• The Retired Firehouse Cook: Turkey Burgers

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    Did you resolve to eat healthy in the new year? I used to do that, but it usually lasted about a week. Then the doctor scared the beejeebers out of me and I make that resolution more often than once a year. It still lasts only a week or so, but I figure I’m ahead of the game because I do it more often.
    One way you might consider eating healthy is to substitute turkey for beef in your hamburgers. Trouble with turkey is that it’s dry, since there’s virtually no fat in it, and then if you add fat you’ve defeated the purpose. The trick is to find something else to add to it that won’t add to your weight problems.
    I found this recipe in the Nob Hill in-store magazine and made it my own. It was kind of a long process, because the ingredients it calls for aren’t in every larder. The first ingredient, barbecue sauce, most people have on hand. But the second, a mashed ripe mango, was a little harder to come by. I didn’t just have it sitting on the kitchen counter. So I bought the mango, but it wasn’t ripe. Then it WAS sitting on the kitchen counter. So much for trying out the recipe when I got home from the store.
    The third ingredient on the list was honey. Now, I don’t use honey very often for the same reason I don’t use sugar very often – I just don’t sweeten things. Honey tends to crystallize at Ft. Jameson, if it doesn’t get moldy first. I tried nuking it in the microwave, which worked fine for the honey but it also melted the container and what a mess that was. So I would have had to buy another jar of honey. And clean the microwave. Thus I decided just to use a commercial barbecue sauce that already had honey in it. Your choice.
    Fresh lime juice is the third ingredient. Okay, back to the grocery store for fresh limes. The clerk thought I was making Margaritas. Which wasn’t such a bad idea, actually, but then I would have had to buy tequila and Cointreau, and somehow the ratio of tequila-to-Cointreau always means leftover Cointreau, and what do you do with that?
    Here, by the way, is a recipe for Margaritas. There’s a lot of controversy about Margarita recipes, too, and Margarita snobs say you should use 100 percent agave, tequila blanco. Forget the aged reposada tequila with its gold color. And then some recipes call for Cointreau, some call for Grand Marnier, some call for Triple Sec. Never, never Rose’s lime juice or Liquor Locker Margarita Mix! Then there’s the matter of mixing it. Do you make it in a blender with a little ice? I have a friend in Boulder Creek who only makes them that way, and they slide down so easily. . . Or do you carefully stir it and serve it over ice? Or there are recipes that call for a cocktail shaker. Salt or no salt? But after the third one, who cares?

    Classic Margarita
    1-1/2 ounce tequila
    1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
    1/2 ounce orange liqueur
    Salt for rimming glass

    Combine tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau (or your choice of orange liqueur), and stir together. Rim a rocks glass with salt (optional) by pressing the glass into a wet paper towel, then dipping it into a plate of salt.
    Serve on the rocks.

    My choice: Tequila reposada, lime wedges, and a salt shaker. Lick your hand at the web of your hand, shake on some salt (or just roll your hand in a puddle of salt on the bar); lick the salt off your hand; throw a swallow of tequila down the hatch, and bite into and suck on a wedge of fresh lime. Pucker time. Margarita-in-the-mouth (minus the orange liqueur).
    But I digress. Back to the turkey burgers. So we’ve gathered together some barbecue sauce, a mango, some honey and fresh limes. Now we need Jerk Seasoning.
    Anyone who has been to Jamaica knows about Jerk. It has nothing much to do with beef jerky, but is a combination of spices that Jamaicans use on meat and chicken. They call if jerk because they jerk the meat across the grill as they season it. If someone knows a better reason, let me know. Like chili peppers in Central and South American cooking, it makes you sweat and that’s how you survive the hot weather in the Caribbean.
    But if the local grocery shelves don’t stock jerk seasoning, then what? I researched that, too, and found out how to make it myself:

    Jamaican Jerk Spice
    1 Tbsp. ground cumin
    1 Tbsp. sea salt
    2 Tbsp. curry powder (which is also a blend, but we’re not going to get into that right now)
    1 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
    ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
    3 tsp. ground ginger
    ¼ tsp. ground cloves
    ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
    ¼ tsp. cayenne red pepper

    Best bet is to put it in a blender or food processor so you know it gets mixed thoroughly. Store in a sealed container.

    Next ingredient in our Jerk Turkey Burgers is ¼ c. of minced green onions. That’s easy enough. Then you need 20 oz. of ground turkey for four burgers. And some oil for the grilling process. So let’s recap:

    Jerk Turkey Burgers
    ½ c. barbecue sauce (remember the lesson about honey)
    ½ c. mashed ripe mango
    2 Tbsp. honey (or use barbecue sauce with honey in it)
    1 tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
    1-1/2 tsp. jerk seasoning
    ¼ c. minced green onions
    20 oz. ground turkey
    vegetable oil

    In a bowl, mix together everything but the onion, oil, and turkey. Take ¼ cup of the sauce out and mix it well with the onion and turkey. I might add that you should mince the onions well because turkey might fall apart with big chunks of onion mixed in.
    Make the turkey burger mixture into four patties and brush both sides well with vegetable oil. Grill over a medium heat for about 5 minutes per side. Serve on your favorite kind of hamburger roll with lettuce and tomato. Top with the remainder of the sauce mixture.
    If you save the sauce mixture for another dish, be sure to refrigerate it well and use it soon.
    So there you have it. All the effort you went to in order to prepare these burgers should have worked off at least three pounds, so you can afford to make yourself a Margarita and enjoy it.

    Sniff for a fragrant fruity odor at the stem end, or squeeze very gently to detect a firm yet yielding feel under your fingers. Mangos ripen best at room temperature. To accelerate ripening, you may place the fruit in a paper bag overnight. Then use the mango fairly quickly – it will not have the optimal shelf life of a mango ripened slowly.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on January 2, 2009

    Topics: The Retired Firehouse Cook


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