Chicken Burgers with Apple, Sage, Rosemary and Oregano

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.

The Software
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

The Recipe
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.

Notes
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.

Quick Chicken Parm

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Chicken Parm is one of my favorite things – how could it not be, breaded chicken, sauce and cheese. Recently, I had a family member have a health scare and it got me thinking, is there a healthier way to make chicken parm and still have it taste great. This is particularly useful if you don’t have any sauce on hand (and you would never buy sauce from a jar, right?) This is what I came up with.

The Software
3 chicken cutlets, 3 oz. each, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick, patted dry
2 tablespoons, herb infused olive oil (see note below)
2 oz. mozzarella cheese, either sliced very thin or shredded
1 oz Parmigiano reggiano grated
1 tomato, sliced into 1/8 inch rounds (enough to cover the surface of your chicken)

The Recipe
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil on medium-high heat until just starting to smoke. Add chicken and cook on the first side for 2 minutes and the second for 1-2 minutes until done. Remove excess oil with a paper towel. Heat your broiler. On a baking sheet covered with a sheet of foil, place the chicken, top with tomatoes and then top with cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Serve to happy guests.

Notes
Start to finish, you can have this on the table in 10 minutes. Notice I did not use salt – there is plenty in the cheese that you won’t need it. Check on your chicken constantly when under the broiler – it can go from bubbly to burn in a hurry. There is no need to preheat the broiler – you are just melting the cheese, not cooking the chicken. If using an electric oven, keep the door slightly ajar, the broiler will cycle off and on if you don’t and it will take a lot longer to melt the cheese. The recipe can be easily scaled and obviously you can add more tomato or cheese if you want. The key to this being a quick recipe is pounding the cutlets thin. If you don’t want to do it, buy your chicken at a butcher shop or megamart with a butcher counter and ask them to do it for you. They should have no problem with doing that.

Notes on Infused oil
To make the herb oil, you can either buy it or make it yourself. I like to throw a sprig of sage, rosemary, tarragon and thyme into about 1 cup of oil with 2 garlic cloves. Heat over medium heat for 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month. If you are feeling really lazy, just toss the herbs and garlic in the oil you are cooking the chicken in and leave them in the pot, following the directions for cooking the chicken in the recipe.

Mexican Chicken Cacciatore

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Ok, I promise this is the last of the tomato recipes I will post for a while. I just have about 25 lbs. or so of tomatoes that I have been trying to make my way through, so I have been coming up with new and creative ways to use them. The other night, I thought chicken cacciatore, but I had a bunch of other ingredients I wanted to use and I had a hankering for some black beans, so I decided to do a Mexican version of the classic Italian dish.

The Software
8 oz. chicken breast, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground adobe or paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup onions, sliced thin
1 large bell pepper, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 tablespoon chile pepper
¾ lb. tomatoes, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup minced cilantro

 

Mecican Chicken Caccitore – All part of a well balanced meal

The Recipe
Heat a 12 inch skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil when hot. Pat dry the chicken and combine in a bowl with the cumin, garlic, salt and paprika. Toss to coat. When the oil is just beginning to smoke, add the chicken to the pan. Sear for 2 minutes until just beginning to brown (you are not trying to cook it, just brown it). Transfer to a bowl. Add one table spoon of oil. Reduce heat to medium and heat the oil for one minute. Add the onions and sauté until they become translucent – about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and oregano and cook until the tomatoes have just begun to fall apart. Add the peppers and cook for about 8-10 minutes until the tomatoes have completed broken down into a smooth sauce. Add the chicken and cilantro and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer until the chicken is cooked but still tender – 5-7 minutes. Check seasonings, adjust as necessary and serve.

Notes
I served this over yellow rice and black beans, but you could serve this over whatever you would like. I used a pablano pepper, but if you like hotter, use any you would like. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water, white wine or stock. You want it to be moderately thick before you add the chicken. If it is too thin, keep cooking it before you add the chicken until it reaches the thickness you want. I didn’t bother seeding or peeling the tomatoes, but you could do that if you desire. The recipe serves 2 easily – we actually had leftovers.

Gumbo File

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I love gumbo but it can be really hard to find one with a good balance of flavor and heat in a restaurant. Most of the ones that I have had around Seattle have been too soupy or bland, so I decided to make one recently that was basically a modification of Alton Brown’s recipe from Good Eats.

The biggest problem with making gumbo is getting the roux dark enough – the roux is the foundation for the flavor of the dish and traditionally it requires at least an hour of cooking on the stovetop with constant stirring. Alton Brown devised a short cut method, which does not reduce the cooking time, but it does reduce the need to stir it constantly by cooking the roux in the oven instead of on the stove top. The other thing I like about this recipe is that it uses file powder instead of okra. I am not a fan of okra, but you need it to thicken the dish. File powder does this.

The Software
* 4 ounces vegetable oil
* 4 ounces all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 pounds raw, unpeeled medium-sized (31-50 count) shrimp
* 2 quarts water
* 3 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in (Optional)
* 3/4 cup chicken stock (if not using the chicken in the dish)
* 1 cup diced onion
* 1/2 cup diced celery
* 1/2 cup diced green peppers
* 2 tablespoons minced garlic
* 1/2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomato
* 1 tablespoon kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 2 bay leaves
* 1/2 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and browned
* 1 tablespoon file powder

The Recipe

The Roux
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the vegetable oil and flour into a 5 to 6-quart Dutch oven and whisk together to combine. Place on the middle shelf of the oven, uncovered, and bake for 1 1/2 hours, whisking 2 to 3 times throughout the cooking process. The roux will come out dark brown, almost brick red when it is done.

The Stock
While the roux is baking, de-head, peel and devein the shrimp. Place the shrimp in a bowl and set in the refrigerator. Place the heads and shells in a 4-quart saucepan along with the 2 quarts of water, set over high heat and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour or until the liquid has reduced to 1-quart. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid into a container, discarding the solids.

If including the chicken – In a separate pot add 2 cups of cold water, a pinch of salt and the chicken. Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium-low and cover. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until very tender. Remove the chicken to a plate to let cool and de-fat the cooking liquid in a fat separator, reserving 3/4 cup. Removed the chicken and shred when it is cool enough to handle.

The Gumbo
Brown the sausage on both sides over medium-high heat and remove to a bowl. Add the shrimp and cook for about 1 on each side (don’t worry about cooking them completely, they will finish cooking in the gumbo). Deglaze the pan with the reserved cooking liquid from the chicken or the chicken stock, scraping up the brown bits. Once the brown bits are scrape up, add the liquid to the shrimp stock.

Once the roux is done, carefully remove it from the oven and set over medium-high heat. Gently add the onions, celery, green peppers and garlic and cook, moving constantly for 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper, thyme, cayenne pepper, and bay leaves and stir to combine. Gradually add the shrimp broth and chicken stock while whisking continually. Decrease the heat to low, cover and cook for 35 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the shrimp, chicken and sausage and stir to combine. Add the file powder while stirring constantly. Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes prior to serving. Serve over rice to a happy public.

If the gumbo is not thick enough for your liking, you can add additional file powder after serving.

Notes
The recipe is really hands off compared to most other ones I have seen. You can eliminate the chicken and chicken stock and replace it with vegetable stock if you are so inclined, but I am not sure if there is a way to make this vegetarian. The heat is pretty tame in this recipe, if you like more heat, increase the cayanne, or just add some hot sauce when serving. Traditionally this is served with rice, but would also work with pasta. You can also add more or less of the meats in it, depending on what your preferences are.

File powder can be found at any good spice shop and most mega marts.