Episode 108: Burgers

Everybody loves them and they can be dressed up endlessly so why save them for cookouts. Burgers can make a quick weeknight meal seem like a summer holiday celebration. I start with a vegetarian version starring a Portobello mushroom stuffed with melted cheese, move on to a turkey burger made moist and flavorful with the addition of special seasonings and fresh vegetables, and finally show you a burger I learned to make in college – it’s a whole meal in itself.

Recipes

  • Portobello Burgers with Red Peppers and Gorgonzola
    Sara Moulton Cooks at Home, page 182
    Recommended Side Dish: Grilled Potato and Corn Salad with Chipotle Mayonnaise, Sara Moulton Cooks at Home, page 253 or vegetable chips
    Recommended Wine Pairing: Riesling or Merlot
  • Asian Turkey Burgers with Wasabi Sauce
    Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals, page 164
    Recommended Side Dish: Butter-steamed Broccoli with Soy, Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals, page 296 and Simple Boiled Rice, Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals, page 40 or just with a side of slaw
    Recommended Wine Pairing: Fume or Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel
  • Det Burgers
    Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals, page 179
    Recommended Side Dish: Oven Fries, Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals, page 295, and Cole Slaw, Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals, page 38 or just a simple wedge of Romaine lettuce with ranch dressing
    Recommended Wine: Zinfandel or Boutique Beer.
  • Tips

    Although they are perfectly edible, I like to scrape out the dark brown gills under the Portobello mushroom caps with a spoon and discard them; they discolor anything they touch. You could die a white sheet brown with them.

    Shaping burgers with an indentation in the center helps avoid the shrinkage that happens when a burger cooks and plumps up in the center.

    The combination of thyme and mushrooms is a match made in heaven.

    Char peppers on all sides over a direct flame or under a broiler, then put them in a covered bowl to steam until cool enough to handle. Not only will the skin peel off easily but the peppers will take on a great smoky flavor. Save the drippings in the bowl for use in a sauce or soup.

    Ground turkey is leaner in general than ground beef; the ground dark meat of turkey has more fat and more flavor than the ground white meat but my trick of adding vegetables and seasonings to keep the meat moist makes it possible to have a moist and juicy burger using either

    A little toasted sesame oil adds a lot of flavor to a dish. Always store your toasted sesame oil in the refrigerator because sesame seeds tend to get rancid quickly.

    Be very careful when handling ground meats. Because grinding exposes so much meat surface, ground meats are more perishable than solid cuts. Be sure to refrigerate it shortly after purchase and use it as soon as possible.

    If you are lucky enough to find some real fresh wasabi, just peel it and grate it as you would fresh ginger.

    Tools

    Microplanes are a new kitchen essential. Available from most kitchenware stores. I find the basic original model (the one with a handle is my favorite) works for everything – cheese, nutmeg, chocolate, garlic, citrus rind, gingerroot. You don’t need different shapes or sizes. If might be a good idea however, to keep one for sweet items and one for savory. You wouldn’t want garlic aromas in your chocolate cake.

    With cast-iron Grill Pans and Griddles you can bring the delicious flavor of outdoor grilled foods (as well as their ease-of-preparation) indoors. Available in most kitchen equipment shops and on line; at lodgemfg.com you will find the two-burner griddle I use on the show as well as a range of other griddles and grill pans.

    Ingredients

    Portobello Mushrooms are simply a brown crimini mushroom that has grown up. Once the crimini has reached 4- to 6-inches in diameter it becomes a Portobello.

    Mushroom producers have not agreed on the spelling of Portobello – or is that Portabella?

    The whole or chopped green chiles found in cans are usually Anaheim chiles. When matured until red and then dried, they are called California or New Mexico chiles.

    For more information on Wasabi, see Episode 103: Soup for Supper.