Greek Chicken Burgers: A Reward at Any Time of the Year
February 24, 2018
I was chatting with a friend this week who was returning from a 4-hour, round-trip drive to check on her summer house. She sounded tired, but there was a definite note of excitement in her voice. The ride was long, yes, the day not so much fun, “BUT,” and I write the but in ALL CAPS as it sounded to me, “I am coming home with our favorite burgers for dinner: Chicken Burgers with Spinach and Feta from Peconic Market in Southampton!” Her excitement was palpable. I know that these burgers are delicious, but perhaps they are so special because they are only available from this one location: A treat reserved for summer barbecues or as in this case, a reward for a long day.
But my friend’s mention of these burgers got me thinking, why not create my own version for home and share it with you here (and of course, with my friend.) I am definitely longing for summer after that briefest of tastes that we enjoyed this past week. And truth be told, my favorite way to cook chicken or turkey burgers is indoors anyway. So here is my glimpse of the summer to come. Master them now and you will be ready. Sadly, we may have a while to wait.
TIPS FOR COOKING CHICKEN BURGERS:
The key to cooking chicken burgers is to get a nice dark sear on the outside, while keeping the inside tender and juicy.
Always start with a super clean and hot pan or grill. Food will be less likely to stick and will sear evenly.
For indoor cooking, a cast-iron skillet is best. It can take the heat both in and out of the oven. But if using a conventional skillet, use plenty of canola oil to prevent sticking.
Try to make sure that your burgers are of uniform thickness. Otherwise, adjust your cooking times accordingly.
Burgers should be room temperature before cooking. Remove them from the refrigerator and allow them to stand for 15-20 minutes before cooking.
Very saucy burgers should be patted dry before cooking. This allows the food to caramelize and sear rather than steam.
The presentation side is always placed down in the pan or on the grill first as it is least likely to stick.
Don’t crowd the pan or grill. The burgers will steam, not sear.
Remember, protein continues to cook when you remove it from the heat. So be sure to adjust your cooking time accordingly.
Keep the burgers juicy: use tongs not a fork to remove meat from the grill or pan!
Let the meat rest for 5 to 10 minutes after cooking.
HOW DO I TELL WHEN CHICKEN BURGERS ARE DONE?
Temperature test: Turkey Burgers should be cooked to 170^F.
“Poke” Method: hold your hand open and feel the skin between your thumb and first finger. A cooked turkey burger should feel quite firm and like that.
When in doubt: just peak!
Greek Chicken Burgers
1 1/2 pounds ground white meat chicken
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs (see recipe below)
1 clove garlic minced and mashed to a paste with a ½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
juice of ½ a lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1/4 cup minced sun-dried tomato
black pepper to taste
sliced cucumber, red onion, tomato
Yogurt Sauce (see recipe below)
Preheat oven to 400^ F or a grill for two-zone cooking. In a medium bowl, use a fork to gently combine all ingredients; season with freshly-ground black pepper. Gently form mixture into four to six 1-inch-thick patties.
For indoor cooking:
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Place the burgers in the skillet and cook until well-browned, about 2-4 minutes per side. Transfer to the oven and cook until quite firm to the touch or a meat thermometer reads 170^F, 4-8 minutes. Serve immediately with desired toppings.
For outdoor cooking:
Lightly oil grill. Place patties on hottest part of grill; sear until browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Move patties to cooler part of grill and close the cover; continue grilling until cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes per side. Serve immediately with desired toppings.
Serves 4 to 6.
1 cups plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Stir together all ingredients. Refrigerate until serving.
Makes 1 cup
Basic Dried Bread Crumbs
White or other bread, can be fresh or leftover
Put bread in a food processor or blender and pulse until coarsely-chopped or finely-ground, depending upon usage. Remove the crumbs from the processor or blender, spread on a tray, and bake in a preheated 250^F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until dry. Cool and store in an air-tight container at room temperature for 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.