If there's a "less is more" school of turkey burgers, then you could not count me among its adherents. I happen to really like turkey burgers, and make them often. Every time I do, my formula is a little different, but each is marked by one particular characteristic: a reckless hand with seasoning, herbs and spices, and add-ins. One might deem this the Kitchen Sink school of turkey burgers.
Ground turkey, I think, needs a little extra help. The packaged kind you buy in supermarkets, and particularly the all breast meat type (which I always steer widely clear of), can be a little dry. It can be a little flavorless. This is because the meat comes from factory raised birds fed a diet of mostly uninteresting things like corn and soy by-products, and if the turkey doesn't eat interesting things, then why would it itself taste good? In order to combat this Tasteless Turkey syndrome, I'm accustomed to throwing lots of flavor at the problem: finely chopped onion or scallions, as well as garlic, are a must; lots of salt and freshly ground pepper are advisable; generous amounts of dried spices like paprika, cumin, and red pepper flakes are common; and chopped fresh herbs like parsley or cilantro often show up, too. One last thing to consider is a little lubrication: I'll often toss in a bit of whole-milk plain yogurt, or a dash of olive oil, to ensure that the burger comes out juicy.
And tonight, my friends, I did all those things--and more--to my turkey meat. But as it turns out, I might not have had to. You see, after a recent viewing of the excellent, eye-opening, generally disturbing but also fascinating (much like a car wreck) documentary, Food, Inc., I've decided to avoid supermarket meat for a while. I don't want to make any hard and fast declarations, especially since my wallet might not be equipped to handle such claims, but for the time being, at least, I've decided to buy the vast majority of my meat at the farmer's market (and avoid the label "Perdue" like the bloody plague). I started my new resolution this past weekend, when a trip to the Grand Army Plaza farmer's market proved quite fruitful (or meat-ful?). I stocked my freezer full of ground pork, ground turkey, and different cuts of free-range beef, so now all I have to do is reach into the icebox for a guilt-free meat meal.
I used up the first of my provisions, the ground turkey (from DiPaola Turkey Farm in Hamilton, New Jersey) in the aforementioned burgers that I made for dinner earlier this evening. I added all the usual suspects--plus a blanket of sharp, rich Cato Corner Farm cheese--and, to be blunt, ended up with a juicy fistful of The Best Turkey Burger I Have Ever Eaten in My Life. Yup--it was that good. Supremely moist and packing a wallop of flavor, I suspect that there was more at work in this burger than the seasonings that I added to it: namely, the freshness and quality of the turkey. Maybe, with meat this good, you don't really need to add much to it. So you should treat yourself to some good meat, too. But for those times when you can't or don't, try the Kitchen Sink technique.
Kitchen Sink Turkey Burgers
Serves 3 - 4
1 lb. ground turkey, dark meat preferable
Finely chopped onion or scallion
Dried spices such as but not limited to: paprika; cumin; coriander; chili powder; red pepper flakes
Chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro or thyme
Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Whole milk plain yogurt, for moisture (optional)
Olive oil, for moisture (optional)
Cheese, for topping (optional)
1. In a large bowl, combine turkey with ingredients and amounts of your choice. The flavorings listed above are a good guideline but can be varied or omitted according to preference. Just remember to add a lot of seasoning. Mix lightly and form turkey into 3 or 4 burgers. If time allows, let burgers rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes. The flavors will meld, and the burgers will hold together better during cooking.
2. Heat a cast iron skillet, grill pan, or grill. Alternatively, preheat your broiler. When pan is hot, add burgers and cook over high until cooked through but still moist, about 8 minutes per side. When burgers are nearly done, shut the heat off, top burgers with cheese if using, and loosely tent the pan with tin foil. This will help burgers to finish cooking evenly, and will melt the cheese. Serve as desired.