When cookbook author, Midwestern food sage, and Saveur contributor Amy Thielen gets nostalgic for the Japanese restaurants she used to frequent as a city-dweller, her go-to home recipe is a variation on tonkatsu. The dish of breaded, fried pork cutlets is classic comfort food in Japan; here Thielen adapts the technique for America's own quintessential comfort food: burgers. And she adds a secret ingredient to the panko breading—crushed pretzels—for a recipe that screams "I live 200 miles away from a Japanese restaurant" in the best possible way.
The burgers get seasoned and dipped in egg before getting coated in the breading, then shallow-fry in hot oil. Because of that oil, the patties cook much faster than typical burgers, so expect them to keep cooking for a few minutes after you remove them from the pan. To lighten the dish up, do like Thielen and make a Japanese-inspired Swiss chard salad with leaves pounded in a mortar dressed with a sesame dipping sauce. Serve it all with a modified tonkatsu sauce made with browned butter, ketchup, ginger, and sake. No bun required.