I almost didn’t make it to the hospital to deliver my first child because I had a craving the night I went into labor which sent me to town to satisfy said craving on a very foggy evening. After I returned home I forgot to turn off the lights in my car, which of course killed the battery*. The next morning when my husband realized what I’d done he called AAA to get a jump-start. The AAA guy got lost trying to find our house and in his panic once he finally did arrived crossed the wires and fried the battery. I guess watching a pregnant woman walk around holding her ginormous belly and moaning can cause the level of anxiety in someone who is just there to fix the car, not deliver the baby, to rise to such an epic point that they then make mistakes. Thankfully my husband, who had not lost his cool, was able to come up with an alternative plan to get us to the hospital, and figured he’d worry about replacing the battery later. At that point I didn’t really care since my craving had been satisfied. We eventually made it to the hospital, and 36 hours later said hello to our daughter Isabelle.
It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I first tasted one of these magical things I later developed cravings for, but after the first bite I was hooked. Chuck Hettinger introduced me to turkey burgers over twenty-five years ago when I was helping him organize his home office. When Chuck and I thought we’d done enough work to deserve a break we would leave his apartment and wander a few blocks over to a little lunch joint. There we would ordered turkey burgers covered with caramelized onions and a generous squirt of dijon mustard on the bun, and devour them. They were glorious and flavourful and surprisingly juicy, and I was in food heaven.
Clearly at this point my life can be divided in two by those lunches. There is my pre-turkey burger existence, spent eating turkey in one of two ways – Thanksgiving dinner or sliced thin from the deli counter and layered on a sandwich. Then there is my post-turkey burger life which includes turkey burgers in a myriad of forms. Turkey burgers were one of two foods I craved while pregnant (the other was watermelon). I just wish I’d known sooner how fantastic turkey could be in burger form.
I’ll admit the one draw back is turkey meat can get dry if you don’t pay attention, it’s poultry after all, but with a little care and a few tricks it will be divine. One thing I often do is mix a package of ground breast meat with another of ground thighs/legs both for moisture as well as economy (ground breast meat is usually more expensive – sometimes by as much as $2/pound). Then I think extra moisture, something that can be added to the ground turkey before cooking to add a juicy component. A little bit of shredded zucchini or apples both work, a trick I learned from my friend Rick Ellis. Lately though I’ve been adding mango chutney along with a few teaspoons of curry powder which transforms a turkey burger into something so juicy and exotic you don’t even need a bun.
While the sugars in mango chutney help caramelize the burgers you have to beware of mango chunks which can make the burgers fall apart as they cook. my friend Hilary showed me a nifty tool she uses for quick chops and I highly recommend it. It’s like a salad spinner got married to a food processor and they had a baby. You load the handful or two of whatever you want to chop, put the top on, and pull the handle like you would for a salad spinner. Voila, no more mango chunks.
This recipe is an adaptation of a curried chicken salad that everyone used to make in the 80s. Back then you cooked curry in a little butter to release the flavors, added mango chutney, mayonnaise, grape halves and tossed it all with cubed chicken breasts. For these burgers you don’t need to pre-cook the curry since you’re cooking the meat, and of course no mayo or grape halves.
Mango Curry Turkey Burgers
1 pound ground turkey breast (light)
1 pound ground turkey thighs (dark)
1/3 cup mango chutney
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
oil for the pan (vegetable is fine)
If your mango chutney is chunky puree or smash or pick out the biggest chunks. Add curry, chutney and salt to the turkey meat and squeeze it all gently until everything is mixed. Heat up a large sauté pan and add a little oil. I bounce back and forth between using a well seasoned cast iron pan and a non-stick pan. Form the seasoned turkey meat into burger shapes and cook until well browned on the outside and cooked through on the inside. As much as I like my beef burgers medium rare, turkey burgers should be thoroughly cooked.
*One note of advise as these burgers cook and caramelize your pan may end up with some hyper caramelized bits cooked on. I soak before scrubbing (even though you’re not supposed to soak cast iron sometimes it is the only thing you can do-just reseason the pan and you should be good). Trust me that these burgers are worth the extra bit of clean up.
Isabelle served these turkey burgers at a small going away party for her friend Katja who was returning to Germany after going to school with her in the US for two years. The turkey burgers were delicious with a dollop of mango chutney instead of catsup, sesame noodles, and a whole lot of kale sautéed with olive oil, garlic and onions. For dessert they ate molten chocolate death, which was fine since the effect of the excessive caffeine in the dessert was lost on teenagers.
It was a bittersweet dinner for Isabelle and friends saying goodbye to Katja. Hopefully the next time we serve turkey burgers it will be to say hello again.
*My husband corrected me and said it was the main fuse, not the battery. In either case the car wouldn’t go and we had to find a different way to get the hospital (and this I do remember the AAA guy did not want to drive us in his truck).