Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Turkey Burgers with Peach Avocado Salsa

The other day I bought 4 pounds of peaches from Sam's Club. I had heard that they were always really good, so with our new Sam's membership, I decided to pick some up. They look amazing from the outside, large, beautifully colored. I sliced one up and took a bite. I was expecting to have juice running down my fingers or my face or something. Nope. They were virtually juice-less.The texture was fine, but without the juice, there was no way I could eat them plain. I'd never been so disappointed by a peach before.

So what to do with 4 pounds of peaches?

I decided that I would make a peach salsa. I've had mango salsa before, and it was a nice combination of sweet and spicy. Salsa would be a perfect way to disguise the fact that the peaches I had were missing their natural juiciness.

Peach salsa, for whatever reason, made me think of turkey burgers. It's my new favorite thing to order at restaurants. I had a turkey burger to die for at The Cheesecake Factory off their SkinnyLicious menu. I don't know if the burger was just that good or I was extra hungry that day or what. It must have been the caramelized onions on top, which I am normally not a big fan of. The next time I went, I ordered it with sweet potato fries, and those did not disappoint, either. I was saddened when I learned that The Cheesecake Factory's sweet potato fries are the worst sweet potato fries for you in the country. Major bummer.

So now that I had decided what to make for dinner, I had to decide which recipes to use. I began browsing Pinterest for recipes that sounded good and used ingredients that I already had in my kitchen, and/or would not be expensive to buy. It occurred to me that I didn't necessarily have to use recipes per se...

I made up my own.

If I had to sum up my idea of a perfect recipe, it must fit most, if not all, of these criteria:
-Uses readily available ingredients. I hate when recipes call for things like shallots instead of onions, specific things like rice wine vinegar, or fancy things like truffle butter. I want recipes that use ingredients that I am familiar with and that can be used for future cooking so it doesn't go to waste. I realize that these recipes probably taste amazing, but they are just not practical for me.

-Ingredients are not exceedingly unhealthy. Now, let's be clear, I love a good Paula Dean recipe, but I'm not going to add the last 3 tablespoons leftover from a stick of butter just because "lookit that - he's all lonely sittin' there by hisself". If a recipe calls for whole milk, I'm probably going to substitute a less fattening kind. Or heavy cream. You will not see me adding heavy cream to anything. Unless I am intentionally making a decadent dessert.

-A recipe SHALL NOT force me to dirty half the pots and pans in my kitchen. This is probably my number one pet peeve of cooking. I don't want to have to spend just as much time as it took to prepare the meal to put my kitchen back together afterwards. I am a big fan of "one pot cooking". Example: the crockpot. :)

-A bonus is a recipe that allows me to "dump" the ingredients. Who has time to measure?! I prefer to "eyeball" and dump it all together and then let the magic happen. It drives me crazy when recipes call for ingredients measured in funky increments: "4 cups of uncooked noodles". How about you just say "one package" or something? I'm not going to get out a measuring cup for that. Sorry.

With all that being said, I started dinner prep at about 3:30 yesterday, beginning with my Peach Avocado Salsa.

I used peaches, limes, avocados, a jalapeno pepper, Mexicorn, a white onion, garlic, and cilantro.  I would classify my peaches as jumbo size, so I stared out peeling just one. And it turned out to be plenty. I started by removing the skin from the peaches. I used a potato peeler, but if you were lucky and got juicy peaches, that may not work on the skin. A paring knife could also work. Then chop them into itty bites.





The next thing I had to battle with was the darn avocado. It must have not been my day with produce - they were rock hard! I knew they would be a pain when I bought them - dark green and didn't give at all when I gave them a gentle squeeze, but I was not about to drive all over tarnation for an 88 cent avocado. This is what my avocado mess looked like when I was done butchering it:
It was not a good time. I couldn't even get the seed out, so I had to cut around it. I didn't bother using the second avocado. Moving onto the jalapeno, garlic, and onion, I finely chopped them all. My husband really doesn't like onions, so I only used half a small onion and reserved the rest for the turkey burgers. And as usual when I cut an onion, I cried. I despise chopping onions. I worked for a local grocery store in college working in the salad bar department. Onions were my arch nemesis. Red onions, specifically. I would have to blindly chop them and hope I didn't cut my fingers off and hope no one saw my tears. Fortunately I worked in a work room just off the produce cooler and could disappear into it to find some relief!
I wasn't sure how much heat the jalapeno would pack, or how the heat would go with the peaches, so I reserved half of that as well. When chopping a jalapeno, be sure to remove the seeds and the white membrane before chopping; that is where all the intense heat is! Or leave it if you are daring. :)


