Turkey burgers

Turkey burgers 'livened up' with Asian flavors.

Blue Kitchen
Turkey burgers are the perfect vehicle for all kinds of flavors, including a variety of Asian toppings such as hoisin sauce, soy sauce, Sriracha mayonnaise, and cayenne pepper.

There are Sundays that lend themselves to giving in to indolence, lounging about and doing nothing more ambitious than occasionally stirring a pot that cooks for hours. This past Sunday was not one of those. We spent much of the day hiking around the National Restaurant Association Show in the cavernous McCormick Place (motto: “You’ll love our 2.6 million square feet of hard concrete floors”). Then, because we apparently hadn’t walked enough, we did a little more hiking along Chicago’s lakefront.

After a day of walking and grazing on various delicious, mostly fatty foods (more about the restaurant show next week), we wanted a dinner that wasn’t a fat bomb, but still delivered big taste. And personally, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on my feet in front of the stove. These Asian turkey burgers were just what we needed.

The skinny on turkey
If you’re buying ground turkey as a low-fat alternative to ground beef, stick with the ground turkey breast meat, which is 99 percent fat free. Regular ground turkey that includes dark meat is 93 percent fat free, slightly fattier than ground sirloin. (That said, most burger recipes recommend using fattier ground beef for better flavor.)

Whichever ground turkey you use, the flavor will be lighter than beef. It will also need some help. Ground turkey is an absolute blank canvas that works beautifully with all kinds of flavors, but on its own is downright bland. To liven things up and give these burgers an Asian spin, I added Chinese hoisin sauce, soy sauce, fresh ginger, green onions, garlic and cayenne pepper to the turkey.

And I topped the burgers with a little Sriracha mayonnaise. Sriracha Hot Sauce is an amazing condiment – spicy, tangy and deliciously vinegary. We’ll occasionally use it straight as a dip for french fries instead of ketchup (warn your guests before making this substitution – Sriracha has quite a kick to it). Blended with mayonnaise, the heat gets tamed a little, and the flavor is creamy but still tangy. Sriracha Hot Sauce is the invention of a Vietnamese immigrant living in Southern California. To find out more about this absolute staple in our kitchen, check out Marion’s Poison Gas Potatoes (which are a lively alternative to fries when you’re making burgers).

Asian Turkey Burgers with Sriracha Mayonnaise
Makes 4 burgers

For burgers:
1 pound ground turkey breast
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce (see Kitchen Notes)
2 teaspoons soy sauce (reduced sodium preferred)
2 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less – see Kitchen Notes)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (see Kitchen Notes)
Freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil

4 hamburger buns (I used whole wheat)

For Sriracha Mayonnaise:
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Sriracha Hot Sauce (see Kitchen Notes)

Make the burgers
Combine ground turkey, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, green onions, ginger, garlic cayenne pepper, bread crumbs and a generous grind of black pepper in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly by hand. Form into 4 patties. Heat a grilling pan over a medium-high flame (you can use a large skillet, but grilling pan is preferred – you can also grill the burgers). Brush the grilling pan lightly with canola oil and toast the buns in batches; set aside.

Brush the pan more generously with oil and cook the burgers until just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Use a quick read thermometer to make sure the burgers reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Meanwhile, make the Sriracha mayonnaise
Crazy easy. Put the mayonnaise and the Sriracha Hot Sauce in a small bowl and mix with a spoon. Done.

Assemble the burgers
Also easy. Bun, burger and a smear of Sriracha mayonnaise. You can add some lettuce or tomato slices, but I would discourage it. These are quite tasty on their own.

Kitchen Notes

Hoisin sauce: This Chinese sauce and glaze is used extensively in Asian cooking. You can find it in Asian markets as well as many supermarkets in what is often charmingly (if less than politically correctly) called the “ethnic aisle.”

Cayenne pepper: We like heat in our food; the 1/2 teaspoon I used for these burgers gave them a nice, but not overpowering, kick. Adjust the amount of cayenne pepper based on your own heat tolerance.

Bread crumbs: You can use Panko bread crumbs for this, if you have some on hand. If not, remove the crust from one or two slices of white bread, tear the bread into pieces and pulse it in a food processor or blender until you have crumbs.

Can’t find Sriracha? Make your own. Sriracha Hot Sauce is fairly widely available, both in Asian markets and many supermarkets. But if you can’t find it, Serious Eats offers recipes for both fermented and unfermented versions. I can’t vouch for them, having not made them, and they don’t keep as long as the commercial stuff, but desperate times, etcetera.

Hungry for more turkey burgers? Try these spicy turkey burgers made with cumin, chili powder, jalapeño peppers and fresh cilantro.

Terry Boyd blogs at Blue Kitchen.

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