Ground Pork Wants to Be Appreciated! 5 Dinners to Make That Happen

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Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever — or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples every which way.

Today: Mandy from Lady and Pups shows us why it’s wise to always have ground pork on hand. 

In my opinion, if there’s an ingredient persistently neglected and under-utilized in the American home kitchen, it’s ground pork. It also happens to be one of my absolute favorite things to cook with, so much so that sometimes I call it the “wonder mince.” Why aren’t you using the mighty ground pork shoulder more?

I usually opt for ground pork shoulder over regular ground pork, as it has a perfect ratio of 70% lean pork to 30% pork fat. It’s ever-so-versatile and economically friendly, freezes perfectly in big or small portions, and its possibility extends far beyond the limits of meatloaf or meatballs. I urge you to go stock up now — it awaits patiently to impress as your next weekday-dinner miracle.  

Spicy Miso Ramen Express
Ground pork shoulder is an excellent, speedy replacement for any noodle soups that call for time-consuming meat toppings, such as Japanese ramen or traditional Sichuan dan-dan noodles. Sometimes I even prefer it over a whole slice or chunk of meat, since it distributes evenly into the dish. The key is to flavor and season the ground pork well before browning. Whip up a batch using this recipe, or go off the cuff — either will be delicious. 

Chorizo and Garlic Shrimp Burger
Why should ground beef get all the attention in burgers? This is a playful adaptation of the traditional pairing of chorizo and shrimp, using a burger made with fresh Mexican-style chorizo and garlic- and thyme-marinated shrimp. The patty is seasoned with Mexican chili powder, paprika, cumin, grated garlic, oregano, plus tequila (yes!) and vinegar — and it all gets happier the longer it stays in the fridge. Sitting in between toasted homemade sweet potato burger buns and paprika and mustard mayonnaise, it’s the best mixture of messiness and happiness.  

Parisienne Gnocchi with Ground Pork, Kale, Mushrooms, and Peas
Everybody loves a hearty pasta. But without using heavy, cream-drenched sauces, the addition of ground pork shoulder will add great depth of flavor and heartiness to any pasta dishes you love. For spring, try tossing your favorite pasta shape with browned pork shoulder, shallots, mushrooms, thinly sliced kale, and fresh peas with reduced stock and a touch of crème fraîche. Then in the height of summer, replace the vegetables with cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and basil. You’ll be surprised at the difference ground pork can make.  

Porky, Gingery Shrimp Toasts
These make for a perfect party food and weeknight dinner alike. Make a smooth shrimp filling with cured pork, fresh ground pork shoulder, lots of grated ginger, and scallions, then keep it in the fridge for hours or even overnight. Right before you eat, smear a generous amount in between two pieces of super-thinly sliced baguette and pan-fry them in browned butter until just cooked through. Consider this a warning that you may never get any peace and quiet from the raining party invitations to come.  

Minced Pork Shoulder and Thai Herb Salad
Eaten at room temperature, this Thai herb salad will change your perception of ground pork forever. The best ratio between pork and herbs is 1:1. Lightly season your ground pork shoulder with fish sauce and cornstarch (for a smooth texture and finish), sauté and break it apart with a wooden spoon in a skillet over high-heat until just slightly browned, then drain it over a sieve to eliminate any excess oil. Once it has cooled down to room temperature, toss the cooked pork with super-finely minced lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and grated ginger. Add to that thinly sliced shallots, mint, cilantro, Thai basil, fish sauce, and a bit of lime zest and juice. Dig in. 

Porky, Gingery Shrimp Toasts 

Makes 22 to 25 toasts

For the porky shrimp filling

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 fillets of anchovy
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
4 1/2 ounces (130 grams) medium tiger shrimp, peeled and deveined, plus 6 additional ounces shrimp
2 1/2 ounces (70 grams) ground pork
1 ounce (30 grams) trimmed fat-slabs from guanciale, pancetta, or prosciutto
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons grated ginger
3 scallions, finely diced
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

  1. NOTE 2:
  2. TO MAKE THE FILLING: Heat up the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the anchovies and break them apart with a wooden spoon, and cook until they’ve melted into the oil. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool down completely. In a food-processor, purée 4 1/2 ounces (about 130 grams) of shrimp with ground pork, fat-slabs, and cornstarch into a smooth paste. Then add the remaining 6 ounces of shrimp and pulse just a few times until they are cut into large chunks. (Careful not to over-chop them because you want large pieces of shrimps throughout.) Transfer to a large bowl and add the cooled anchovy/garlic oil, grated ginger, diced scallions, fish sauce, and ground white pepper. Mix until evenly incorporated. You can make the filling the day ahead, covered with plastic wrap and kept refrigerated.

For the shrimp toasts

1 loaf of baguette
Unsalted butter, room-temperature
White sesame seeds for sprinkling
1 lemon 

  1. Slice the baguette very thinly with a serrated knife, about 1/8-inch thick. Fill a generous amount of the shrimp filling in between two slices of baguette (I’d say the ratio between the bread and the filling is 1:2), and press it gently to help the bread stick to the filling. Repeat until you’re finished with all the fillings. Smear a good, shameless layer of unsalted butter on both sides of the toasts, and sprinkle lots of white sesame seeds on both sides.
  2. Heat up a large, flat-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Cook the toasts until golden brown on both sides, and until the filling is just cooked through. Careful not to over-heat the skillet — if you do, the bread will burn before the filling’s cooked. Serve the hot, crispy, and buttery shrimp toasts with a few wedges of lemon.

Save and print the recipe on Food52

Photos by Mandy Lee 

This article originally appeared on A Fridge Stocked with Ground Pork, 5 Dinners