*PLEASE NOTE: for those of you who are inexperienced with handling raw jalapenos, the oils remain on your hands even after hand washing. So don't plan on rubbing your eyes, picking your nose, or touching childrens' hands or faces after making this. You will regret it. Or simply wear disposable gloves.

At this point, I had to wash my hands many times. So it was a good point to open the Mexicorn. The reason I chose Mexicorn as opposed to plain corn is that it already has a little bit of red and green pepper in it, and in a very mild form. I didn't want to add a whole raw pepper to this salsa, as that is another ingredient my husband opposes. Plus I don't think I would have even used the whole pepper. Mexicorn just saves a step. I then rolled a lime on the counter to release some of its juices, cut it in half, and squeezed one of the halves into the bowl. Please, please do not use bottled lime juice. Doesn't taste anything like a fresh lime. For a fresh salsa, you NEED fresh lime. Another ingredient that my husband is not a big fan of is cilantro. Not so much that it will stop him from eating at Chipotle, but enough to modify the amount. I'm not a big lover of it either, so I tore off just a bit and finely chopped it. I sure wish they'd sell cilantro in smaller bunches...I'm not sure what I am going to do with the rest of it!


When salting any recipe, remember to pour the salt into your hand first, not directly into the bowl. Pouring straight from the spout almost always sends way too much salt into the bowl and then you're sunk. I opted to add a little sugar, hoping that it would bring out some of the sweetness from the peaches.

Last step: stir, cover, and chill. I would say at least 2 - 3 hours to give the flavors a chance to unify. Wonderful!

Now, onto the star of the show. The Turkey Burger. I would like to start out by saying that prior to making these, I had never made burgers on the stove. I have never made any burger, now that I think about it...making the patty is as far as I have ever gone. With that being said, this attempt at making a burger was a learning experience for me. I'm sure you all could do much better!

So, these are my ingredients that I choose. Ground turkey - I choose 85%. A good burger meat needs to have some fat in it to be juicy and yummy. Plus it's cheaper than all white turkey. But it's really up to you. Chopped white onion - leftover from the salsa, garlic, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, ricotta cheese (yes, you read that right), and Taco Bell Chipotle sauce. Let me explain the last 2 ingredients. I had leftover ricotta from a crockpot lasagne I made when my family was visiting. I had seen it in a turkey burger recipe, so I thought, why not? And the Taco Bell Chipotle sauce is due to the fact that the Commissary was out of Chipotle Tabasco sauce. And once again, I was not going to make another stop for such a silly ingredient. Plus, I figured it would go well with the fish tacos I'm making for dinner tonite! It's always nice when an ingredient has a dual purpose.
 I don't like mincing garlic - I always feel like my garlic pieces are never uniform (gotta work on my knife skills) or that I am going to accidentally cut my fingernails off. So I use a zester instead. Works like a charm.
 ...and I didn't measure anything. About 4 shakes each of the soy and Worcestershire sauces and a dollop of the Chipotle sauce. I probably used 3 or 4 spoonfuls of ricotta. I chose not to salt the mixture yet because soy sauce has SO much sodium in it already - I jokingly call it "liquid sodium" when the hubby and I go out for sushi.
 I took off my wedding ring and mixed with my hands. It drives me crazy when I watch cooking shows and the ladies don't bother to remove their jewelery before handling raw, ground meats. Gross. Using a trick I learned from Rachel Ray, score the mixture with your hands to make 4 quarter "sections". This will allow easier-to-make, uniform patties. No guessing here, just simple fractions!
Ok, screw fractions...I ended up with 5 patties. They were just going to be too big. *After cooking I realized how much they shrunk. Didn't realize this would happen - just stick with fractions!!
 Get some olive oil hot in your pan. I used extra virgin. Don't know if that's best for pan burgers, but it's what I had. My favorite trick for knowing if the oil is hot enough yet is to flick some water into the pan. If the water sizzles and dances, the oil is ready. If it doesn't make any noise, keep waiting. I cooked the burgers on medium heat. It's such a great sound when you put the patties into the pan. You can almost hear it sizzle by the looks of this picture:
 Mmm. And it smelled SO good! Were it not for my husband's finicky food preferences, I probably would have added either caramelized onions or mushrooms to this burger. The flavors are AMAZING together! So then I decided to empty the dishwasher, and when I came over to flip them, a few were a little past "golden". They will have a "crust" on them from this type of cooking, however. That much I know. I didn't press the patties flat as much as I probably could have, so they didn't brown very evenly. And just ignore the lil' guy that fell apart at the top. I felt that I was flipping them too soon because they were still so "uncooked" looking, for a lack of a better explanation. Maybe next time I will add some breadcrumbs or an egg or something to hold them together a little better.
I forgot that the meat would be releasing some of its own fat, so I probably didn't need to use so much olive oil in the pan.
I cooked them on each side for maybe 5 to 7 minutes...I of course didn't set a timer or keep an eye on what time I put them in. I like to multitask in the kitchen and was too busy toasting buns and working on the dishes. At the end I put a lid on the pan and turned the heat down a little for fear that the middle was not done. My meat thermometer is stupid and never registers what the temperature truly is (I once cooked virtually all the moisture out of a perfectly good pork tenderloin because the thermometer was reading low). It is important for poultry to be fully cooked, so my husband make the executive decision to cut one open.

