By Iron Chef Leftovers
If you are making burgers, meatloaf, sloppy joes, etc., there is something to be said for grinding your own meat. When you buy pre-ground meat, you never know exactly what it is composed of. Grinding it yourself eliminates the guesswork and makes for a better product. It is also much easier than you think it is – if you own a kitchen aid stand mixer, the grinder attachment runs about $50 and works really well. If you don’t, go to your local butcher (or even your local megamart if they have a butcher counter), buy the cut of meat that you want to grind and then ask them to do it for you. Trust me, it makes a difference.
Recently PW and her husband came over to the Iron Chef abode for dinner. I asked what protein they would like and I was told chicken burgers. I thought back to some chicken burgers I have had in the past – they were bland and dry and I wasn’t going to serve that. I then remembered back to a really good house-made chicken sausage that I had at a restaurant years’ ago and decided that would be the base for my recipe. I wanted something that was moist and flavorful but easy to make. This is what I came up with.
The key to this recipe is using freshly ground chicken thighs. You can probably use pre-ground chicken but you run the risk of the burgers drying out and will probably pay more per pound for the pre-ground meat than you will for the thighs. This recipe will make 4 good sized burgers, but can easily be scaled.
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs; ground
1 teaspoon minced sage
1 teaspoon minced rosemary
1 teaspoon minced oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup apple, peel removed and diced into 1/8 inch pieces
½ large egg, lightly beaten
If grinding your own chicken, cut into 1 inch cubes and freeze for 10 minutes to firm up the meat before putting it into the grinder. Add all of the ingredients to a bowl and gently toss to combine. Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts and gently form into patties (you could make sliders and probably get 8 out of this recipe). Set on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour (the burgers can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for 24 hour until ready to use). Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the burgers. Cook on the first side until a crust forms (about 4 minutes) and carefully flip. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the internal temperature reaches about 175 degrees (7-10 minutes, depending on your stove). Remove and serve to a hungry public.
The recipe can also be made on the grill. I would highly recommend starting these out on a cast iron skillet to form a bit of a crust before putting them on the grill surface – the burgers will seem loose and gravity will pull them through the grates of the grill initially. To check your seasonings, cook a very small amount of the mixture and cook it in a pre-heated skillet – it should cook in about a minute and this will tell you if you need to add anything seasoning wise. I used a Fuji apple for this, but you can use just about any apple you would like. It is important to use the apple – it helps to keep the chicken very moist. I suppose that you could use chicken breast for this, but you would run the risk of the meat drying out before it is done. I used fresh herbs when I made this dish, if you use dried, cut the amounts in half and test the seasonings – you can always add more but you can never take any away. This is a pretty mild tasting dish – if you want to ramp it up, some jalapeños or crushed red pepper would be really nice. Letting the formed patties sit in the fridge is important. If you don’t do it, they will fall apart when you cook them. You could freeze them and cook them later if you aren’t going to use the entire batch.