Ricotta and Fresh Herb (Hollywood) Turkey Burgers

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As we shift into burger season and other warm weather and outdoor foods, I’m reminded of the Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Trouble with Harry. As it turned out, the trouble with Harry was that he was dead. Burgers, especially turkey burgers, are often dead on arrival because they are often dry and flavorless. I won’t let that happen to you, I promise.

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Out of Hollywood and into real life, while I was growing up my dad often grilled beef steaks on Sundays. He found it funny that I preferred a hamburger or hotdog compared to a steak. He even joked that my choices saved him money.

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Steak left me feeling heavy and sluggish. While the flavor was good (he is a master at homemade barbecue sauces), it was a chore to get through. Fast forward a couple (um, several) decades later and I’m still the same way. But now instead of a beef hamburger, I mostly go towards something lighter, like turkey. With my version, there’s no sacrificing flavor, either.

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Ricotta cheese, fresh herbs and an egg are the secrets to bringing your turkey burgers to life. This method ensures a flavorful, moist, tender and forgiving burger. And dare I say, more adult? For example, besides the healthier burger itself, add a little pickled onion or fennel, some crumbled bleu cheese, if you like, and a dab of Dijon and you’re good to go.

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Ricotta and Fresh Herb Turkey Burgers

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds lean ground turkey
  • 15 oz whole milk ricotta cheese (about 1 and 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cups fresh fine bread crumbs (Or, many grocers carry gluten-free bread crumbs if you prefer)
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1 cup of mixed fresh herbs, chopped (I’ve used 1 stem of rosemary, 6 sprigs of thyme, 4 stems of oregano, 6 sage leaves, and 10 stems of parsley). Use whichever herbs you like, but go easy on rosemary, which can be overpowering)
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 of a preserved lemon, optional (Peels only, well-rinsed and diced)

Directions

  1. Place ground turkey, ricotta cheese, bread crumbs, beaten egg, salt, pepper and preserved lemon peel, if using, in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Chop herbs and add to the turkey mix
  3. Thoroughly mix all ingredients. The mixture will be very loose.
  4. Cover and refrigerate turkey mixture for at least one hour. (You could make this in the morning or the night before, if you’d like.).  The chilling and resting time allows the breadcrumbs to absorb extra moisture and the herbs to release their flavor. Skipping or rushing this step will make it difficult to form patties.
  5. On parchment or waxed paper, form 8-12 patties of equal size to ensure even cooking.
  6. Here’s the fun part. Options!
    1. If grilling, heat grill to 375F. Grill each side “approximately” 4-5 minutes. Keep your heat source 4-5 inches away from the grill.
      • Visuals are key here. Gently lift one of the burgers after three minutes to check how quickly it’s cooking. If it lifts off easily and has grill marks, it’s ready to flip. If it’s sticking and has no grill marks, it’s not ready. Give it time to sear so it doesn’t fall apart when flipping.
      • Another visual: If it has grill marks AND it’s blackend between the grill marks, your heat is too high and too close to the grill rack. Sorry, you’ve burned them. But hey, you learned something about your grill and how sensitive it is for the next go-around! Lower your heat and heat source.
      • If you have a thermometer, as soon as the temperature in the middle of the burger reaches 165F, it’s done. If you don’t have a thermometer, carefully slice into one of the burgers. To ensure safe eating, all pinkness should be gone. They will still be plenty moist from the ricotta and egg.
    2. If pan frying, use a medium-high heat. Cooking time will vary depending on your range. The temperature of the middle of the burger patty should reach 165F. If you don’t have a thermometer, carefully slice into one of the burgers. To ensure safe eating, all pinkness should be gone. They will still be plenty moist from the ricotta and egg.
    3. If baking, pre-heat oven to 375F and bake for approximately 30 minutes, turning once. The temperature of the middle of the burger patty should reach 165F. If you don’t have a thermometer, carefully slice into one of the burgers. To ensure safe eating, all pinkness should be gone. They will still be plenty moist from the ricotta and egg.

Bonus: Alternatives using same turkey burger mixture:

Meatloaf: Bake in a loaf pan at 375F in a pre-heated oven for 45-50 minutes. The temperature of the meatloaf should reach 165F. The top should be browned and the center no longer pink. Once out of the oven, let rest for 20 minutes before removing from the pan and slicing.

Meatballs: Form approximately 1.5 to 2 inch meat balls. Bake at 375F in a pre-heated oven for 15 -20 minutes. Turn once during baking. The temperature of the meatball should reach 165F. The tops should be browned and the center no longer pink.

 

Author: gregnelsoncooks

Visit weekly for original and adapted recipes as well as cooking tips to make your kitchen life easier — and more delicious! I’ll include simple, straight forward instructions along with recipes that are truly worth your time making. And, recipes that elevate the familiar and introduce you to the new and unexpected.

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