill pan until shimmering. Add patties and cook until they reach an internal temperature of 160˚F (165˚F for chicken).
Prepare four plates by inverting the bowls with the Okra Fungee Buns on each plate so that the formed fungi comes out of the bowl and onto the plate. Add the pork patties, then put 2 Tablespoons of the Pineapple Salsa on each burger. Top with strips of browned prosciutto.
1/4 cup fresh papaya diced
1 cup fresh ripe pineapple diced
1/4 cup fresh mango diced
½ small jalapeno minced
1 Tablespoon cilantro chopped
Kosher salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Adjust jalapeno, salt and cilantro to taste (this isn’t intended to be a spicy salsa, but you can make it more spicy if you prefer). Cover the bowl and refrigerate salsa for at least a half hour before using.
Okra Fungee “Buns”
6 fresh okras sliced into rounds (you can also use 1 cup of frozen sliced okra – don’t thaw)
3 cups water
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fine cornmeal
Bring water to a boil and add okra and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove okra from pot using a slotted spoon. You should have about 2 cups of cooking liquid left and it will be thick and syrupy. Put cornmeal into a bowl and ladle in 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Mix together until cornmeal is completely wet (this seems unnecessary, yet it is really helpful – it makes it much easier to keep the whole dish from clumping up). Add wet corn meal into the cooking liquid and add ½ teaspoon salt and another cup of water so that you have a total of three cups (if you had less than 2 cups of okra water left, just add more fresh and vice versa). Stir until completely mixed with no lumps. Let sit for 2 minutes. Add the okra into the cornmeal and turn heat to medium until mixture starts bubbling. Reduce heat to low (make sure it’s still spitting occasionally though, don’t turn it too low) and continue to cook stirring two or three times – don’t worry it to death – until the mixture pulls away from pan (approximately 45 minutes). If the mixture starts getting pasty or dry but isn’t pulling away from the sides, add a little water and make sure your temperature isn’t too high.
Spoon mixture into 4 buttered bowls or ramekins to mold the “bun” for the burger. Let sit while you cook the burgers.
©Copyright 2011 Linda Monach