Monday, June 4, 2012

Juicy Relish and Piquillo Pepper Turkey Burgers

Sometimes I plan out meals for days or weeks in advance.  I research and compile recipes for a similar dish, compare options, look at the variables, and do a mini-critique of the best approach.  And then somedays I come home from work and Matt says he's hungry and wants to grill as soon as possible and I throw something together from what was on sale at the store, instinct and what's in the fridge...and voila, something irresistible and worth repeating emerges.

What I picked up the grocery store: gorgeous tomatoes, ground dark turkey meat, burger buns, sharp cheddar

What I had in the house: mom's classic cucumber relish (the sort for hot dogs), jarred piquillo peppers, lettuce from the garden, brown mustard, stale bread

Piquillo peppers are a spanish pepper that is cone-shaped, which you can buy roasted and in a jar.  They can be a touch spicy, but in this burger, they are a background flavor booster, and not noticeably spicy.  If you don't have piquillos, or can't find them, go ahead and substitute regular roasted peppers, jarred or homemade.

The thing about turkey burgers, is that although they are much better for you than beef burgers, they can often be dry when cooked, at no fault to the griller.  Conversely, when raw, the turkey meat is very wet and slippery and doesn't want to form patties easily, even more so once you add some extra wet ingredients to add flavor and maintain moisture after grilling.  My solution is to use fresh bread crumbs.  And yes, fresh matters.  Sure you can do this with panko or with powdery store bought bread crumbs.  But what will work best is bread that is a few days stale and a bit dried out.  Hack it into chunks, toss it into the food processor and buzz for a few minutes until it is small, gravelly, almost, but not quite finely ground.  Any leftover ground bread crumbs can be frozen, and then used straight from the freezer for your next batch of burgers, or any other application for fresh crumbs.

For two burgers:

Mix the following until uniform, but using a light hand.  Add fresh bread crumbs gradually, until you are able to just form patties that hold their shape.  You are not making meatloaf, so you are looking to add the minimum amount of bread crumbs necessary to form the patties.  How much bread crumbs will depend on how wet the meat mixture is, and what type of bread you used to make the crumbs.

  • 10 ounces dark turkey meat, ground
  • 1.5 TBS relish (drained of excess liquid)
  • 1 TBS brown mustard
  • 2 finely chopped piquillo peppers (about 2 TBS)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup- 2/3 cup fresh bread crumbs
Shape into 2 patties about 3/4" thick.

To cook and serve burgers:
  • Grate 2 ounces of sharp cheddar
  • Prepare your grill to cook at medium heat and oil grates when heated up.
  • Grill burgers about 7 minutes a side, after flipping, add an ounce of grated cheddar to each burger, cover grill to help the cheese melt.
  • While burgers cook, grill the buns as well to help keep the burger together architecturally 
  • Be sure your burger is cooked to an internal temperature of 160-165 degrees
  • Serve on toasted buns, with lettuce and generous slices of ripe fresh tomato.