I hate doing that. To me, it ruins it.

But there was no other way. Turns out, they were done! I made my husband the first burger. And what a beaut it was!
 I topped it with the Peach Avocado salsa, which is probably classified as more of a relish than a salsa. Whatev. As soon as my husband saw the salsa after coming home from work, he said "ooo - that looks good", but upon closer inspection, he saw the onions and asked if next time I could leave them out. I countered that you really can't have a good salsa flavor without onions. "We'll see," is how he left it.

 He said "It's good" in the midst of his first bite. I even caught him adding more of the "onion" salsa!
Don't mind the sunglasses  - he is just coming off of PRK corrective eye surgery and is sentenced to wearing sunglasses for the next 2-3 months to optimize the healing process. No, actually, he's just too cool for school.

All in all, everything turned out really good. Not bad at all, really, if you consider that I had no recipe at all for either of them. I think this was my first time making something completely blind - having no idea how it would turn out. I learned some things from my turkey burgers and I am anxious to try them again with a different ingredient profile. And it wasn't so horrible that the avocados were not ripe yet. They were able to withstand all the stirring and scooping, however, they were lacking in that yummy avocado flavor. I might try it again with more peaches next time for a stronger peach flavor. And I am exited to use the salsa again for dinner tonite when I make fish tacos!

Katie's Peach Avocado Salsa

1 can Mexicorn (only comes in 1 size)
1 avocado
1 small onion
2 large peaches (or 3 small)
2 cloves garlic
small bunch of cilantro (more or less to taste)
1 jalapeno, seeds and membrane removed
Juice from half a lime
salt
sugar

Chop the avocado, onion, and peaches into small pieces and add to a medium bowl. Mince the garlic, jalapeno, and cilantro. Drain and add the Mexicorn. Add the lime juice. Add salt and sugar to taste, about 1 tsp each. Stir well. Chill for 2-3 hours for flavors to blend.

Katie's Turkey Burger

1 pound ground turkey
soy sauce, 4 "shakes"
Worcestershire sauce, 4 "shakes"
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 tbsp Taco Bell Chipotle sauce
1/2 small onion, chopped
extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl using your hands. Separate into 4 patties. Heat olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Place burgers in hot oil, cooking for 5-7 minutes on each side. Cover the pan and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until burgers are no longer pink inside.


***
Final words from my husband: "You know this doesn't mean that I like onions now,"
"I know," I said.

His secret is safe with me.

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