Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Turkey Burger Chronicles

My family loves to eat burgers, but sometimes I just want something different, that seems lighter, healthier, and with less fat, like a turkey burger. I've ordered many a turkey burger throughout my life, and I've never had one that wasn't dry and flavorless. So, for years I've been trying to make a great turkey burger to no avail. Every recipe I tried turned out dry and flavorless, or too wet that they fall apart, pretty gross. Some recipes rely on chopped vegetables to add moisture, some add soggy bread, and some add yogurt and the like. But I've found the magic ingredient to ensure your turkey burger is tender, moist, and never dry....cornstarch! Cornstarch is used in Chinese cooking not only to create a luscious sauce, but to produce very tender meat with a technique called "velveting," and is the secret to why you can't successfully create good Chinese food at home. But I'll save velveting for another day.

Anyway, by adding cornstarch, which binds to the meat and holds in moisture, you can produce a fabulous turkey burger. If you don't believe me, try my "Turkey Banh Mi Burgers." These Vietnamese-inspired burgers are loaded with basil, garlic, green onions, and a dash of chili sauce. Yum! The burgers are served nestled onto hot chili mayo laden buns, topped with yummy pickled carrots, sliced cucumbers, and a sprinkle of cilantro. It's a combination that's exotic, refreshing, and quite delicious. For those who like it extra fiery, sliced jalapenos can be added as a garnish. I like to serve these with diced cantaloupe on the side. Sounds odd, but it really goes together nicely! While these may not be the "healthiest" turkey burgers out there, they are definitely the very best!

(How Pretty!)

Turkey Banh Mi Burgers

Makes 4

For the Hot Chili Mayo
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (I like Tuong Ot Toi Vietnam Chili Garlic Sauce)
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt

For the Turkey Patties
20 ounces ground turkey
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
4 garlic cloves, minced (see Techniques)
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (see above)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Pickled Carrots
2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt

For Cooking and Assembly
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 burger buns of your choice (I like sesame seed buns)
Thinly sliced cucumber
Chopped cilantro
Thinly sliced jalapeno (optional)

For the Hot Chili Mayo
Stir all the ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and chill. Can be made a day ahead.

For the Turkey Patties
Gently mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Divide mixture into fourths and shape into patties of appropriate size to fit the buns. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes before cooking. Can be made a day ahead.

For the Pickled Carrots
Toss the carrots, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Allow to sit for 1 hour or so, tossing occasionally.

Cook the Turkey Patties
Using a large, wide skillet, preferably non-stick, heat the sesame oil over medium-high heat. When hot, using a spatula, carefully lift the turkey patties and place them in the pan. Cook on the first side until browned, about 6 minutes. Carefully flip the patties over and cook another 6 minutes, or until cooked through. (You can make a tiny cut with a knife to check that they are done.) Transfer to a plate.

To Assemble
Spread each side of the buns with the hot chili mayo. Place a turkey patty on each bottom bun. Arrange cucumber slices on the top bun. Drain the carrots and divide evenly between the four patties. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve.

Monday, September 23, 2013

How a Plumber and His Ranch Changed American Salads Forever!

In 1954, a man named Steve Henson bought a 120-acre ranch near Santa Barbara, California, which he named Hidden Valley Ranch. Yep, the same guy who created Ranch dressing! Steve, along with his wife Gayle, tried to create a successful dude ranch; however, with the remote location and meager advertising, the ranch was soon wreaking havoc on their bank account. But every cloud has a silver lining. After repeated requests by the guests to purchase his signature salad dressing, which he created in Alaska as a plumbing contractor to coax his burly workers to eat their greens, it became obvious that the money was in the dressing and not the ranch. Ranch dressing soon became the most popular dressing in America, perfect for buffalo chicken wings, dip for crudites, and basically a great way to get kids and adults alike to eat their greens!

In 1972, Hidden Valley Ranch dressing was sold to Clorox, who developed a "shelf stable" version, by adding additives and stuff you probably shouldn't be eating. According to some reports, the version sold today is a mediocre attempt at Henson's original. For the life of me, I don't understand why people buy salad dressings anyway? It is so much easier to whip up at home, tastes better, and you know what's in it! This is how I make my Ranch dressing, and not with sour cream or yogurt, but with buttermilk, just how Henson wanted it! It's the buttermilk that gives it a slight tang and makes it super delicious! Besides buttermilk is low in calories, has less fat than whole milk, sour cream, and most yogurts, is easily digested, great for those who are lactose intolerant, helps reduce heartburn and indigestion, and even provides relief for ulcer sufferers! What's not to love? So, go on and give it a try. I've never served it to anyone who didn't absolutely love it!

