Winna Winna Turkay Dinna!

“Try it. Just try it!” was what my mom said the night she introduced our family to ground turkey. I remember that evening like it was yesterday. I don’t remember the date. That would just be crazy! 😉 I walked into the kitchen to see what my mom was making for dinner. She was making taco’s! One of my favorite meals!! But what was that she was using!? It looked nothing of ground beef.. and ground beef it wasn’t. It was ground turkey. Being the brat I’m capable of being (time stamp this ~ I do not admit this on the regular!), I turned my nose up at it and instantly was looking for other dinner options. “Try it. Just Try it!” my mom said.

Dinner was served. The spread looked the same as the usual taco night.. sliced tomatoes, shredded lettuce & cheese, salsa, refried beans, tortilla’s.. familiarity with the exception of  the bowl of foreign turkey taco meat. I hesitantly and reluctantly made my taco. Careful not to contaminate all of my taco fixins’ with the dreaded turkey taco meat. I took a deep breath, followed by a bite. I wanted to hate it. Truly. But I was pleasantly surprised.  It was delicious! And it actually tasted better than the ground beef! Of course I kept that piece of information from my mom for some time. I can’t let her know that she’s right, all the time! 😉

That evening was a turning point in my culinary adventures. Since that night, 9 times out of 10, I use ground turkey (and the occasional ground chicken) over ground beef. Taco’s, Enchilada’s, Spaghetti Sauce, Burgers.. all of it. You will rarely find ground beef in my freezer. Some may say you’ll rarely find anything in my freezer!  That’s a whole other topic we’ll visit another time. 🙂  You get the point. Ground turkey – 1, ground beef – 0!

If you’ve cooked with ground turkey, you know the dreaded challenge. Ground turkey is hard to season and it tends to dry out. Fast. While visiting my family a few weeks back, I was sent home with one of a few turkey burger patties my sister had prepared for my parents. It was the best. No really, BEST!! THE BEST turkey burger I’ve ever had! It was so tasty, juicy & savory, that the very next day I searched out the recipe and prepared my own turkey burger patties! I ate turkey burgers for 3 nights in a row! No. Lie.

Although ground beef doesn’t have a huge pull any longer, from time to time I have craved a big, juicy, beef burger. But ever since trying that heavenly turkey burger (recipe courtesy Anne Burrell), I think about a big, juicy turkey burger! A healthier alternative to a beef burger and quite honestly, more flavorful!

Turkey Burger

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
Kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, smashed & finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1/4 soy sauce
1 tablespoon sambal oelek, optional
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled & grated (TIP: you can now find frozen, grated ginger in the freezer section of your local grocery store!)
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F to keep the first batch of burgers warm.

For the burgers: coat a large saute pan with olive oil. Add the onion, season with salt and bring to a medium-high heat. Cook the onions until they are soft and very aromatic, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the turkey, soy sauce, sambal oelek, ginger, water chestnuts, cilantro and the cooked onion and garlic. Reserve the onion pan to cook the burgers in later. Add one-quarter to one-half cup water; this will help the burgers stay nice and moist. Using your hands, squish everything together until they are really well combined. Make into patties.

Pan fry in a little bit of olive oil.

Note: I found that the burgers cook up best if slightly frozen. Due to the moist nature of the patties, they tend to fall apart when prepared fresh. Use a meat thermometer when cooking poultry or finish cooking in the oven or microwave to ensure doneness.

Turkey Burger with Heirloom Tomato, Avocado & Cheddar Cheese! Hold the mayo!! 😉

Turkey Burger with Cheddar Cheese. No bun. No fixins'. 🙂

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