Juicy Turkey-Cheddar Burgers

Inspiration for this recipe came from my lamb burger recipe, in which I combine ground lamb with lots of spices and a combination of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino cheeses. Richard Arakelian, a chef colleague, asked me why I never use ground turkey in a burger, and, furthermore, why I rarely use American cheeses, like cheddar, in my recipes. I interpreted his question as a challenge, and this is how my turkey cheddar burgers came to be. First I gently fry herbs and spices, like curry leaves and cumin, with chopped red onions, then I add this mixture, along with shredded cheddar, chopped jalapenos, and fresh cilantro/fresh coriander to ground turkey. The result is turkey burgers unlike any you've ever had-absolutely exploding with flavor and masala. The burgers are also delicious made with ground white or dark meat chicken or ground pork.

Reprinted with permission from Masala Farm by Suvir Saran, Chronicle Books copyright (c) 2011
TOTAL TIME: --
Prep: --
Inactive Prep: --
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YIELD: Serves 4
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ingredients

  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 8 fresh or 12 frozen curry leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely minced
  • 1 1/4 lbs/570 g ground turkey (preferably dark meat or a combination of white and dark meats)
  • 3/4 cup/85 g tightly packed shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 jalapeno, finely diced (seeded and veined for less heat)
  • 1/4 cup/10g chopped cilantro/fresh coriander leaves
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 burger buns, toasted
  • Raita for serving (recipe below)
  • Tomato-Onion-Peanut Chutney for serving (recipe below)
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Directions

Place 1 tbsp of the oil, curry leaves, cumin seeds, black pepper, and red pepper flakes in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, stirring often, and cooking until the cumin seeds are fragrant and lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Add the onion and cook until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Place the ground turkey in a large mixing bowl and gently knead in the remaining ingredients. Stir in the onion mixture and form into four patties.

Wipe out the frying pan with a paper towel/absorbent paper. Heat over medium-high for 2 minutes, add 1 tbsp oil, and then add the patties. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until browned, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until browned and the center is cooked to your preferred doneness (I like mine slightly pink). Place the burgers on the toasted buns, dollop with Raita and Tomato-Onion-Peanut Chutney, and serve.

Variation: Party Meatballs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C/gas 5. Instead of dividing the meat mixture into four patties, divide it into golf ball-size portions. Coat your hands with a little olive oil and then gently roll the portioned meat between your hands until round, then slightly flatten into disc-shaped patties. Place the patties on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet/tray and brown the meatballs until they're cooked through. Skewer on toothpicks or mini bamboo skewers and serve with Raita or Tomato-Onion-Peanut Chutney on the side.

Raita:
Simple, soothing, healthful, and delicious, this is a staple at our home.
1 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
2 1/2 cups/600 ml plain yogurt
1 small cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 small tomato, finely chopped
2 fresh green chiles (like jalapenos or serranos), very finely chopped (optional)
1 tsp finely chopped fresh mint, or 1/4 tsp dried mint
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup/10 g finely chopped fresh cilantro

Place the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns in a small frying pan over medium heat and toast, shaking the pan often, until they're fragrant and the cumin is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer the spices to a small plate to cool and then grind them using a spice grinder or coffee mill.

Whisk the yogurt in a large bowl until it's smooth. Stir in the cucumber, onion, tomato, chiles (if using), and mint. Stir in the toasted spices and the cayenne. If serving immediately, stir in the salt and finish with the cilantro. Or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, stirring in the salt and cilantro just before serving. Makes about 3 cups/710 ml.

Tomato-Onion-Peanut Chutney:
Tomato chutney always finds a home on my table. This version is a little different because of the peanuts, which add a wonderful texture.
1/3 cup/160 ml canola or grapeseed oil
36 fresh or 54 frozen curry leaves, roughly torn
12 dried red chiles
2 tsp brown mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 medium red onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup/145 g raw, skinned peanuts
3 1/2 lbs/1.6 kg tomatoes, roughly chopped
9 oz/255 g tomato paste (or one 4.4-oz/125-g tube double-concentrated tomato paste)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp Sambhaar Powder (please see separate recipe) or curry powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt

Heat the canola oil with the curry leaves, chiles, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until the cumin is golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the turmeric and cook until the chiles darken, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Stir in the onions and cook until they have wilted and are opaque, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the peanuts, cook for 3 minutes, and then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, sambhaar powder, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often, pressing the tomatoes up against the sides of the pot to crush them.

Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the tomato juices are reduced and the chutney is thick and jammy, stirring often, for 20 to 35 minutes (in the summer when tomatoes are juicy, it may take longer to thicken; in the winter, it may happen more quickly). Taste, adding more salt if needed, and then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Makes about 6 cups/1.4 L.

Sambhaar Powder:
The southern Indian equivalent to garam masala, this blend tastes the most like what Americans and those across the pond might call "curry powder." I hold back on the amount of pungent fenugreek, but for a stronger and more traditional flavor, double it.

3 dried red chiles
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp brown mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tbsp urad dal (white lentils)
1 tbsp channa dal (yellow lentils)
2 tsp roughly ground black pepper
40 fresh curry leaves (optional-only use fresh curry leaves, not frozen)

Place the chiles, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, urad dal, channa dal, pepper, and curry leaves (if using) in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat and toast, shaking the frying pan often, until the mustard seeds begin to pop, about 3 1/2 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a large plate to cool and then grind in a coffee mill or spice grinder. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 months. Makes about 3/4 cup/60 g.

Reprinted with permission from Masala Farm by Suvir Saran, Chronicle Books copyright (c) 2011

Photograph by Ben Fink

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