I have an unhealthy obsession with miniature things. I squeal and shake my hands in the air uncontrollably when I see small animals, baby booties, dollhouse furniture, and those purse-sized jars of Vaseline lip balm…I used to watch a lot of “Honey I Shrunk the Kids”. I pulled inspiration from this totally random fascination when I was trying to decide on my latest dinner quest. I was sitting at work on a particularly slow afternoon when I decided that it was time to pull myself out of my latest lazy-funk. My recent days can be summed up as follows (on repeat):
“Maybe I should cook something healthy tonight…or…maybe I should just order two dozen Buffalo wings and drink light beer”
“Well, it is 30 cent wing Wednesday”
Sometimes having a Seamless account is both a blessing and a curse. When I’m in these funks, I find it particularly helpful to select a meal that involves me getting my hands dirty (“neat” cooking is for chumps). I find a twisted satisfaction in cooking with my bare hands…squeezing lemons until seeds fly across the room, squishing seasoning into hamburger meat with my fingers, smashing sea salt on my countertop with spoon when I forgot to buy a salt grinder (Christmas present anybody?). So, sitting at my desk and daydreaming about raw meat, I decided to re-visit an old turkey burger recipe that I’d started to play with a few months back. One issue with turkey burgers that I’ve found is that you can often end up with dry meat if you aren’t careful. Turkey has very little fat in it, and it has to be cooked all the way through (unlike hamburgers which can be eaten rare), so it’s easy to end up with flavorless patties. My solution was to go with quick-cooking turkey burger sliders, both to counter this issue and to feed my mini-thing-obsession. Mini food! Cue the squealing.
Turkey Burger Sliders on mini-brioche buns with sharp cheddar, cranberry aioli and frazzled balsamic onions and a carrot/vinegar side salad
Serves about 4 people.
-1lb ground turkey meat
-1-2 tablespoons of sour cream
-2-3 tablespoons of minced garlic
-1/3 cup of finely chopped yellow onions for the burger meat, and another ¾ of an onion, loosely chopped, for the frazzled onion topping.
-2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
-Maple seasoning (maple sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt), a generous amount.
-Sharp yellow cheddar cheese
-Slider size brioche burger buns
-6oz jellied of cranberry
-Juice from ½ of a ripe orange
-1-2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
-2 tablespoons of sour cream
Time to get messy. In a small pan, sauté the minced garlic in a little butter or oil until it is just cooked through (do not get rid of the pan, it will be used later). In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, breadcrumbs, chopped onion, all seasonings, sour cream and the cooked garlic. The sour cream is meant to add a little fat to the turkey and bind it together. If you’re like me, you squish the ingredients together with your hands and slip into full-contact cooking bliss.
Heat an oil of your choice in a large pan (I prefer canola) over medium heat and form patties about 2 inches in diameter, flattening them in the middle so that they do not bulge when they are heated. Place as many sliders in the pan as you can fit, remembering that you may have to make them in two batches (as you finish batch one, set sliders on a plate and cover with a lid). Once they have a light golden brown color on one side, flip them over.
At this point, I like to throw a bit of steam their way in order to keep them juicy. This is a trick that I learned while flipping burgers at my college’s on-campus “restaurant” when I was 19 (my first real job…$8 an hour and a little unexpected food knowledge). I add a splash of water to the hot pan while the burgers cook, and then quickly cover it with a large lid. Let it sit, covered, for about 30 seconds, and then remove the lid and continue to cook. Repeat if you’d like.
While the sliders are cooking, grab another small pan (not the one you used for garlic) and add the jellied cranberry. Turn the heat to medium/low and cook until the cranberry begins to thin out and simmer. Once this happens, add the orange juice and balsamic vinegar and stir. Let this cook down for at least five minutes, tasting as you go. Once the sauce reduces to a thinner, creamier texture and tastes slightly savory, turn the heat down as low as possible and add the sour cream. Stir until the sauce blends together and immediately remove from the heat.
In the pan that you used to cook the garlic, add a little butter and the loosely chopped onions over medium heat. Cook until the onions are well caramelized and become slightly browned. Just before you are finished, splash the simmering onions with balsamic vinegar and toss together. Cook for another 30 seconds or so and then set aside.
Back to your sliders, once you have cooked through the entire bowl of ground turkey, return the sliders to the pan over low heat. Slice hearty pieces of the sharp cheddar and cover each slider. Place the lid over the pan and heat until the cheese begins to melt slightly.
Toast your mini brioches and julienne your carrots, tossing with a little vinegar and lemon juice. Place your sliders onto buns and top with a spoonful of the cranberry aioli and a few frazzled onions. So much happiness. The burgers should be juicy and flavorful, and the heartiness of the sharp cheddar will give them a little depth, while the cranberry will make you feel like you are eating a dollhouse-sized thanksgiving dinner (MINI thanksgiving!!). The balsamic onions are there just because they’re friggin amazing, and I would eat them all by themselves with a fork on my living room couch while I watch Lifetime. MmmmmMMMMmmmm. Finish with a mouthful of the carrots for a refreshing, acidic compliment.
As for me, I will continue to dream up new pint-sized versions of food during those less-than-eventful office afternoons…kitchen, get ready. There are a few corners of the walls that I haven’t stained with butter and cranberry sauce yet.