Turkey Burgers with Mushrooms and Onions

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My husband loves burgers. It’s a never-ending thing that drives me nuts: we go to a new restaurant and I’m so excited to try whatever specialty they have or something creative and exciting. John, gets the burger. He has tried an innumerable number of restaurants and has found some of his favorites (if you live in King County, WA try the Tipsy Cow Burger Bar in Redmond- fantastic burgers with a big variety and close to 30 beers on tap).

Turkey Burgers with Mushrooms and Onions

Alas, at home we don’t really eat ground beef. Now, this was actually John’s doing since he grew up in a house full of healthy eaters (who I sometimes think are nuts). When we first met and he tried to convince me to make tacos with ground turkey instead of ground beef I thought he was insane, but over the years we have been converted into a virtually ground beef-free household. Multiple issues arise here. First, we both really like a burger for dinner, especially in the spring and summer (which by the way is here- hallelujah!). But we don’t want the high fat and expense that ground beef brings. So the alternative is a turkey or chicken burger, but turkey and chicken can be SO BLAND. So the end result is we don’t really end up eating many burgers at home. I wanted to rectify this. There had to be a way to make a turkey burger that didn’t scream “I’m healthy!” with every bite.

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First thing I knew is that I had to find a way to get the most flavor out of the turkey. Grill seasoning is key here. Most grill seasoning has garlic and onion in them, a dried herb or two, or maybe something smoky if that’s your thing. You can use whatever grill seasoning you like here. The next thing, and what I would say is the most common thing done badly with turkey burgers, is to not overlook your burger! Often turkey burgers are cooked until they resemble a dogs rubber chew toy. This dry, rubbery texture is instantly going to ruin a turkey burger. Be careful! Pay attention! Depending on the thickness of your patty (I typically make mine about 1/2 inch thick) you only need to cook a turkey burger for about 3 minutes per side for it to be done enough to avoid bird-related bacteria but without cooking it to death.

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Next, you need the right toppings. I found that the perfect combo for me with this burger was caramelized onions, mushrooms sautéed with thyme, baby spinach, and Monterey Jack cheese. Each of these toppings has enough flavor to make for an interesting and tasty burger but no one ingredient will overshadow everything else.

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Finally, you have to have a good bun. I don’t understand why buns seem to be an afterthought with burgers. They make up close to a third of the entire thing, so why would you go buy some yucky little spongy thing? I found these amazing brioche buns at my grocery store (baked fresh by a local bakery) and they gave the burger it’s perfect finish. Rather than going to the bread isle and just grabbing a bag of white (or wheat) buns, go look in the bakery. See what you can find there. You might be able to find fresh baked buns, or maybe dinner rolls for sliders! The last important thing with the buns is that you’ve gotta toast them! Slather a little butter on there and throw them on a skillet or griddle. You know how restaurants get that nice crunch to their burgers that you can’t quite pin down? It’s a toasted bun. Every time. So take the extra 2 minutes to toast those babies- it’s totally worth it. Top that yummy, toasty bun with your burger and toppings and get ready for one amazing (turkey) burger!

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One final note on this recipe, I cook my burgers on the stove to get a nice browning on them, but you can of course use a grill. If you do cook them on the stove you will need at least 3 (and up to 4) skillets to cook everything. I tend to use 3 skillets (one for onions, one for mushrooms, one for burgers) and then my griddle to toast the buns. But keep this in mind! If you don’t think you have enough to do this you can toast your buns before you do anything else. They can sit for a while and will retain their flavor and crispness just fine.

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Turkey Burgers with Mushrooms and Onions

Serves 2

1/2 onion (I use sweet onions), sliced into rings or half moons. You can of course use more onions if you want a more onion-y burger.

2 cups crimini mushroom caps, quartered

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

2 hamburger buns

butter

2/3 lb ground turkey

1 teaspoon grill seasoning

1/2 cup jack cheese, grated

1 cup baby spinach

extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

 

  1. First things first, get those onions on the stove! They are going to take more time than anything else so get a skillet and set your stove to low/medium-low. Throw a decent-sized drizzle of olive oil in the pan and add the onion, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. cook your onions at this low temperature, stirring occasionally in order to caramelize and bring out all of the yummy sweet flavors that the onion is holding down in there. Pay attention and make sure the temp isn’t too high and the onions don’t start to brown too quickly. This can be frustratingly slow, just stick with it.
  2. Once you get the onions started next get to your mushrooms. Get a second skillet and set your stove to medium. Same thing, drizzle the skillet with oil and add the mushrooms. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper and then add the thyme. Saute the mushrooms, stirring occasionally. And go ahead, pop one in your mouth once in a while- it’s ok, we all do it!
  3. As the onions and mushrooms slowly cook away, go ahead and butter your buns and figure out what you will use to toast them with (if you haven’t done this already). Set them aside to be waiting and ready for action.
  4. Now get ready to form some patties! Take a plate and lightly oil it or spray with cooking spray. This will prevent the patties from sticking to your plate when it come time for you to remove them. One you have done that go ahead and form your turkey into two patties. I like to make my patties about 1/2 inch thick. I am NOT a fan of a fat burger. I like to be able to easily fit the bite in my mouth and be able to get a taste of everything in each bite. Burgers shrink in width and grow in thickness when you cook them so keep that in mind as it relates to the size of your buns and how thick you want your burger to be once it’s cooked (there are few things worse than a bun that hangs over the patty by an inch all around). Once you have the patties formed sprinkle them with your grill seasoning. DO NOT use salt and pepper AND grill seasoning. Almost all grill seasonings have salt and pepper in them and you will have a nasty, super salty burger if you’re not careful. Along with that, don’t go too heavy on the grill seasoning either. It would be such a shame if you did all this work and then ended up with a salty burger. Once your patties are done, check your onions and mushrooms. If they are close to where you want them you can start cooking your patties. If not, cover the turkey with plastic wrap and toss in the fridge until the onions and mushrooms are closer.
  5. When you are ready, get another skillet and heat it to medium/medium-high. You want a relatively high temp when you put the patties on so that you can get a good bit of browning on the turkey (it’s what gives them flavor!). To help with this add some olive oil to the pan before you add the patties. Once you have a hot pan toss in the patties. Remember- you only need to cook for 3-4 minutes on your first side! What you want it to see the edges of the patties to look slightly cooked when you flip them. Once you flip the burgers, top each with half of the grated cheese. Here you can take an optional step. If you like your cheese melty (which I do), get a piece of foil about the size of your pan and form it into what looks like a dome-shaped hat. Tent this dome over the burgers (but make sure the top doesn’t touch the cheese). What this does is it traps the heat from the pan in the dome and works to melt the cheese as the burger cooks. Once your burgers have been on for about 3 mins on side two take them off.
  6. As your burgers cook, it’s time to toast the buns (if you haven’t already). Heat your pan or griddle to medium heat. Once it’s hot add your buttered buns and toast for about 2 minutes, or until the butter has melted and they are a toasty light brown. Once done put them on your plates. Here you can add mayo, aioli, or whatever else you may like but I find that they don’t need anything extra (which is something for me because I am a mayo girl to the bone!).
  7. When your burgers are done put one on each bun and top with caramelized onions, mushrooms, and baby spinach and close up your bun. Sit back and admire your work of art, and then eat eat eat!
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