Turkey Burgers, 2.0

Back in the olden days, when our girls were little, turkey burgers were one of the few dinners everyone ate without short-order modifications, which meant we had them a lot, usually California-style, craggy-edged with white onions, ketchup, mustard, and pickles, maybe some roast potatoes on the side. When I type that now, of course it sounds classic and perfect, but at the time I would’ve given anything to shake up the routine. Especially since, in spite of all the fixins, the burgers were often dry and tasteless — we hadn’t yet discovered that the key to making a good turkey burger was to start with good-quality ground dark meat (not breast meat), most easily found at a co-op or our local farmer’s market. One night, when we just couldn’t face the prospect of the same old same old, I did a little recipe research, turning up a tandoori-ish chicken burger from the pages of Martha Stewart. (The print magazine. I told you, olden days.) The recipe, decidedly not authentic, borrowed spices and ingredients from a classic roasted tandoori chicken — yogurt, scallion, cumin, paprika, cayenne — and called to my feeding-children-annihilated tastebuds so I just decided to go for it. Of course, one of the girls flatly rejected the imposter, so brazenly slathered in yogurt instead of ketchup (!), but the rest of the table thoroughly enjoyed the switch-up, resulting in a stretch of not-so-boring burger nights for at least little while. Last week, Andy and I revisited the recipe, using ground turkey meat from our farmer’s market and doctoring up the yogurt sauce to make it more aggressively herby. They were so good and summery, and I imagine they’d be A-plus-plus on a grill. If the girls had been home, I feel certain they’d agree.

Tandoori-spiced Turkey Burgers
Makes 4 burgers

1 1/2 pounds ground dark turkey meat
4 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
Juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Salt and lots of pepper
4 potato buns
1 cucumber, thinly sliced (preferably on a mandoline)
herby yogurt sauce

In large mixing bowl, combine turkey (or chicken), scallions, ginger, lemon juice, paprika, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Cover and put in refrigerator for 45 minutes — this will let make the burgers easier to handle. Form into patties and grill (or fry in pan) until cooked through, about 6-7 minutes a side. (If you are grilling, make sure to oil the grates, as the burgers will stick.) Serve on buns, topped with lots of cucumber slices and herby yogurt sauce, below.

Herby Yogurt Sauce
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup fresh herbs (dill, chives, cilantro)
juice from 1/2 large lemon
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
couple pinches of sugar

Whirl all the ingredients together in a small food processor or blender, adding a drop or two of water to help it come together if necessary. You want the sauce to be the consistency of ketchup.

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