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Makes enough for 1 green salad


1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk, or more to reach desired consistency
1 garlic glove, minced (see Techniques)
2 green onions or scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Optional additions, depending on what you feel like or have on hand: chopped chives, chopped dill, a dash or two of Tabasco sauce, a pinch of Paprika, chopped green chile, crumbled blue cheese


In a bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and buttermilk until smooth. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Macque Choux! Gesundheit!

While I've been trying to get over a nasty chest cold, I still found the energy to utilize fresh Hatch chiles (see Roasted with Love-Hoarded with Passion and The Great Green Chile Quest), this time in Macque Choux! Macque choux, pronounced "mock shoe," is a corn-based side dish traditional to southern Louisiana. The origins of this Cajun specialty are a bit unknown; however, it appears that the dish was embraced by the Acadians (French immigrants from eastern Canada) who, after being moved out by the British, settled in Louisiana and learned it from the local Native Americans. There are a plethora of recipes for macque choux, but all contain corn, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, herbs, spices, and usually some Tasso ham. 

This recipe for "Hatch Chile Macque Choux" is yet again another version I'd never seen before, so I had to try it! It utilizes fresh Hatch chiles (which hopefully you have all ready to go in your freezer), bacon, a little lager, NO tomatoes (gasp!), and enriched with heavy cream. I served it with some seared scallops and a garnish of fresh chives. Very pretty! However, this fiery version (which really helped open my sinuses) really over-powered the delicate flavor of the scallops. Shrimp, crawfish, chicken, and some potatoes can be added to create a "main meal." If you prefer not to use the green chiles, substitute tomatoes for a more authentic dish. Any leftover macque choux makes a welcome addition to cornbread!

Hatch Chile Macque Choux

Serves 4


4 slices bacon, chopped
3/4 cup red bell pepper, diced (if using tomatoes instead of green chile, substitute a green bell pepper keep the colors pretty!)
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup lager
4 cups corn (preferably freshly cut from 3 or 4 ears of corn, see Techniques)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, deseeded, and sliced (optional, can be replaced with diced tomatoes)


Saute bacon over medium heat until crisp. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Add the red bell pepper and onion to the pan. Cook and stir until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the lager and deglaze by stirring and scraping all the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking until the lager is nearly evaporated. Add corn, cream, and Tabasco. (If using tomatoes instead of chiles, add them here.) Bring to a simmer and cook until cream is thick enough to leave a trail on the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and stir in the Hatch chiles, if using.

Recipe courtesy of Central Market.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Great Green Chile Quest

Wow! That's a lot of chiles! Besides roasting, peeling, and freezing Hatch green chiles (see Roasted with Love - Hoarded with Passion), another great way to preserve them is to make Mark Miller's "Green Chile Sauce," from his cookbook Coyote Cafe. This recipe takes 4 pounds of green chiles and turns them into an incredibly delicious and very spicy condiment, perfect for eggs, potatoes, chicken, etc., not to mention makes a lovely base for New Mexico's beloved Green Chile Stew. I like to make a batch and freeze it in ice cube trays. That way I can use a little or a lot, depending on my desire. Remember to be creative with this fiery Green Chile Sauce, like add a cube to some cream to make a creative sauce for pasta and chicken, mix in a couple of cubes with a pound of ground beef for burgers, add some to your favorite corn bread recipe or Corn Souffle, etc. This recipe roasts the chiles under a broiler, but feel free to fire up your grill (as I prefer) for the smells of authentic New Mexico!

Green Chile Sauce

Makes about 4 cups


4 pounds fresh New Mexico green chiles (or Anaheim chiles, with 3 or 4 jalapenos)
8 cloves garlic, roasted, peeled, and finely chopped
4 cups water
4 teaspoons roasted Mexican oregano (rubbed between the fingers, but not too fine)
1 teaspoon roasted ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt


Roast the chiles under the broiler for about 5 minutes, until lightly blackened. Place in a plastic bag or closed container and allow to steam until cooled. Remove the blackened parts without washing (to preserve the oils). Place the chiles and the rest of the ingredients in a food processor and chop at a medium setting (do not puree). Warm before serving.

*To freeze the sauce in ice cube trays: fill ice cube trays, freeze, pop out of trays and store double wrapped in freezer storage bags.