Sunday, July 11, 2010

Flavor-Added Turkey Burgers

Let’s face it. Open fire cooking was not developed for cooking vegetables. Grills, even the propane-powered ones, were not invented for veggie burgers. People like me tend to adapt them for that purpose, but sometimes people like me want a real burger, too.

Usually, when I make ground beef burgers, I just slap together some patties with maybe some salt and pepper or, if I’m feeling fancy, I coat them with crushed peppercorns. (Harry also likes them stuffed with blue cheese.) Recently, however, I wanted to make turkey burgers, and those seemed to need a bit more flavor and moisture enhancement.

Often, I see recipes that add eggs or some kind of oil to the ground turkey to keep it from completely drying out as it cooks. Turkey is usually pretty lean and it’s not exactly best enjoyed medium-rare, so it does need some added fat. I didn’t know if oil or egg would be the better choice for plumping up my turkey burgers, so I went with both…in the form of mayonnaise,
which is mostly just an emulsion of eggs and oil. (I made my own using this whole egg immersion blender method. Peggy discusses egg yolk mayonnaise on her blog here. Use your own discretion when working with raw eggs.)

But mayonnaise would not be enough. Not only does turkey lack in juiciness, but needs a boost in the flavor department as well. So, I turned my mayo into an aioli (garlic mayonnaise) with cilantro, which took no effort to obtain at its freshest, since it was growing well in a pot on my porch. I also added some ground coriander, which is the seed of the cilantro plant, to season the meat a little more.
I held back come of the cilantro aioli, added a bit of lime juice to it, and spread it on the buns that accompanied the burgers. If this had been a cake, that tangy aioli would have been the icing. I’m not sure the burger would have been as great-tasting without it, and I’m really not willing to take any extra measures to find out.

My turkey was quite finely ground, mushy even, so I placed the uncooked burgers on small pieces of wax paper and used that to help transfer them to the grill. That just required a little flick of the wrist, and the burgers were obedient. You can prepare the burgers and aioli at least a day ahead, cover them, and keep them in the refrigerator. I highly recommend placing the burgers on wax paper as soon as you form them, whenever you’re planning to cook them. It will help prevent frustrations and messes of epic proportions.

Turkey Burgers with Cilantro Lime Aioli
These instructions are for outdoor grilling of the burgers, but they can probably also be prepared on an indoor counter-top grill or cooked in a pan on the stovetop.

1 garlic clove
¾ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt, divided
½ cup mayonnaise
1 cup loosely-packed cilantro leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
1 pound ground turkey
½ teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons lime juice
Oil for the grill rack

1. Chop the garlic and sprinkle the ½ teaspoon salt over it. Chop a few more times, then crush the garlic and salt with the side of the knife against the cutting board. Continue until the garlic and salt form a paste. Place the garlic paste in a small bowl.

2. To the garlic paste, add mayonnaise and cilantro and stir well to combine.

3. Place the ground turkey in a medium-size bowl. Add the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, ground coriander and 1/3 cup of the mayonnaise mixture. Stir or work with your hands gently to combine.

4. Stir the lime juice into the remaining mayonnaise mixture and refrigerate until ready to serve.

5. Form the turkey mixture into 4 patties. Place each patty on a square of wax paper on a plate to make them easier to handle. Refrigerate until ready to cook. Burgers can be made at least one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate if made ahead.

6. Preheat a charcoal or gas grill. Using a brush or a towel dipped in oil, carefully oil the grill. (The flames will flare up if the oil drips down onto them, so use extra caution.) Place the burgers on the grill, by handling them from underneath at the wax paper and flipping them onto the grill, removing the wax paper. Grill, covered or uncovered as you desire, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the burgers are completely cooked through, turning once. The burgers are done when they are quite firm and any juices that escape when pressed are clear and not pink. If in doubt, cut into a burger to determine if it is completely cooked.

7. Serve on sandwich buns evenly distributing the cilantro-lime aioli evenly among the burgers.
Makes 4 burgers.

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