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.

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