Friday, March 17, 2006


The burger you see here is not a failed hamburger. It is not to a real burger what crystal light is to orange juice. It is its own thing. The virtue of being less bad for you than a beefy burger should not be held against it.

Because it is less fatty than beef, ground turkey needs help to stay moist when you cook it. When I make meatloaf out of turkey I add sauteed apples and onions. When I make turkey burgers, I add olive oil, lime juice, minced scallions, and cilantro. Sometimes I add cumin, which gives them a more pronounced southwestern accent, and if I'm feeling industrious I zest the lime before squeezing it and add some of that too, which makes these into turkey-lime burgers. You might think of adding breadcrumbs or matzo meal and egg but that gives them more of a meatballs/meatloaf texture. Not my preference.

A few warnings: do not buy ground turkey breast. It has little flavor and no moisture. Pay more attention to garnishing than you would with a beef patty. Beef has more flavor than turkey and it can carry the day practically all by itself (though I was tempted to order the burger on the menu in one place we went to in Vancouver, Feenie's, with optional extras of bacon, foie gras, and beef short ribs). And use a nonstick pan. These can probably be made in a very hot, well oiled regular pan, but it's much easier to avoid having your burgers crumble to pieces using nonstick.

Turkey burgers with chipotle mayo and sauteed onions

For the burgers:
1 lb. ground turkey
2 scallions, minced
a big handful of cilantro, minced
juice of half a lime + zest (optional)
a tbs, more or less, olive oil
salt, black and cayenne pepper
oil for cooking
whole wheat buns

For the chiptole mayo:
half a chipotle pepper in adobo, minced
a few spoonfuls of mayo

For the onions:
one large yellow onion or two smallish ones, sliced
oil for cooking

To make the mayo, combine and tinker with amounts until it's as hot as you like. It should kick like Jackie Chan.

To cook the onions, get the pan very hot, add a bit of oil and wait for it to get hot too, and then cook the onions, sprinkled with salt, over medium high heat. Stir frequently until they are as soft and dark as you like and put them in a bowl.

To make the burgers, combine all the ingredients and mix well. Form into three patties.

Heat some oil in a big nonstick pan until very hot and cook the burgers about five minutes on each side over medium-high heat. Internal temp should be at least 160 (but it's hard to overcook these, in my experience, with their added fat and moisture). It's important to keep the pan hot because when moisture runs off the burgers you want it to evaporate right away, not bubble around the corners and spoil the nice crust you're forming against the pan. Meanwhile, toast your buns.

Serve with chipotle mayo and onions. You might also try some Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce.

Friday, March 10, 2006

My mental pile

Well we've been home from Vancouver for a few days now. It was a real good time. I ended up being more interested in the conference than I had anticipated, which meant that we didn't eat a single bite of gelato. We did have some excellent dim sum, though, which in a future post I hope to show you. (The picture here is the view from our hotel room at dusk, with E sitting on the bed reflected in the windowpane.)

I have been asked to fill out one of these questionnaires by the estimable ToastPointress, Katherine. For the record, I really like these things. I like reading other people's and I especially like answering questions all about myself. This one is called the "recipe collection meme."

1. Where do you obtain the recipes you prepare?
Mostly cookbooks. When I search online for recipes, I almost never follow them faithfully. I find three or four that look good and improvise based on various ideas from each one. I tend to stick with common techniques and ingredients that I find in all of them (e.g., I'm not about to make chicken cacciatore without chicken). And I rarely clip recipes from the newspaper. There's a Bittman brownie recipe that has been on our fridge for a couple of years. It's never going to get made but I can't bear to part with it, to acknowledge that it was a waste of my time clipping it in the first place. My new favorite source is blogs. Lately when I cook from a blog recipe I try to leave a message at the post letting the author know how I did but I don't always get around to it.

2. How often do you cook a new recipe?
All the time. Even if it's an old recipe, I try new things with it. I try fried rice with yellow onions instead of green, or chicken cacciatore with cremini instead of white mushrooms. Nothing revolutionary.

3. How do you store your favorite recipes?
The ones that aren't online or in a book are in a disorganized pile. Some are stuffed in an orange folder of the sort Canadian schoolkids call a duo-tang. But it's overstuffed and there's a pile of loose sheets of printer pages on top of it. It's a disaster, actually. I should take a picture.

4. How large is your to-try pile? Is it organized? How?
The to-try pile is enormous. It's mostly mental, though. It's organized in eccentric ways: things to make for a crowd, things to make when I'm cooking just for me, things to make in the summer, things to make when I run out of mayonnaise...

5. What is the oldest recipe in your to-try pile?
Hmm. I've been thinking about cooking a leg of lamb and a whole roast duck for a few years. Also cassoulet.

6. Are you really ever going to make all those recipes in your to-try pile?
You bet I am.

7. Do you follow a recipe exactly, modify as you go, or 'What Recipe?' I invent new recipes every time I cook.
I wish I did follow a recipe exactly. When I try, I inevitable screw up by forgetting something, mismeasuring, losing track of time, etc.

8. What is one new recipe that you're scared to try?
Fergus Henderson's cold lamb's brains on toast.

Now for the interactive/social dimension:

1. Tag at least one new food blogger for this meme. (New as in only blogging a few months):
Peanut Butter and Purple Onions. Maybe not that new but not as old as this blog.

2. Tag at least one food blogger you visit regularly but never interacted with:
The Hungry Tiger. I've been reading this blog for years but have never interacted with its author. I only found out recently that she is the daughter of someone I interact with all the time, Lindy.

3. Tag at least one food blogger you constantly visit and leave comments:
TBTAM. Well, I visit constantly (I'm there right now in the next tab!) but I've only left a handful of comments.

4. Tag anyone else you want.
Ideas in Food is chefy in the extreme but I really like reading it. I haven't interacted with the Ideas in Food folks either (unless you count linking to them a few posts back). I really would like to know if they follow recipes, where they get them, etc. Are you there, Ideas in Food? It's me, Haverchuk.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Bruni the blogger reports that after dining at Del Posto, the fanciest Italian restaurant in the history of the world, you are given a complimentary bag of breadcrumbs, "to be used, presumably, in some future cooking endeavor." They come with a handout from Mario Batali, the chef-owner-superhero, on how to cook with them.

There are too many ways to read this.

1. They're using up leftover bread rather than throwing it away. Admirable.

2. They're insulting you by making a gift of something of practically no value. Especially insulting coming from the fanciest Italian restaurant in the history of the world.

3. They really are encouraging you to cook. Admirable.

4. They're mocking your inability to cook; seriously, how many of these bags of breadcrumbs will really be put to good use? Don't people who cook already have stale bread to turn into breadcrumbs? Is the Del Posto clientele going to be convinced to cook by being given Mario's leftovers?

5. They are an excuse to tout the chef's celebrity (this is Bruni's reading). Problem: any product accompanied by a handout from the chef would accomplish this as well; why breadcrumbs?

6. They are souvenirs of the meal. You enjoyed your week on the beach? Take home a vial of sand! That kind of thing. You get to keep some of the food that made your dinner so memorable. Breadcrumbs are not very perishable, which explains why they don't send you home with a bag of the arugula which, per Bruni, makes all other arugula look like "lettuce in drag." This strikes me as arrogant.

7. They are an emblem of the Mario culinary aesthetic, making the statement that good food requires good basic ingredients right down to the breadcrumbs. In this way they are a manifesto for his kitchen creed. Good breadcrumbs are no less important than good olive oil, good cured meats, etc. I like this reading but it seems a bit too hopeful.

8. The instructions for use are a ruse and the breadcrumbs are really intended to be fed to the waterfowl nearby the restaurant's meatpacking location.

What do you think?


Tomorrow E and I are shlepping to Vancouver to attend an academic conference. As usual I will try not to let work interfere too much with my hobbies: my sources tell me that there's a place in Vancouver that stocks 198 flavors of gelato! Anyhow, you might not hear from me again until next week. In the meantime, there's a blogroll on the right.